How to write a great essay for the B2 FCE exam (Cambridge ESOL)


What do you have to do in the writing part of the exam?


The writing part of the exam lasts for 1 hour 20 minutes (80 minutes). In this time the candidates need to write two texts of 160-190 words.

There are 4 questions.

The 1st task is obligatory. You must do question 1 and it is always an essay. The topics are varied but they are usually social issues, about the environment of the advantages/disadvantages of something.

The 2nd task is a choice; you can answer one question of 2, 3, 4. DO NOT ANSWER ALL OF THE QUESTIONS. The choices include: a letter (formal or informal), an email, a review, an article or a report. My suggestion is to focus on writing a formal or informal letter, a review and an article. The letter and the email are almost identical, so you cover both of them. The report is a little difficult because of the organisation and format.

Example of an essay question

In English class you have been debating the advantages and disadvantages of studying English abroad.

Write an essay giving reasons for your opinions


Title: Many students spend a lot of money to study English in an English speaking country, but is it worth it?

Notes: write about

  1. Costs
  2. Teaching methods
  3. Immersion technique



Structure of an essay:


Introduce the topic and say what you are going to talk about and capture the interest of the reader

1st paragraph

The first point from the notes (you can mix points if they are related)

2nd paragraph

The 2nd point from the notes, you need to link it to the first


A summary of what you have said in the main paragraphs and make your main point




Making a point:

In my opinion…

I find it…

The way I see it…

It looks a bit…

It seems to me…

It seems as if…

From my point of view…

I think…

I would say…

I reckon…

From my understanding…

I´d like to point out…



As I have said before…

With respect to the point on…


Like I have said…

In relation to…

Taking into account…


Speculating :

Probably – He will probably do the exam next week

Perhaps/maybe – Perhaps he doesn´t have time

May/might/could – You might be luckier next time

What if – What if he doesn´t arrive on time?


How it is graded

To say what grade you need to pass the writing part of the exam is not as easy as with the use of English and reading as the way it is assessed is fairly subjective and can be within a point of what another examiner would put. The assessment scale for the writing section of Cambridge is broken up into 4 sections:

  • Content
  • Communicative achievement
  • Organisation
  • Language

For the content part, Cambridge states “All content is relevant to the task. Target reader is fully informed”. This means, to get full marks for content the candidate must answer the question fully and not include irrelevant information.

For the communicative achievement part, Cambridge states “The candidate uses the conventions of the communicative task effectively to hold the target reader’s attention and communicate straightforward and complex ideas, as appropriate”. This means that the text is interesting enough to keep the reader´s attention and that the reader is informed of the ideas in the text with ease.

For organisation, Cambridge states “Text is well organised and coherent, using a variety of cohesive devices and organisational patterns to generally good effect”. To complete with this requirement the candidate needs to organised the text in the correct format (letter, essay, email, review or article etc.) The candidate also needs to use a variety of connectives (5-8 approximately). It is important to write the text in a logical way, it needs to be easy to read and understand.

For language refers to grammar and vocabulary usage, Cambridge states “Uses a range of vocabulary, including less common lexis, appropriately. Uses a range of simple and complex grammatical forms with control and flexibility. Occasional errors may be present but do not impede communication”. To pass this part of the assessment the candidate needs to use a range of vocabulary (they are not looking for strange and rarely used words, they want the correct word for the context), the grammar use needs to include both simple and complex (modals, conditionals, passive and relative clauses) forms with few errors.

For a full online course to prepare the B2 FCE Cambridge exam see WWW.APPF.ES




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