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. For more exam practice, try our essay writing questions in pdf HERE
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This post aims to explain how to write an essay for the CAE. For more information on the different types of essay click HERE
An essay should analyse a topic from different points of view to give a balanced argument on said topic. It should include your opinion in the conclusion, yet still be imparcial to give a well balanced view on the topic from more than one angle. YOU MUST MAKE SURE YOUR ANSWERS:
- CLEAR PURPOSE
- CLEAR STRUCTURE
- APPROPRIATE STYLE
- COHERENCE (logical order)
- INCLUDE OPINION
OTHER POSTS ON WRITING
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! The ADVANTAGES of being able to study languages online – APPF
WRITE. You must write every day and all types of texts including; letters, notes, messages, emails, essays, reports. DON´T JUST DO EXAM EXAMPLES! 26. Using your time well
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)
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. Living Languages – “USE IT OR LOSE IT”
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! FALSE FRIENDS EN INGLÉS – WWW.APPF.ES
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! 28. Vocabulary Tricks – Useful advice to learn new vocabulary
Example of an essay:
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)
Structure of an essay:
You can use the one from the question or also make up your own to set the tone for the essay
Introduce the topic and say what you are going to talk about and capture the interest of the reader
The first and most important point from the notes (you can mix points if they are related)
The 2nd point from the notes, you need to link it to the first point
A summary of what you have said in the main paragraphs and make your main point. It must be an interesting ending, what do you want to demonstrate?
Example of an essay:
Where should we invest local authority funding?
To some extent it is impossible to agree on where or to whom local governments should allocate funding. In all cases there will be disagreement as to what is the best cause of action. This essay is aimed at discussing the importance of this funding and the influence it can have on our society.
It is said that a person without their health has nothing. One of the principal aims of local government should be to ensure the wellbeing of the general public. This point does not refer to the investment in healthcare, but the investment in schemes to prevent the deterioration of heath. Sports centres could well be the answer to health problems as a more active nation is a healthier one, and the promotion of phrasal activity and the knowledge of how to live a healthier lifestyle is a must in today´s society.
Another point that needs to be made is that of education. The investment in a good educational system is implicit, therefore more investment needs to be made so that people can further their contact with culture and further learning. Museums are a national pastime and should be accessible to all. What is more, they should be of a good standard to capture the interest of the people in order to educate them.
In a nutshell, local governments have an obligation to invest in fruitful projects that are both long-term and beneficial to the people. They must focus of the promotion of the improvement of the standard of living, and what better than in health and education. But referring to the point made earlier, without out heath, education is worth for nothing.
ESSAYS ARE FORMAL AND YOU MUST USE FORMAL LANGUAGE, avoid:
- Informal language (slang and colloquialisms)
- Phrasal verbs when possible
- To get started
- On starting this essay
- To begin with
- In the first place
- until now
- the first point I´d like to make is
- it is time to
- I would like to start by
- To start with
- To introduce the topic
- To kick off this essay
- The first thing to mention is
- As a starting point
- In the first part
- On the one hand
- Firstly, secondly, thirdly
- in due time
- as long as
- as soon as
- at the moment
- in good time
- in the meantime
- in a moment
- in ages
- now that
- without delay
- all of a sudden
- at the present time
- from time to time
- sooner or later
- at the same time
- up to the present time
- at this instant
- first, second
- in time
- prior to
- by the time
- in this day and age
- as soon as
- As I have said before…
- With respect to the point on…
- Like I have said…
- In relation to…
- Taking into account…
- in a nutshell
- as can be seen
- in the final analysis
- all things considered
- as shown above
- in the long run
- given these points
- as has been noted
- in a word
- for the most part
- after all
- in fact
- in summary
- in conclusion
- in short
- in brief
- in essence
- to summarize
- on balance
- by and large
- to sum up
- on the whole
- in any event
- taking all of this into account
- all in all
To make sure that your writing is in the appropriate style, you should make sure that you know how to write formally and informally. Did you know that phrasal verbs are generally only for informal texts? Learn about formal and informal writing HERE