CAE writing test tips

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This document includes tips to do well in CAE writing test and common topics as well as detail instructions for each part of the test. if you learn these tips, it will be easier to get high mark. in addition, the document also provide useful phrases for you to apply in your task. 1. IntroductionYou have 90 minutes to write two texts. Each text should be about 220260 words long. Part 1 is always an essay, while in part 2 you have a choice of 3 tasks (letteremail; proposal; report; review). CAE Writing Test Tips Introduction You have 90 minutes to write two texts Each text should be about 220-260 words long Part is always an essay, while in part you have a choice of tasks (letter/email; proposal; report; review) The examiners assess you on elements: • Content - Did you the task you were asked to do? • Communicative achievement - Did you use the right tone and level of formality? • Organisation - Did you link paragraphs together? Is there a logical flow? • Language - Did you show off your sparkling vocabulary or did you merely use First Certificate words? Did you make lots of grammar mistakes? Before you continue with this guide, I strongly recommend you read about this free tool that will help you with your writing: I WAS WRONG ABOUT GRAMMARLY Last year I decided Grammarly, a free writing aid, wasn't useful - this is the story of how one Russian student convinced me to change my mind Time management You have 90 minutes to write texts Both texts will be about the same length, and are worth the same number of points Obviously, you should spend the same amount of time on each! Personally, I'd spend as much time planning as possible, since it makes everything else easier The exact time split will depend on how fast you write, but try something like this: • Planning - 10 minutes (I've made a video about the planning process - it's in section below.) • Writing - 25 minutes • Checking - 10 minutes BACK TO TOP You can't cook without a recipe A lot of students hate planning and think it's a waste of valuable exam time But chefs walk into a kitchen and just start cooking? Of course not - they lay out their ingredients, make sure their utensils are clean, and have their recipe nearby Your plan is the recipe you'll use to cook up a great piece of writing Think about how many paragraphs you want then get some ideas about the content of each But even at this early stage you should start planning the language you want to use Ask yourself questions like: • Where can I use a passive form? • Where can I use an inversion? • What CAE-level vocabulary I know about this topic, and where can I use it? • How I link from one paragraph to the next? Thinking about solutions before you start writing is the easiest way to solve problems! BACK TO TOP Grading: Content PART The first thing you're assessed on is your content That basically means reading the task carefully and doing what you are told to do! In part you are given three bullet points but are asked to talk about TWO of them (You're also given some opinions on the topic that you can use if you want, but you don't have to.) Here's an example of the three bullet points and a task: If I were planning my answer, I'd probably choose 'giving rules' and 'setting an example' as my two points because I feel like I have more to say about those topics (How much would I write about 'offering advice'? Nothing! Because I should only write about two things!) Another important point is to say which is more effective I'd probably write one paragraph about 'giving rules', and the next paragraph would be about 'setting an example' - I would be sure to give reasons why it was a more effective way to influence younger people PART What about part 2? Again, it's important to read the question carefully and make sure you include everything it tells you to Here's the kind of task that will come up: Here's an outline you could follow: • Intro • Evaluation of the programme • The most useful parts of the programme • Suggested changes for next year • Summary Not very imaginative, but you'd be guaranteed to get full marks in terms of content! BACK TO TOP Grading: Communicative Achievement TONE Which is better English: Wasssssssup?! or Dear Sir or Madam Well, it depends who you're talking to! If your task is to write a report for your 'serious' organisation you should use a formal tone If you're writing a magazine article for teenagers you can be more informal This is a HUGE topic and there's not enough space to go into it in detail here I'll list a few external resources that might help, but a good coursebook will give you lots of guidance (Did we mention that Ready for CAE is the best coursebook? Take a look on Amazon!) The main tip is to be consistent - students often write a report that is 95% formal, and then throw in some exclamation points, slang, contractions, and informal vocabulary That's bad! It suggest you don't have control over your tone Learn more about formal vs informal English: • on the Antimoon website (run by two Polish students who mastered English) • on the EngVid site • from the BBC TASK TYPES You should invest some time making sure you know the difference between a letter and an essay, and between a report and a proposal Here are a few quick tips: Essay You need to give your opinion in an interesting way CAE essays are often academic in tone, so practice of formal writing will be helpful Letter/email Write an email with the same opening/closing as a letter In these you write about your personal experiences Your writing will have a purpose, like responding to a newspaper article you don't agree with Report/Proposal Use headings for each paragraph The task will tell you some of the content you need to include and you'll be able to use your imagination to add some more ideas You may be asked to evaluate if some goal has been achieved and/or to suggest alternative courses of action A proposal will have more scope for making suggestions and more need for polite persuasive language BACK TO TOP Grading: Organisation Cambridge love linking words and cohesive devices These are bits of text like 'firstly', 'whereas', 'in addition', 'however', and so on Properly used, they will make your writing flow and make your text easier to read You can't well in CAE without using these phrases Here's a great list of cohesive devices - try to include them in your writing BACK TO TOP Grading: Language Organising a text, using linking words, and getting all the content points is a great start, but for a high grade you'll need to use advanced vocabulary and more difficult sentence structures In the planning stage of the exam think about which highlevel words you know for that topic and think in which paragraph you can use them For example, if the topic is about transport you might use phrases like 'mass transit system', 'to commute', 'congestion,' and 'pressed for time' Then you need to use a variety of structures - passives, inversions, cleft sentences, questions, sentences with semicolons The more variety the better! Also a variety of sentence lengths This picture explains what I mean: So instead of writing like this: A lot of politicians say they will improve bus and train services Having trains is good for people who have to go to work It means they don't have to take the car to work It is probably faster If everyone takes a train to work there won't be any traffic jams You can produce this: Why progressive politicians pledge to provide mass transit systems in their cities? The answer is clear: Not only pressed-for-time commuters benefit, but there is also less pollution Let congestion be a thing of the past; let flowers bloom next to every tram stop In those three sentences there is one question; one colon; one semi-colon; one 'not only but also'; one imperative Not bad, right? You can write like this if you practice and if you're not afraid to make some mistakes along the way BACK TO TOP How to write a CAE essay/letter/report/proposal ESSAYS IMPROVING A CAE ESSAY I rate a student's Writing Part Essay, then give suggestions on how to rewrite it Can we take it from a B to an A? I also made a video about writing essays - see the section below PROPOSALS HOW TO WRITE A CAE PROPOSAL In this article I teach you how to write a CAE proposal - what is important, what is not, and show you examples of how to it SELECTED EXTERNAL RESOURCES Get an ultimate list of tips for essay writing on ThePensters Our Videos about CAE Writing BACK TO TOP 10 Common Mistakes in CAE Writing GRAMMAR MISTAKES Most CAE students don't make obvious, basic mistakes like your/you're or its/it's But they struggle with things like: Relative clauses You need to learn the difference between defining and nondefining relative clauses Your non-defining clauses need commas, while your defining clauses shouldn't have commas I had lunch with my grandfather, who is 90 years old (The second half of the sentence tells you more about my grandfather It's bonus information, so there has to be a comma.) I had lunch with my friend who lives in Prague (I am very cool and popular - I have lots of friends If I say 'I had lunch with my friend' you don't know which friend I mean So the 'who lives in Prague' clause gives you essential information Therefore, no comma!) Note that non-defining pronouns cannot be changed to 'that', so you should never write a comma followed by 'that' (This is especially a problem for German speakers because in German you HAVE to use a comma before 'that'.) Gerund vs infinitive Gerund means the -ing form of a verb This is a tricky part of grammar because there are no rules and you have to learn every verb one by one English! Argh! Anyway, make sure you know these structures: I used to live in China (= I lived in China) I'm used to hearing German (= hearing German is normal for me) I look forward to meeting you I stopped smoking (= I quit) I stopped to smoke (= I stopped what I was doing because I wanted to have a cigarette) I recommend buying new computer equipment (Suggest and advise are also followed by gerunds.) I recommend you buy new computer equipment Prepositions So hard! So many prepositions! So many mistakes! Just learn as many as you can and remember, every single student who has ever taken the CAE exam has struggled with prepositions You are not alone! Conditionals If I get the job I will move to Zurich (The speaker is confident.) If I got the job I would move to Zurich (The speaker is not confident.) If I had got the job I would have moved to Zurich (But the speaker didn't get the job and didn't move to Zurich.) OTHER MISTAKES Not taking risks A lot of students always write the same, safe, things they always write To master advanced vocabulary and structures you have to use advanced vocabulary and structures! Being boring It's hard enough to produce a well-structured piece of writing with good vocabulary that fits the content But remember that the examiners read hundreds and hundreds of essays and most of them are very boring! If you make yours interesting (though the style, unexpectedly good vocabulary, maybe even a joke or two) the examiners will be VERY happy and you will be REWARDED BACK TO TOP 11 Writing Correction Online Students often ask if I offer a writing correction service Well to be honest I'm not very motivated to that right now You should find a teacher on italki instead Click here to read about italki (Watch the video with David to hear more about writing correction.) 12 Frequently Asked Questions Q - Do I have to use British spelling? A - No, it doesn't matter But if you use American spelling, be consistent throughout your writing Q - How important is spelling and punctuation? A - It's pretty important - If you make a trivial mistake it won't be a big deal If the mistake stops the reader from understanding what you mean then you will lose points Q - How important is the word count? What happens if I write too many words? A - The word count is a guide, not a rule But if you the task properly you will write about 220-260 words If you write 300 words then you've probably written lots of stuff you don't need If you write 200 words you've probably forgotten something DO NOT waste time in the exam counting how many words you have written! And never add or remove words just because of the word count - it'll turn out clumsy and weird Q - I know I need to use complex sentences to get a good grade, but I'm worried about making mistakes Is it better to have a simple text with no mistakes? A - Cambridge says that students who make mistakes while trying to use complex structures will get credit for trying (as long as the mistake doesn't stop the reader from understanding) Q - My handwriting is terrible! No-one can read it! Will I lose points? A - No Your handwriting is not very important Just make sure it can be read Also, you don't need to rewrite your text (and you don't have time to rewrite it) - if it's got lots of bits crossed out, don't worry Every student's writing looks the same! ... RESOURCES Get an ultimate list of tips for essay writing on ThePensters Our Videos about CAE Writing BACK TO TOP 10 Common Mistakes in CAE Writing GRAMMAR MISTAKES Most CAE students don't make obvious,... will make your writing flow and make your text easier to read You can't well in CAE without using these phrases Here's a great list of cohesive devices - try to include them in your writing BACK... some mistakes along the way BACK TO TOP How to write a CAE essay/letter/report/proposal ESSAYS IMPROVING A CAE ESSAY I rate a student's Writing Part Essay, then give suggestions on how to rewrite
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