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What you need to know about Writing for CAE

Writing for CAE


There are two parts to the writing exam: the first one is compulsory; you have to write an essay, probably a discursive one, on a given topic; the second part you choose one task from: email, letter, report, review, story, proposal.


Each task has its own language and its own format.  A report and a proposal are similar in that you are required to write a response to some information given and/or also made up by you for the purpose of the task.  The layout for both is similar; however a proposal will come out of your personal opinion whereas a report will be written from the standpoint of research and data.


The language will be a mix depending on which task you are working on: an email to a friend would be informal whereas a report and a proposal would be formal and neutral.  All the writing tasks require you to use advanced writing structures and advanced grammar.   The two areas of English writing that students find the most difficult are idiomatic phrases and phrasal verbs.  Try to use phrasal verbs rather than their Latin equivalents: e.g. to find out rather than ‘enquire’. The more you progress into advanced English the more idiomatic the language becomes.  Magazines and newspapers are a good source of idiomatic English.


Briefly, to start any of these tasks you need to brainstorm the topic first.  That means make sure you read the instructions carefully, underline or highlight the key words in the instructions.  Then just write down words and phrases that are associated with the topic, do that for a few minutes. Then take a look and weed out any you feel are not really appropriate or don’t  now fit with your slant on the topic.  Now organise your words and phrases into paragraphs and make a plan incorporating your introduction, at least 2 or 3 paragraphs outlining your ideas and finally a conclusion, where you sum up your ideas and facts.  


Once you have done your first draft, then you  need to put in your advanced grammar and word order: inversions, use of additive and constrastive connectives, try to incorporate the passive, the past perfect and conditional structures to show that you can use advanced grammar.  Check that you are using advanced adjectives: don’t use ‘nice’ or ‘good’ to describe places, etc.  Use advanced adjectives and also try to use some qualifying adverbs like substantially, marginally, etc. Don’t try to put in these aspects early on as you will get too confused; do this once you have your draft.  Write clearly with a break between paragraphs and finally make sure you can tick off all the key words in the original instructions.


It is important to read a lot to help with your writing – read magazine articles, the Evening Standard, theatre brochures, book reviews, etc.  rather than stories or poetry.  Reading will help you with word order and how to vary your adjectives and increase your vocabulary.  Take a topic each day and write a paragraph about it. Do this for all the topics covered in CAE; to find a list of topics check out the Flo-Joe website where you can find help with writing and everything else associated with CAE.