This post is focussed on explaining how to write a letter or an email for TASK 2 option of the Advanced Cambridge ESOL exam.
In effect the format of the letter and email options in the CAE Cambridge exam are one and the same. You just need to be careful and know if the question requires you to use formal or informal language. 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. THE CAE REQUIRES YOU TO BE ADVENTUROUS WITH VOCABULARY USE.
OTHER POSTS ON WRITING
In the writing part of the CAE (Cambridge C1) exam there are 2 tasks that need to be completed in 1:30 minutes. The 1st task is compulsory and the students must complete an essay. The 2nd task is a choice of 3 options (letter/email, proposal, report, review). The word count for each task is 220-260 words and students should not write fewer than 220 words nor go over the 260 mark. STUDENTS ARE NOT DIRECTLY PENALIZED FOR DOING SO BUT THE EXAMENER WILL LOOK MORE CLOSELY AT THE CONTENT PART OF THE EVALUATION AND IT COULD LOWER YOUR GRADE.
All Cambridge exams are marked in the same way but the evaluation scales leave some room for interpretation and are, therefore, a little subjective. Examiners mark tasks using assessment scales that were developed with explicit reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The scales, which are used across the spectrum of the Cambridge English General and Business English Writing tests, consist of four subscales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language:
Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task, in other words if they have done what they were asked to do. DO NOT INCLUDE IRRELEVANT INFORMATION. YOU SHOULD ANSWER THE POINTS IN THE TASK TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY. FOCUS ON WHAT THEY ASK YOU TO DO.
Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register. YOU MUST USE APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE WHETHER IT BE FORMAL OR INFORMAL. EACH TYPE OF TEXT HAS ITS OWN REQUIREMENTS.
Organisation focuses on the way the candidate puts together the piece of writing, in other words if it is logical and ordered. THE TEXT MUST BE EASY TO FOLLOW BUT ALSO INCLUDE COMPLEX GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURES AND VOCABULARY. DO NOT OVER COMPLICATE THE TEXT! THE USE OF ADEQUATE COHESIVE DEVICES IS ESSENTIAL.
Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is. CANDIDATES MUST BE ADVENTUROUS WITH THEIR LANGUAGE USE AND USE SEVERAL COMPLEX GRAMMAR STRUCTURE (passives, inversions, cleft sentences, conditionals, modal verbs, relative clauses etc.) TO GET A GOOD GRADE WITH REGARDS TO VOCABULARY YOU SHOULD TRY TO INCORPORATE IDIOMS.
Responses are marked on each subscale from 0 to 5.
When marking the tasks, examiners take into account length of responses and varieties of English:
Guidelines on length are provided for each task; responses which are too short may not have an adequate range of language and may not provide all the information that is required, while responses which are too long may contain irrelevant content and have a negative effect on the reader. These may affect candidates’ marks on the relevant subscales.
Candidates are expected to use a particular variety of English with some degree of consistency in areas such as spelling, and not for example switch from using a British spelling of a word to an American spelling of the same word.
General advice for improving writing skills:
READ. To improve writing skills it is essential to read a lot, in general. Texts of all levels and also to do it frequently. CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
WRITE. You must write every day and all types of texts including; letters, notes, messages, emails, essays, reports. DON´T JUST DO EXAM EXAMPLES!
COPY. You should read example questions and answers to make sure that you know the level required to pass the exam. DON´T COPY ENTIRE TEXTS BUT TAKE PHRASES AND GRAMMATICAL FEATURES FROM THESE EXAMPLES AND USE THEM.
ORGANISATION. You need to learn the format of each writing task to make sure that texts look the way they should. IT IS THE FIRST THING THAT THEY EVALUATE! A KEY SKILL = USING CONNECTORS (COHESIVE DEVICES)
EXPERIMENT. Class time and at home is the best time to experiment with language, You should practice new vocabulary and be adventurous with language. IN THE EXAM, ONLY USE WHAT YOU KNOW IS 100% CORRECT!
USE YOUR FAVOURITE PHRASES. You should have a bank of vocabulary and fixed expressions that you like to use frequently. YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR FAVOURITE EXPRESSIONS BY HEART AND BE VERY CONFIDENT IN HOW TO USE THEM IN VARIOUS CONTEXTS!
Read part of an email from a friend who is planning on spending their Erasmus year in your country.
It goes without saying that I will need to learn Spanish, or at least have a good base before I come, but this is easier said than done. Are their any ways that I could save time doing this? Could you give me any useful tips to improve quickly?
Reply to the email message offering your friend some advice. Write your email in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.
You must always write a plan to make sure you include all of the things in the task. Read the instructions carefully and ensure that your answer completes the following:
- Is it easy to read and follow?
- Have you checked and corrected for any mistakes/typos?
- Did you answer the question?
- Have you included complex grammar structures?
- Have you used attention grabbing vocabulary?
- Is all of the information relevant to the task?
- Is the text in the correct format? (letter, email, essay, review, report, proposal)
Long time, no see! What a surprise to receive your email. How long has it been? I think I last saw you when we were backpacking in Peru.
To start with, as far as I remember your Spanish was pretty good back then so what you really need to do is brush up on what you have studied in the past. You are a very sociable person and I am sure you will learn in no time once you are here, but I would recommend studying a little online befirehand. Have you heard of the websites www.appf.es or www.intercambioidiomasonline.com? They have some great resources for you to get started.
Providing that you have time to get out and about, I would also recommend finding a language learning partner to keep up you motivation. It would be a great idea to join a conversation group to get some practise. Having said that, on the internet you can also join groups of Facebook to chat to other language learners.
Another thing is to make sure you are consistent. It is a great idea to study a little very day, doing things that you enjoy. So, what I would advise is to do the magic combination of an online course, a language learning partner and also a general course book so that you can get up to speed with grammar structures and common vocabulary.
If you need anything else, give me a buzz at 622950782 and we can have a chat.
Ok, catch you later.
IF THE LETTER OR EMAIL ARE INFORMAL. YOU MUST USE COLLOQUIAL TERMS, IDIOMS AND ALSO SOME GOOD PHRASAL VERBS TO GRAB THE ATTENTION OF THE EXAMINER. THIS DEMONSTRATES THAT YOU ARE UP TO THE LEVEL REQUIRED IN AN EASY WAY. FORMAL TEXTS SHOULD BE MORE IMPERSONAL AND LESS DIRECT.
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