CSS 2023: English Essay

A test of thinking, not rote learning

On February 1, the Federal Public Service Commission held the yearly country-wide examination of Central Superior Services (CSS) for the recruitment of officers (BPS-17). The first paper was English Essay, the topics of which invited attention.

The essay paper was meant for exploring the CSS candidates’ whole gamut of abilities and skills such as exploring an issue, analyzing it critically in a coordinated organized way, and reaching a plausible conclusion. Critical analysis is a guarantee of success. Conversely, descriptive or narrative essays are unlikely to let a candidate pass the paper.

- Advertisement -

The paper astounded not only CSS candidates but it also flabbergasted CSS coaching academies which had dispensed guesses and conducted mock tests to beguile the candidates. The paper discouraged the regurgitation of parroted knowledge that CSS candidates were holding to express. The paper presented a fair chance to the candidates who had cultivated original understanding, creative exploration and critical analysis.

The paper circumvented all guess-able topics such as globalization, economy, climate change, democracy, energy crisis, human rights, terrorism, and so on. In the paper, whereas the topics given were easy, the compulsion was that an essay had to be developed then and there in the examination hall. Only those candidates who had practised writing original essays, could perform. The paper also obliterated any room for bespoke essays– to the disappointment of essay gurus and pundits. As a throwback to the thinking essays of 2017, the paper decides the viability of a CSS candidate, whether he or she should carry on or lose heart.

The first essay topic was this: “Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone.” Many candidates, who had memorized multiple themes on education eagerly mistook the word “youth” for “childhood”, and considered it a veiled topic on “early education”. In fact, it was not. The essay topic means that, at a young age, the youth are most amenable. Their personality can be moulded to affect the trajectory of the rest of their lives. Youth is the age when second nature is built such as discipline, punctuality, attitude, and so on. The second nature, whether positive or negative, can be superimposed on the primary nature to portend the youth’s success or failure in life. Environment plays a crucial role in constructing second nature. To make the essay analytical, discussion could be drifted to the debate between nature (inherited) and nurture (environment). Sources of nurture could be family, school, religion, and social and political groups.

The paper also obliterated any room for bespoke essays– to the disappointment of essay gurus and pundits. As a throwback to the thinking essays of 2017, the paper decides the viability of a CSS candidate, whether he or she should carry on or lose heart.

The next stirring topic was this: “One who uses force is afraid of reasoning.” The topic means that any person who is incapable of reasoning tends to use force to get heard. That is, any person with the power of reasoning prefers (or needs) not to fight. Here, reasoning means a sound argument that weighs both sides (pros and cons) to express one’s stance. Generally, politicians are disinclined to waging a war compared to generals running a country: war is too serious a matter to be left to generals.

Even after a conflict, the warring parties have to sit on a table to give reasons for truce and the way forward. The forum such as the United Nations is destined for reasoning, and condemning the use of force. For reasoning, a refined and educated brain is required, whereas force personifies a beast, which may still be hiding inside man. Reasoning is an expression of modern age, whereas force is an expression of the primitive age. For analysis, a comparison can be drawn between two ages and areas.

The next interesting topic was this: “The fool speaks and the wise listen.” The topic means that wise people grow the habit of listening to garner more information and then ruminate on it. That is, by not listening patiently, the listener may miss new propitious ideas. Moreover, an avid listener is less prone to committing mistakes than a habitual chatterer does. For instance, Einstein was a known keen listener. Similar examples are required to be argumentative.

- Advertisement -

The next absorbing topic was this: “Both parents should assume equal responsibility for raising a child.” The topic means that both parents are shirking equal responsibility for raising a child. To qualify the statement, a CSS candidate had to mention causes, effects and the way forward.

The next topic was this: “A friend walks in when everyone else walks out.” The topic means that a friend in need is a friend indeed. This could be a descriptive essay.

The next fascinating topic was this: “Online learning is not only convenient but often more effective than traditional classroom instruction.” The topic means that traditional teaching is less convenient and effective in conveying the message of education. A CSS candidate had to take a position and give arguments.

The next captivating topic was this: “People have become overly dependent on technology.” The topic means that, not dependence, but over-dependence, on technology invites certain hitches. Interestingly, the use of technology is unavoidable in the modern age. However, owing to technology’s indispensability, one may get addicted to it. A CSS candidate had to mention reasons for dependence, ooze effects (both favourable and unfavourable), and give ways to avoid overly dependence.

The next motivating topic was this: “To encourage healthy eating, higher taxes should be imposed on soft drinks and junk food.” The topic means that soft drinks and junk food be discarded for their being unhealthy eating. One of the ways to do so is by imposing taxes, though other ways to achieve the same objective are also available. A comparison can be drawn. The bottom line is that junk food does not replace main food. A critical analysis can entail that junk food may be required to attain instant energy in short times, especially in an industrial city on a busy day. Junk food also meets the need of taste and aroma to feel aesthetic about life.

The next exciting topic was this: “Boys will be boys.” The topic means that boys would remain boisterous and even rumbustious owing to their hormonal constitution. An implied point could be how to construct harmony with girls, whether or not feminization of boys in their attitude and behavior (by tempering them down) is possible and feasible.

Dr Qaisar Rashid
Dr Qaisar Rashid
The writer is a freelance journalist and can be reached at [email protected]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Must Read

PTI’s politics all about creating chaos, unrest in country: Maryam

LAHORE: Senior Vice President and Chief Organiser Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Maryam Nawaz on Sunday said that the politics of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran...