This post is focussed on explaining how to write a report for the C1 Advanced Cambridge ESOL exams.
What candidates need to understand is that the evaluation in the innitial stages is very superficial. The ORGANISATION and STRUCTURE of a text is essential. IF IT DOESN´T LOOK LIKE A REPORT, IT WON´T PASS! A report is a factual document that is written with the use of prompt material. It should be concise and to the point. There is some margen for you to include your own opinion but through recommendations.
IN THE REPORT YOU MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
- state the purpose of the report
- headings for each point made
- use a formal and impersonal style
OTHER TEXTS ABOUT 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.
Structure of the text:
A report should be concise and easy to understand. NEVER INCLUDE UNNECESSARY INFORMATION! You must include a title, headings and also make sure that you answer the points in the question.
Include the following:
- headings (the three points in the question)
Your local authority is conducting a survey into language learning habits of the people between 16-45 in the area. They have asked for a report on the types of methods used in state run schools and language centres. They have asked for some suggestions on how to imporve their facilities, teaching methods and resources.
Write your report in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.
The main purpose of this report is to analyse the effectiveness of language teaching in the local area. It will offer a review of what is available and also make some recommendations on how to improve.
Due to a lack of funding during the economic recession, the facilities available have not been renovated since more than a decade ago. What´s more, because of this scarcity of investment, much of what there is has been over used and/or damaged to some extent. Many modern private language centres have sprung up around the city in recent years but they are both unaffordable and difficult to monitor. There are a fair few teachers working who are quite frankly not up to the job.
The methodology used by most teachers has not changed over the last 15 to 20 years or so and therefore needs to be improved. Teachers need the correct type of training that is not only theory based but also practical and ready to input into the system. Some teachers see language teaching as an easy ride and seem to be running down the clock to retirement, to the distain of their students.
There is a case of follow-the-book syndrome apparent in the local area. Teachers need to be given the freedom to use their creativity and also the training to be able to implement it in the classroom. This way resources will be more varied and students will be able to relate to them more easily.
Taking all of the factors of this report into account, the best plan of action would be to increase funding to ensure progress. What´s more than just money, it is essential that this funding gets to where it is most needed. I would suggest teacher training and resources to be the priority.
- It would be a good idea to…
- Wouldn´t it be better to…
- Taking all of the factors into account…
- Why don´t we…
- What about… ?
- I should therefore recommend…
- How about… ?
- Shouldn´t we… ?
- Why not… ?
- the reason is…
- the reason I believe that is…
- the facts suggest…
- the evidence shows…
- taking into account what I have seen…
You can justify your opinion more effectively by being more specific. Try some intermediate (B2) phrases like these:
- The first reason I believe this is…
- The main reason I feel this way is…
- There are several reasons I believe this. The first is…
When you are not completely certain, you can try one of these more advanced (C1) English phrases:
- I don’t have any special reason for believing this. It just seems right to me that…
- I could be wrong as I have no special reason for believing this. I just feel this is right as…
- I´m not sure why I feel this way but I have reason to believe…
When you ARE certain, try one of these phrases:
- There is a lot of evidence to support my point of view. For example…
- There are many facts in favour of my opinion. One such fact is…
- From my own personal experience, I am lead to believe…
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!
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!