Insights into B1 Preliminary Writing

This article is addressed to all of you who are preparing to take the B1 Preliminary exam.

How is your preparation level when it comes to writing?

We are used to listening to people talking or singing in English, and reading all kinds of texts, starting with easy adverts on billboards to more complex academic and/or professional ones. Consequently, we do reach much more easily, though I don’t mean effortlessly, a B1 listening and reading comprehension level. Writing, instead, is not everyone’s thing, even though it is undeniably important, and not just for exam purposes.

Let’s first look into what types of writing you must show control of in B1 Preliminary exam Writing paper.

B1 Preliminary Writing paper lasts 45 minutes. It counts for 25% of the total mark.

It includes the following types of texts:

  • An email
  • An article
  • A story

There are two parts:

Part 1: Answering a friend’s email and including the notes that are provided. This part is obligatory.

Part 2: Writing an article by answering the questions, or a story which must start with the sentence provided in the question. In this part, you choose one between these two.

Each of these writings` word length is around 100 words.

You must have been practising the above writing types once you started your B1 preparation, and I am sure you have already made your choice in the second part, either going for a story or an article depending on which you are mastering the best. An ARTICLE writer should be good at engaging the reader with rhetoric questions and colourful language, while A STORY writer must be a pro at past tenses, sequence of events connectors and why not  – a pinch of suspense. Which one do you take to, like a duck to water? 😉

To know what exactly is expected from a candidate’s B1 Preliminary exam writing piece, we have got four Writing Assessment Criteria:

  • Content: It focuses on how well the candidate has done what they were asked to do.
  • Communicative Achievement: it focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register.
  • Organization: It focuses on how logical and ordered the writing is.
  • Language: It focuses on a wide range of topic vocabulary and grammar, as well as how accurate the writing is.

Responses are marked on each of these subscales from 0 to 5. So, there is a maximum of 20 points for each of the two writings.

Knowing these criteria is a must since it gives you a clear picture of what exactly you should consider while sitting the writing paper and what changes to make while proofreading your work before you hand it in. Take a close look at the below descriptors specific to each of the above-mentioned subscales:

(It is taken from Cambridge Assessment English B1 Preliminary Handbook for Teachers for exams from 2020)

Find below a general checklist for any of your writings in both Part 1 and Part 2 given the four writing assessment criteria:

Writing CriteriaChecklist Questions
ContentHave you understood the task?
Have you done what you were asked to?
Have you informed the reader?
Communicative AchievementDo you keep the reader interested?
Do you communicate straightforward (simple, uncomplicated) ideas?
Have you used the right style, layout and register?
OrganizationIs the writing logical and coherent? Does it make sense?
Is the text connected and ordered?
Have you used linking words and phrases (basic and more complex)?
Language Is the vocabulary range varied (everyday and less common words and structures)?
Have you shown a good control of grammar forms (simple and complex)?
Is the writing accurate? Is the message clear despite some mistakes?

Now, let’s dive into the checklist for each of the three writings:

Part 1 An Email

Have you:

  • written about the topic indicated in the question and included ALL THE NOTES provided?
  • made few mistakes in spelling or grammar?
  • used a range of vocabulary?
  • written the right number of words?
  • written in paragraphs?
  • clearly linked the points with linkers and connectors?
  • started and ended your email in a suitable way?
  • used words and expressions that are suitable for informal language?
  • got the right length? (TIP: Count the words you have written in one full line. Multiply it with the number of lines, and you will get an approximate number of words)

Part 2 An Article

Have you:

  • answered ALL THE QUESTIONS and included all the necessary information?
  • got three-four paragraphs?
  • used adjectives to make the article interesting to read?
  • used a range of topic-related vocabulary?
  • expressed a personal opinion?
  • used linking words and phrases?
  • got the right length?

Part 2 A Story

Have you:

  • started your story with the sentence given in the instructions? 
  • got a WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN?, and HOW?
  • used time expressions. e.g. before, during, after, when, while, until, first, then, next, immediately, as soon as, finally, in the end, etc?
  • 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?
  • used adjectives and adverbs to describe the scene, people, etc?
  • got three paragraphs: beginning, middle, and end?
  • used direct speech?
  • got the right length?

The above checklists are useful in both self- and peer-assessment, in case you are using them in class or while preparing for the exam together with your friend.

Top Writing Tips:

  • Practice writing using exam tasks. The more you write, the better at writing you will become.
  • Always proofread your work, by correcting, adding, or making other changes to your final writing.
  • Be ambitious. Play with language chunks. It will pay off!

Once again, I hope the information above has been handy and helped you clarify any doubts you might have related to B1 Preliminary Writing paper.

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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