Eye on the First Certificate: Writing part 2 – emails and letters

The Writing portion of this exam tests your ability to express opinions, organize ideas, and incorporate things like connectors and B2 level grammar into your writing. This series of blogs will look at each section and clarify any doubts you may have as well as help you prepare yourself for the exam.

Writing in English will prove much easier if you understand how to organize writing in your own language. If you don’t write much in your native language either you will need to dedicate some extra effort here. Creativity is also an element particularly in certain types of writings like articles and reviews. If you enjoy writing, this aspect of creativity may not be so hard for you, but if you aren’t as avid a writer you will need to practice answering as many writings as possible to force yourself to practice creativity in responses.

Writing Part 2

The second task in the writing portion of the Cambridge First Certificate Exam requires that you choose from one of three writing prompts. These will ask you to write either an article, letter, e-mail, review, report or proposal.

Emails and Letters

Emails and letters are likely to be the most common type of writing that can be found in our daily lives.  This is precisely why it is a dangerous option to choose.  We are so accustomed to writing in real life that we can easily forget to do what is needed to demonstrate our B2 level ad pass the exam.

On this exam you should expect the email or letter to be either for a friend and therefore have an informal style or for a superior of public official in which case the style will be formal.

Informal Correspondence
Emails and letters written to friends need to clearly connect with their audience. This means you can use contractions and are encouraged to use lots of phrasal verbs and colloquial expressions. In informal writing passives and past perfects may seem out of place so you will need to include plenty of phrasal verbs and expressions as well as technical vocabulary if you are going to successfully show your B2 level to the examiner.

Formal Correspondence
You need to use appropriately formal greetings and closings if your letter is geared towards a superior.

Even if it is an informal style doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have structure organization and paragraphs. The structure in all writing is similar. There always has to be an introduction, explanation, and conclusion. The structure of writings can be something challenging particularly for students who finished their studies long ago. Articles are typically structured in three or four paragraphs.

Introduction

Your introduction needs to be a sentence or two responding to the prompt letter and asking after the recipient. Here you need to make it clear you read their letter.

Body

The letter you are given will include two or three things to answer like a recommendation perhaps. This should be contained in 1-2 body paragraphs several sentences in length.

Conclusion

Your final paragraph is your conclusion. It will exchange pleasantries and standard correspondence questions.

Revision

Structure is the most important thing to consider in writing, but you should also keep in mind using sufficiently advanced vocabulary and grammar structures. This is something you should go back and check for in subsequent revisions. Likewise, as you edit your work remember to add in more connectors and double check that your tone is accurate.

Advice

Like with anything, practice makes perfect. Write as much as you can leading up to your exam so that you can get in the habit of finding ideas and forming opinions on all the topics comprised in your exam.

The Cambridge First Certificate Exam is one of the most popular B2 exams out there. It’s a great choice to certify your upper intermediate English level because it’s a very practical exam, which means you continue learning and improving your English while you prepare for the exam.

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