Usman Butt

High rate of failure in English Essay paper in CSS has been perplexing to all. An overview of the results over the years shows that more than 80 percent of the candidates fail this crucial paper in which the FPSC examiners test a candidate’s “articulation, expression and technical treatment of the style of English Essay writing.” Almost all critics put the entire blame of this fiasco on the falling standard of our education. But they completely ignore the students’ inability to comprehend what an essay actually requires. Interviews the JWT conducted with a large number of aspirants for competitive examination revealed that most of them are unaware of the basic concept behind and nature of an essay. So, for the benefits of CSS, PMS aspirants, here is a compact guide on essay writing that will be highly beneficial in scoring excellent marks in the Essay paper.

An essay is a collection of paragraphs that spin around one main idea or thought with some supporting points, examples and explanations required or asked for by the paper setter and examiner.

Parts of Essay

An essay comprises three parts:

  1. introductory paragraph(s) for defining the term, person, place, thing or system you are going to write the essay on;
  2. supporting paragraphs that further explain and add detail to your topic; and
  3. concluding paragraph(s) that summarise the topic, lay stress on the pivotal point and wind up the piece in a very appropriate manner.

A just and apposite proportional space must be allotted to all three parts. The introduction and a brief background of the topic normally comprises 15-20 percent of the total space whereas the middle, the central and the main portion, covers 60-70 percent of the overall span, and the ending, too, deserves 15-20 percent share in the scheme.

A Winning Strategy

When you have just three hours to write an essay, there is no time to waste on innovative structure. You must address the topic in a clear, well-organized fashion, using examples and details to make your point.

  1. Topic Selection

Selecting a suitable topic is the first and foremost step and it needs utmost care and seriousness. Opt for a simpler and less technical topic for it will require comparatively less methodological, technical and subtle details.


Some popular topics like ‘Terrorism’, ‘Kashmir issue’ or ‘Palestine-Israel conflict’ may look impressive and exciting, but you should go for such topics only when you have adequate knowledge and information about the background, contemporary status and the crux of these issues. Another critical factor here is mentioning correct dates of important milestones and the names of the people and places associated with them. Furthermore, you have to give references of experts’ opinions and analysis. Go for them only if you have memorized them correctly.

  1. Outline

Prepare in your mind an outline of your ingredients and the scheme of presentation before putting pen to paper. Otherwise, you are liable to apportion unjust and abrupt space and time to different points and portions and it will, consequently, destroy the coherence of your essay.


While brainstorming the outline, you must keep in mind whether the topic is descriptive, critical and debatable or a narration-based account. Then, you will be able to focus on and set your points in a fitting order.

  1. Sequence

In some essays, you have to offer a brief introduction, merits and demerits and, finally, your verdict or conclusion, giving adequate and deserved share to each division. Remember to offer merits, pros, advantages or positive points first and to discuss negative aspects later. An outlined and pre-planned submission of facts will help you allocate suitable time and extent to all segments.


  1. Style

You must begin with a mind-capturing beginning that must harmoniously lead into the middle or the central ingredient. Likewise, the middle must merge with the conclusion in a manner that the whole piece may present the impression of being a compact unit.

How to build the ‘Introduction’

The most important part of your introduction is a clear thesis statement that refers directly to the topic.

  • Get to the point, because the real meat of your essay, where you can deliver the greatest impact to the reader, is in the body.
  • Stating your thesis quickly and clearly means avoiding disclaimers such as “I’m not sure, but . . .” and “This may not be right . . .” Such disclaimers are a waste of time, and could prejudice your reader against your writing.
  • No matter how strong your argument becomes in later paragraphs, that initial poor impression could stick with him or her.
  • Do not attempt to create the kind of elegant introduction that is possible to write when you have an unlimited amount of time.
  • A confident, direct approach is best. But direct does not mean trite. Relying on overused words and phrases to help make your point is the most common way to weaken your introduction.
Compare “In today’s society people don’t practice good manners often enough” with “Good manners are an essential part of a civil society.” The problem with the first sentence is the first three words. “In today’s society” is a clichéd opening, whereas the second sentence makes its point directly, without any overused language.


How to structure the ‘Body’?

In the body of your essay, you develop and illustrate the points you wish to make. It is where you add the interesting details and examples that support your thesis and make your essay stand out.

Depending on the time you have to write, the body of your essay may be between two and seven paragraphs, or more. No matter how long the essay, though, remember the following advice:

■ Include only information that pertains to your topic (do not go off on tangents).

■ Illustrate or explain each point with appropriate details.

■ Don’t simply state that something is true, prove it.

■ Organize your essay with multiple paragraphs.

■ Use transition words like “first,”“next,” and “then”

■ Qualify your answers for accuracy. If you can’t remember an exact date, approximate—“late eighteenth century” is better than 1789 if 1789 is incorrect.

If you want to quote someone, but forget their exact words, paraphrase— “Thoreau noted that solitude was a great friend” is better than misquoting “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.”

■ Take all the time you can to fully develop your ideas. If you stop writing too soon, it may be because you haven’t explained yourself completely, or backed up your assertions with examples.

How to come to the ‘Conclusion’

Your concluding paragraph can simply restate your thesis and the points you made in the body of your essay. A restatement, summary, or conclusion can effectively reinforce these points, but remember to reword them and keep the conclusion fresh.

You should not repeat your introduction, or use phrases such as “I wrote about,” or “This essay was about.”

If you have the time, end with something more interesting.

A speculative conclusion refers to a future possibility or prediction, such as “perhaps years from now . . .”

If you wrote about a problem, try a conclusion that offers a solution.

If you have a fitting quotation, use it to conclude your essay.

The person quoted does not have to be famous, but the quote should help you to make your point. For example, “My third grade teacher put it best . . . ” These types of conclusions can leave your reader with a better overall impression of your work.

Conclusion Checklist

✔ Do not contradict anything you said earlier in the essay.

✔ Be clear and concise.

✔ Do not introduce new information.

✔ Maintain the tone you used in the rest of your essay.

✔ Do not repeat your introduction.

✔ Do not use clichéd sayings or phrases (“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” “In conclusion,”“As I stated above”).

✔ Do not apologize for anything.

Transition Words

These are useful when moving from paragraph to paragraph, or point to point. Transition words help the reader follow your thoughts.


Transition Example word/phrase Example sentence
Cause and effect Therefore, as a result, so, consequently I’m tired. Therefore, I’m going to bed.
Clarification That is to say, in other words, to clarify We’re letting you go. In other words, you’re fired.
Contrast But, however, on the other hand I am not fond of fruit. However, I do like bananas.
Example For example, for instance In the evening, I like to relax. For instance, I enjoy watching TV.
Emphasis Above all, most importantly, certainly There are many reasons to exercise regularly. Above all, it keeps you healthy.
Enumeration Firstly/secondly, further, and, moreover, in addition Today, I’m going to write a post. In addition, I’m recording some video lessons.
Time Meanwhile, during, subsequently, after that I’ll start by telling you what transition words are. After that, I’ll tell you why you should always use them.
Similarity Likewise, similarly, in the same vein She tried really hard to entertain her guests. Similarly, he put all his heart and soul in cooking a great dinner.
Summarize/conclude In conclusion, to sum up, in short In conclusion, transition words are an important aspect of SEO copywriting.


What difference Transition Words Make?

Text A

I’m going to discuss a few reasons why practice is important to learning skills. The only way to truly master a skill is by actually doing what you’ll have to do in the real world. I think practice can be a fun way of putting in the necessary hours. There are some people who will disagree. It is said that people tend to remember only 10-20 percent of what they’ve heard or read. That number rises to as much as 90 percent when you put theory to practice. Following up explanation with practice is key to mastering a skill.

Text B

In this paragraph, I am going to discuss a few reasons why practice is important to mastering skills. Firstly, the only way to truly learn a skill is by actually doing what you’ll have to do in the real world. Secondly, I think practice can be a fun way of putting in the necessary hours. There are, however, some people who will disagree. Thirdly, and most importantly, it is said that people tend to remember only 10-20 percent of what they read or hear. Moreover, that number rises to as much as 90 percent when you put theory to practice. In conclusion, following up explanation with practice is the key to mastering a skill.

Text A is not a terrible paragraph. However, the differences are clear as day. Text B does a better job of showing there are three separate arguments to support the statement with a definite conclusion.


Essay Format

Stick to a traditional format. Aim for an introduction, at least two to three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. By writing within such a format, your ideas will be easily available to your reader (the person scoring your essay), and you will have more time to develop and substantiate them.


Headings or no headings?

The practice of using markers and highlighters for giving headings has a negative impact on your composition and matter. The best way to compose an essay is to divide it into paragraphs and then to make your subheadings instead of highlighting the topic sentences of the paragraphs.

Length of the essay

A misconception about essay writing is that if you write more and more stuff, however superfluous it may be, you will impress the examiner and get maximum marks. It is sheer nonsense and plays havoc with your essay’s compactness. You must adhere to what has been asked and must not pour in whatever is lying in your memory or store of information.


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