How to successfully write a story in B1 Preliminary exam

Are you a best-selling author or a storyteller of great renown?  Would you rather write an article or a story when doing the writing paper part 2 of the Cambridge B1 Preliminary exam?

Both are entertaining and colourful pieces. Still, the article is fully addressing the readers while keeping them engaged though personal anecdotes and experiences. The story though is the territory of narrative tenses, time expressions and unexpected twists in the plot. 

If you need to brush up on B1 Preliminary writing skills, check out the following posts:

  1. Insights into B1 Preliminary Writing
  2. How to do the Writing in the B1 Preliminary Cambridge Exam

Today, you will do a hands-on activity that will help you to write a story, easily and with flying colours.

Before we start, why don’t we first see how well you know what the main story ingredients are?

B1 Preliminary story key-elements

Strot key-elements

What does a great story have?

  1. A title
  2. Three parts: beginning, middle and ending
  3. Time adverbials: first, then …, next, later, while/as …, before …, an hour later, right at that moment, the next day, finally, etc.
  4. Narrative tenses: past simple, past continuous and past perfect (simple and continuous).
  5. Direct speech, e.g. “Shall we go out?”, she said. “Brilliant idea!” replied Katy.
  6. Strong adjectives to describe people, places, feelings, etc, e.g. huge, tiny, delighted, terrified, miserable, etc
  7. Adverbs to describe actions and adjectives, e.g. luckily, carefully, angrily, happily, etc.
  8. A clear ending, e.g. In the end …, I realized that …; I’ll never forget what happened; After a great day …, etc.

Analysis of students' makeovers

Here is the question:

Your English teacher has asked you to write a story.
Your story must begin with this sentence.

As Victoria entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes!

Write your story.

write a story

Let’s read three students’ makeovers.

Candidate A

Victoria’s birthday present

As Victoria entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes! It was Sunday, the day she was looking forward to for so long!

She had started to think about what present she wanted for her birthday before she went to school on Monday. Victoria loved riding her bike. She took up this amazing hobby when her family went camping two years ago. Victoria had a wish. She wanted to have something that would take her to the best places around the countryside.

When she got home on Monday, she told her grandparents, who were living on the ground floor, about her wish. During the week, she was so busy with school work that she couldn’t even ask her two best friends to dine out with her on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, she took her dog out for a walk.  Then she went upstairs to her room. When she opened the door, she saw her best friends and a huge box. What a surprise! She had never seen such a big box before. Do you know what was inside? A bicycle! Her dream came true! 

Write a story

Candidate B

Victoria’s cure

As Victoria entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes! She finally discovered the cure for the virus. She told this on TV and became famous. Her vaccine saved a lot of lives. 

Some years later, she was asked to investigate a new virus which suddenly appeared. While she was investigating, she discovered that the virus came up because of her vaccine. Victoria wasn’t sure, so she decided to keep silence, but had to find the cure as quickly as possible.

She had the best laboratory in the country, with the latest technology in the field. So, she started to work day and night. Victoria went on working hard.

After a couple of years, she found the cure and saved the world for the second time.

Write a story

Candidate C

The best present for Victoria

As Victoria entered the room, she couldn’t believe her eyes!

It was Friday, two days before her birthday. She went to school in the morning. On the way to school, she was thinking about what she wanted for her birthday. When she finished her classes, she went home and told her mum that she wanted a dog. Her mother said that it was a lot of responsibility, and they couldn’t afford one. Victoria felt really disappointed. 

Her mum had a friend who was a vet at an animal shelter. They had a coffee together on Saturday, and she told her they had found some abandoned puppies.

On Sunday, when Victoria opened the door, she heard a strange noise on her bed under the blanket. She went closer and found an adorable creature! It was a puppy! She was so happy that she started to cry. It was the best day ever!

Write a story

Download the PDF below to tick or cross the above-mentioned key-elements.

Write a story

Have you ever had fun with chain crazy story writing?

In this game, your friends and you are sitting around a table with nothing but a pen and a sheet of paper in front of you. One person is chosen to conduct the game and come up with questions or prompts. Each one, in turns, should listen to the question and answer it by writing one sentence. Then the piece of paper is folded so that no one could see what has been written above. Everybody passes it on to the player on the right.

The game continues until there are no more questions. At the end, everyone unfolds the paper and reads out the story. A good laugh is guaranteed. 

Now, let’s start writing our story. You can either play with your friends or classmates, or simply answer the questions one by one. 

First and foremost, write the first sentence, which is already given in the exam task. Now, let’s go on and answer the questions. Try and use the narrative tense from the question.

What was the season?

What was the weather like?

What had the main character(s) (MC) done before that moment?

Why had the MC(s) done that?

What did the MC(s) decide to do?

Why did the MC(s) take that decision?

What did the MC(s) do first?

What did the MC(s) do next?

What happened afterwards?

How was/were the MC(s) feeling?

What happened all of a sudden?

Whom did the MC(s) see?

What did they say?

What had the MC(s) never thought of?

What made the MC(s) jump for joy or/and burst into tears?

Finally, what did it happen?

Why will the MC(s) never forget that day?

Story Checklist

Story checklist

Read your story. Answer the following checklist questions:

  1. Have you started your story with the sentence given in the instructions?
  2. Have you got a WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN?, and HOW?
  3. Have you used time expressions, e.g. before, during, after, when, while, until, first, then, next, immediately, as soon as, finally, in the end, etc?
  4. Have you used a variety of past tenses: past simple for events, past continuous to describe the background, and past perfect simple or continuous for things that happened before something else?
  5. Have you used adjectives and adverbs to describe the scene, people, etc?
  6. Have you got three paragraphs: beginning, middle, and end?
  7. Have you used direct speech?
  8. Have you got the right length?

If any of these are missing from the story, make sure you add them.

Last but not least, there is one secret sauce and your story is going to be a roaring success. What is it?


Check out for phrasal verbs classified by topics in the following blog post: Phrasal Verbs By Topics 

I am sure that some phrasal verbs can be omnipresent in almost any story. Verbs like these could always be used to boast about your B1 English language control: set off, put off, get out, come across, run into, cheer up, end up, believe in, look forward to, and others. 

Now your story has all it needs to surprise the audience and the readers. I am sure that with these question prompts you have excelled. You have written an amazing story, you have!

Bet you know how to successfully write a story in B1 Preliminary exam, don’t you?

Good luck with the Cambridge exam and in any other writing competition you decide to take part in.

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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