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. This post is going to explain how to write a great letter for the FCE writing exam.
Other writing posts on WWW.INTERCAMBIOIDIOMASONLINE.COM include:
There are 4 questions in the writing part of the exam:
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 such as the environment or 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.
Format of an email/ a letter:
In effect the format of the letter and email options in the FCE Cambridge exam are the same. You just need to be careful and know if the question requires you to be formal or informal. DO NOT INCLUDE THE ADDRESS. You need to know if it is formal or informal so that you can use the appropriate language. If it is informal you CAN use contractions, in the formal you CAN´T. all the points should be put into separate paragraphs with one line between each one.
It is important to consider the evaluation scale of the Cambridge exam (Here it is):
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:
- Communicative achievement
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.
Example of an email/a letter
You have received this email from an English speaking friend (Marc)
Subject: Backpacking in Spain
Some friends of mine are going backpacking next month around Spain. They would like to learn about Spanish culture and its history.
Where should they begin the trip? What´s the easiest way to get around? Where should they stay as they are on a tight budget?
Speak to you soon, Marc
Your letter MUST include:
Thank for the letter you have received.
A separate paragraph for each of the points/questions
Say goodbye with one of the phrases
Example of an answer:
This trip sounds amazing and I´m sure that your friends will have a great time. I have a few ideas for things to do.
The way I see it, the best place to begin the trip would be in Barcelona as the flights are cheap from where you live. Barcelona is like no other city, the culture there is amazing, and it has a great history and a great vibe. But if I were your friends, I´d brush up on my Catalan!
From there I would travel down the coast by bus to Valencia, Alicante and Murcia. The coast is beautiful and there are some amazing little villages along the coast. Valencia has great food and some cool museums. From Murcia it is easy to get a train to Andalusia, it is essential to visit Granada, Seville and Cordoba. The mix of Arabic and Christian culture is not to be missed. The best place to finish would be Madrid, Spain´s Capital.
Regarding accommodation, the best option would be to stay in youth hostels, they normally only cost between €10 and €15 per night.
Let me know what you think and I look forward to speaking to you in the near future.
Useful phrases for an informal letter: (use as set phrases in the exam, don´t experiment with new vocabulary or grammar)
Thanks for your letter, it´s great to hear from you
Long time, no see! What a surprise to receive your email.
It was great to receive your email
Thanks for the email, it seems to me that
I´m glad that…. What I think/reckon is (that)
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Ok, catch you later.
Ok, well, see you soon.
Useful phrases for a formal letter:
With regards to the letter/email on…
With reference to your letter/email…
After having received your letter/email…
I received your address from … and would like …
Thank you very much for your letter/email on…
I have been given your contact details by… and I would like to…
In reply to your letter/email of…
I hope to hear from you soon…
If you require any further information, feel free to contact me
Should you require anything else, do not hesitate in contacting me
FOR A FULL PREPARATION COURSE FOR THE FCE (B2) CAMBRIDGE ESOL EXAMS SEE APPF.ES
2 Example questions for you to practice at home
Read this INFORMAL letter from an English friend, Oliver:
I hear that last summer you worked in a really cool hotel at the beach. What was it called? Was it a good experience or not? Did you manage to make many friends there?
Write a letter to Oliver to answer the questions.
Read this extract from a FORMAL email from your boss, James Floyd:
Next week is the meeting to organize our marketing strategies for the next trimester at the company. I am trying to organize our ideas to make the time as worthwhile as possible. What suggestions do you have for:
- Improving the work conditions and wellbeing of our employees
- How to get more clients interested in our products
- Any other important information
Write a letter in response to the three points
LISTENING LISTENING (B2) – Improving your grade