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What’s in the Writing paper?

In the two parts of the Cambridge English: First Writing paper, you have to show that you can write different types of text in English.


Time allowed: 1 hour 20 minutes
Number of parts: 2
Number of questions: Part 1: one compulsory question, Part 2: one question from a choice of three
Marks: 20% total
Types of task: Articles, email, essay, letter, report, review.

Part 1 (Compulsory question)

What's in Part 1? You’re given an essay title and two ideas clearly linked to the title. You write an essay giving your opinions about the title, using the ideas given. You must also add a third, different idea of your own linked to the title. The title will be a subject of general interest – you won’t need any specialised knowledge.

Find more information about how to write An essay {| | |- | What do I have to practise? || Using language functions, such as evaluating, expressing opinions, hypothesising, justifying, persuading. |- | How many questions are there? || One compulsory question. |- | How much do I have to write? || 140–190 words |}

[try Part 1 from the sample Writing paper.]

Part 2 (Situationally based writing task)

What's in Part 2? You write a text from a choice of text types – article, email/letter, report or review. To guide your writing, you’ll be given information about context, topic purpose and target reader.
What do I have to practise? Writing different types of text that could be included in the exam.
How many questions are there? One task to be selected from a choice of three.
How much do I have to write? 140–190 words

[try Part 2 from the sample Writing paper.]

How is your writing going to be assessed?

There are four assessment criteria for the writing tasks: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language.

  • Content focuses on how well you have completed the task, in other words, if you have done what you were asked to do.
  • Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task (for example, is the style right for a magazine article?), and whether you have used the right register, for example formal or informal.
  • Organisation focuses on the way you put together the piece of writing, in other words, if it’s logical and ordered.
  • Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is.

The writing Cycle

Before writing:

  • read the question(s) carefully and underline key information required
  • brainstorm ideas and vocabulary
  • plan content and structure
  • think about recipient and decide on register
  • remember characteristics of type of writing, letter, etc.

While writing:

  • make sure the text has a logical progression
  • use devices to keep the reader informed and interested
  • make sure everything is relevant
  • use a consistent register
  • use a range of structures and vocabulary

After writing:

  • check that all relevant information is included
  • check for repetition of vocabulary and structures
  • attempt to improve the text
  • check spelling

Assessment criteria following Cambridge Exams