CAMBRIDGE CAE Mission: Ace Your Writing Test

Welcome back, all you brave exam takers! It’s Thursday, so it is time for another CAE drop! So far we have taken an eager look at the Reading Paper. It is time to move past it, I’m afraid. You know what they say, do not dwell on the past, since there are plenty more challenges in your CAE examination. What else could be next, other than the Writing Paper? So, you might be great readers, but are you great writers?

Nobis Kato

First things first! What should YOU expect from your Writing tasks? Writing TASKS?! Am I mental? Not at all, it may not surprise you to find out that there are no less than two tasks to the test…

What’s in the structure?

Writing Part 1, which consists of a compulsory assignment of 180-220 words.

Writing Part 2, in which you may approach one assignment out of a total of five choices, with a word limit ranging between 220-260 words.

Among the text types that you might be required to provide there are articles, reviews, reports, essays, proposals, letters, competition entries, contributions to a longer piece and information sheets. They don’t really sell short, do they? No worries, the wider the variety, the better the chances for you to shine by, of course, proving to be master of any discursive domain!

Secondly, what might THE ASSESSORS expect of you? In other words, try to put yourself in the examiner’s shoes for a change. Think of the amount of ideas, expressions, approaches and styles they have to dive into when grading the papers. How would you feel if you were thrown into the great abyss of student creativity without a road map to guide you through the essentials. What is of importance in evaluating a piece of writing?

The assessment criteria:

The range of the language you used: can you make a native jealous of your elegance in expressing your ideas? Varied and level appropriate vocabulary? Complex grammar?

The wise use of register and format: did you make a report look like one, and not like an article? Did you use a proper formal, semi-formal or neutral register throughout your text?

Organisation and cohesion: did you let your ideas flow in a normal, logical, not haywire way? And, what’s more, did you link them appropriately, using linking devices (firstly, moreover, in addition, consequently, etc.)?

Length: did you respect the word limit, or have you rambled pointlessly outside the subject matter?

Target reader: if you were to submit your piece of writing to someone in real life, would the reader be interested in what you have to say, or would it have no impact in day-to-day life? Not to mention, would it have the expected effect on your addressee?

Content: did you refer to the task entirely, did you address all matters, or have you enthusiastically strayed from the topic? Let the content of your writing be nothing less and nothing more than precisely what you have been asked to do.

SO… what can you do about it? How can you make sure that you have the best chances and writing strategies at hand? Quite simply!

Improving your writing skills:

Make sure that you are exposed to all types of texts you have to provide in the exam.

Make sure that you have practised enough targeted writing of Cambridge type. It wouldn’t hurt to take part in one or two writing competitions, either…

Set a timer to see how much it takes to develop a text of the demanded length. Try to enhance your ability of using the time you have at your disposal effectively and productively.

Before jumping into writing the piece, make up a spider-gram of your raw ideas, brainstorm and inventorise a list of linking devices, a list of words that would be appropriately used in your text, and a list of grammar structures you find useful and impressive.

Once you have finished your composition, use this checklist to set your mind at ease about having observed all criteria:

Have you considered all the points in the question?

Have you addressed the right person? Is your potential reader going to be interested?

Would your text be any good in real life?

Length? Is it in the appropriate range?

Are the beginning and the ending well constructed?

Have you used an adequate style?

Did you re-read your piece for mistakes (especially if you are aware of some specific weaknesses)

Have you employed upgraded vocabulary and grammar?

Have you linked your ideas?

Does your piece of writing look as it should in terms of layout?

Check? Check? Check? Great! It’s time you surrendered your pieces of writing to the keen eyes of the assessors. However, if you’ve gone through the checklist and found nothing objectionable, chances are the examiners won’t either. You did it!

Join in next week to see how you can manage your Speaking test and to find the best strategies to face the challenge! ‘Till soon!

Nobis Luna

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