The key to your success in the Writing paper of the B1 Preliminary Cambridge exam lies in the following top-five writing tips:
- Know what types of texts and questions are required in the exam.
- Know what each of these texts must include.
- Practise writing using exam tasks.
- Always proofread your work: correct, add, replace or make other changes to your final writing.
- Be ambitious.
In our previous article, Insights Into B1 Preliminary Writing, we have said that there are three kinds of texts that B1 Preliminary candidates must be familiar with:
- An email,
- An article and
- A story.
The Writing paper consists of two parts and three questions:
- Part 1:
- Answer a friend’s email and include the notes that are provided.
This part is compulsory.
- Part 2: :
- Write an article by answering the questions, and
- Write a story which must start with the sentence provided in the question.
In this part, from these two, you choose one question.
The writing process looks like cooking. You cannot start preparing any dish unless you know what ingredients are necessary, can you? So, before you go on to practise writing, let’s find out which the essential parts are in each of the three above-mentioned writings.
- Start in a friendly way
- React to the news
- Use informal language, e.g. wanna, ’cause, well, etc
- Ask questions, e.g. “You’ll visit us this summer, won’t you?”
- Use linkers: because, besides, also, but, however, though, so, etc
- Close in a friendly way
Read this email from your English-speaking friend Elisabeth and the notes you have made. Write your email using all the notes. Write your answer in about 100 words.
How are you? I hope you’re having a great holiday. I went bird watching in the mountains last week, and it was amazing! → (1) Respond to this news.
Do you want to come and visit me next weekend? I could take you to the national park. It’s a great place. → (2) Refuse and say why.
Maybe you prefer to do something during summer holidays, too. I have lots of free time. I’d be nice to see you! → (3) Yes! Invite Elisabeth to my home.
By the way, I know it’s your birthday the day after tomorrow, so I sent you something! You should get it tomorrow. I hope the post arrives on time. → (4) Thank her.
Have a great day!
You’ve been birdwatching! Wow, I’m sure it was incredible! I know how much you like spending time outdoors. I’m glad you had fun. What a pity I couldn’t join you.
Thanks a lot for the invitation. I’m afraid I can’t. Next Monday, I’ve got a job interview. Wish me good luck! Besides, my grandparents’re going to visit me, so, I must prepare the guest’s room. Maybe the following weekend. Have you got any plans?
Wait, I’ve got an idea! Summer is coming, and you said you’d be free. What about coming to my place? We’ve got plenty of things to do around here. We could spend some days together and catch up a little. Tell me what you think about it.
Thanks for sending me a birthday present. So kind of you! Can’t wait to get it!
I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon!
- Write a catchy title
- Write 1-2 rhetoric questions, e.g. “Have you ever wondered what life without smartphones is?”
- Give your opinion: For me, I think …, In my opinion, I would say that …, etc
- Use adjectives
- Use linkers: because, so, as, since, since, That’s why, besides, and, also, as well, too, but, however, although, etc
You see this notice on an English language website:
My favourite city
What’s your favourite city? What’s so special about this city? What city would you love to travel to in the future? Tell us what you think!
Write an article answering these questions, and we will publish the most interesting ones on our website.
A city for everyone
My favourite city is London. It is unique for me because it is so beautiful and fascinating. It is also full of amazing sights every tourist would like to visit.
London has got everything for everyone. It has a lot of old historic buildings and museums for people who are interested in culture and history, but it also feels modern and young people love it. So, this city attracts everyone. You can visit expensive designer shops or small, traditional markets. There are hundreds of restaurants and cafés which serve English food, or different dishes from around the world. You can meet all kinds of people, too, such as street artists and even famous singers. I am sure London has got something to impress you as well, hasn’t it?
I think I would love to travel to Los Angeles in the future since I’ve seen this city in so many films, also on the postcards my best friend from the USA has sent me. I’d be so happy to see its skyscrapers in real life. It would be amazing, wouldn’t it?
- Give your story a name.
- Start with the sentence given in the task.
- Organize the story into three parts: beginning, middle and ending.
- Use time adverbials: first, then …, next, later, while/as …, before …, an hour later, right at that moment, the next day, finally, etc.
- Use past, narrative tenses: past simple, past continuous and past perfect (simple and continuous).
- Add direct speech, e.g. “Shall we go out?”, she said. “Brilliant idea!” replied Katy.
- Add strong adjectives to describe people, places, feelings, etc, e.g. huge, tiny, delighted, terrified, miserable, etc
- Add adverbs to describe actions and adjectives, e.g. luckily, carefully, angrily, happily, etc.
- Give a clear ending, e.g. In the end …, I realized that …, I’ll never forget what happened. After a great day …, etc.
Your English teacher has asked you to write a story. Your story must begin with this sentence:
The message began, “Congratulations! You’ve won first prize!”
Write your story.
The Email story
The message began, “Congratulations! You’ve won first prize!”.
Neither John nor Mary knew that their son, Chris, had taken part in a writing competition the previous week. He had written an autobiography and had sent it, hoping he could win. Chris had anxiously been looking forward to the result of the competition.
“Again, look at this sort of email we were telling our sons about yesterday at dinner time,” John said to Mary, “They cannot open such emails!”, Mary angrily continued. Both looked nervously at the PC screen. “Don’t worry,” Mary added, “I will delete it and there will be no harm for anybody”, Mary said. The email was in the bin with one click. Then another click and it disappeared forever.
Just then, Chris came into his parents’ bedroom. “Mom,” he said, “I forgot to tell you that I had entered a competition, but I had used your email address. Have you received any email about it?” His parents looked at each other speechless.
Finally, after a moment that seemed an eternity to Chris, his dad said, “Let’s write an email and ask about it. I am sure you have won! Which is the email address?”. The next day they got the email. Christ was delighted by the news; however, his parents will never forget how they have deleted such an important email.
It is essential to remember that like in any recipe, there are some main ingredients we can’t do without, such salt and oil, aren’t they?
Here are the “staple foods” for a B1 Preliminary writing:
- Answer to all the questions,
- Write a minimum 100 words, and
- Use varied vocabulary, appropriate for the topic of the question.
Now, I’d like to invite you to do a hands-on activity. You should see in which writing types a list of key points are necessary.
Print the PDF on the left. Then check your answers by opening the PDF on the right.
In a nutshell, you know what the three writing tasks in the B1 Preliminary Cambridge exam are, don’t you? You are also familiar with the checklist for each of these writing types, aren’t you? What’s next? Practise and again practise. The more you write, the better at writing you become. Next, proofread every single time you’ve got your answer. I beg you to avoid repetition as much as possible. Use synonyms. Show how well you control both the grammar structures and the topic vocabulary. Last but not least, be ambitious in your writing. Play with language chunks. It will pay off!
Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!