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FCE Writing Guide 1

Transactional Letter 1

Part 1 of FCE Paper 2 is compulsory. You always write a letter to ask for or give
information of some kind. This letter may be formal or informal. A formal letter is a letter
you write to someone you dont know, or dont know very well. An informal letter is the kind
of letter you write to friends, members of your family and other people you know well. Look
at the following phrases and mark them F (formal) or I (informal).

1. Dear Sir / Madam __

2. Love,
Elena __

3. See you next week! I can hardly wait! __

4. I look forward to receiving your reply. __

5. Yours faithfully,
Ana Garcia Herrera __

6. I am writing in reply to your letter of 15 May. __

7. Give my love to your parents. __

8. Should you require any further information, do not hesitate to contact us at the above
address. __

9. Write back soon and tell me all your news. __

10. Im sorry I havent written for such a long time, but Ive been really busy.

11. I would be most grateful if you could send me any further relevant information. __

Remember! Learning to write correctly and appropriately in English means building up a

stock of fixed phrases and expressions, such as those above, which you can adapt to
the specific situation as required. This is much better than trying to translate your Italian
thoughts into English, which is likely to result in strange and unnatural writing.

Always read the instructions carefully and decide what kind of letter, formal or informal,
you are supposed to write.

Look at this task. Will your answer be formal or informal?

Some young people you met last summer are planning to visit your country on
holiday and have asked you to suggest some places of interest to see. Write a letter
of reply using the notes below.
- when? - how long? - come and stay?
Now look at the plan for the above task and put the points in a logical order, by numbering
them 1-7.

Apologise for not writing sooner. __

Thank them for their letter. __
Ask when they will be coming. __
Tell them to write again. __
Invite them to stay for a few days. __
Suggest places to visit and things to do. __
Say why you havent replied sooner. __

Think of ideas: a reason for not replying; things they might enjoy doing and seeing. Is
there a particularly good time of year to visit these places? What can your friends do

Remember that you will need to divide the letter into clearly marked paragraphs, usually
three or four.

Here are some phrases you can use in this letter:

Thank you for your letter.

It was great to hear from you.
Sorry I havent written back for so long.
Sorry its taken me so long to reply.
Ive been really busy recently.
Ive been working really hard.
Ive been studying like mad for my final exams.
Im really pleased youre coming to Italy.
Its great that youre coming here soon.
When exactly will you be coming?
Do you know when youre coming?
When are you going to be here?
Why dont you come and stay with me for a few days?
Id love to put you up for a few days.
Would you like to stay with me for a few days?
You could visit Lerici and Portovenere.
The Cinque Terre are well worth a visit.
Im sure youd really love the Museo Lia.
You can swim and sunbathe on the sandy beaches.
We could go for walks in the countryside together.
Write back soon and tell me your plans.
Write and tell me exactly when you are planning to come.

Now write your letter. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it. Try to write
about 150 words.
FCE Writing Guide 2

Transactional Letter 2

Look at the following task. Are you asked to write a formal or an informal letter?

Look at the advertisement and the notes you have made below it. Then write a letter of
between 120 and 150 words in an appropriate style asking for more information covering
the points in your notes. Do not write any addresses.

for water-sports club. Water-skiing, scuba diving, jet ski, windsurfing! You name it if its a
water sport we offer instruction and facilities for it. Plenty of opportunities to practise your
chosen sport with other enthusiasts at Club Aquarius! For your membership application
form write to:
The Secretary
Club Aquarius
PO Box 312
Sussex, SU3 5JT

- membership fee?
- Annual or monthly payment?
- Use of facilities free to members?
- Sports not mentioned in advertisement?

Follow this procedure:

1. Look at the instructions and underline the words and phrases which tell you exactly
what you have to do.

2. Think of four questions you want to ask in your letter.

3. Decide what order you want to put them in, and how you will divide the letter into

4. Write your letter. Use linking words, such as firstly, also, as well as this, finally.

5. Check your letter carefully for any grammar and spelling mistakes.

Here are some phrases which you may find useful for this kind of letter:

I saw your advertisement in this weeks Daily Post.

I am interested in becoming a member of Club Aquarius.
There are a few points which I would be grateful if you could clarify.
How much does the club cost to join?
Could you give me information regarding membership fees?
Is the membership fee payable monthly or annually?
Are members subject to additional charges?
Is the use of the facilities free to members?
Does the club offer other sports in addition to those mentioned in the advertisement?
I would also be grateful if you could tell me more about the kind of sports on offer.
Thank you very much for your help.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.

How much should I write?

In Paper 2 of FCE you are always asked to write between 120 and 150 words in Part 1
and between 120 and 180 words in part 2. You are assessed on the quality and also the
quantity of English you produce, so you should try to write around the upper limit (150 or
180 words). Try not to exceed this limit by more than a few words.

Now write your letter. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 3

Article 1

In Paper 2 Part 2 you may be asked to write an article expressing your opinion about

Look at this question.

You have been asked to write an article for an English language newspaper aimed at
parents with young children. Your article should be a response to the following

Foreign languages should be taught at nursery school level.

The best way to begin answering a question like this is to make a plan. Make two columns,
one headed FOR, the other AGAINST. Think of arguments for, or in favour of the
statement and write them in the first column. Then think of arguments against and write
them in the second column. Two arguments each, for and against, will be sufficient. If you
cant think of any arguments for and against, imagine what people you actually know
would think about the question. What would your mother think? And your best friend? And
your grandparents?

Choose one of these two plans. They are both good plans.

Plan A

Introduction: my opinion
Paragraph 1: point for the statement; argument against this point.
Paragraph 2: point for the statement; argument against this point
Conclusion: state my opinion again.

Plan B

Introduction: my opinion.
Paragraph 1: arguments in favour of the statement.
Paragraph 2: arguments against the statement.
Conclusion: state opinion again.

Follow your plan and write the article. When you have finished, read it carefully and check
for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Here are some phrases which you may find useful for this kind of article:

These days, many people say that .

Nowadays, we often hear people say that ..
In the last few years it has become fashionable to say that .
The question of whether very young children should be taught a foreign language is one
which is often discussed these days.
There are several arguments which can be made in favour of the statement.
Opponents of this view argue that .
Another argument which is often put forward is that
In support of this view it may be said that ..
On the other hand, it can also be argued that
In my opinion, .
It is often suggested that .
I agree up to a point that .
Another argument against teaching very young children a foreign language is that
This is true to a certain extent, but .
There is a certain amount of truth in this argument, but
I cannot agree with this viewpoint, since
In conclusion, I have to say that
On balance, therefore, I feel that .

Now write your article. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 4

Report 1

In Paper 2, Part 2 you may be asked to write a report on a place you have visited and
what it offers a particular group of people.

Look at the following task:

You work in a language school helping to organise excursions and trips for
students. The school director has asked to prepare a report on a museum in your

Write your report in 120-180 words describing the museum and what it has to offer
students of English as a foreign language. Mention both good and bad points in
your report.

You should plan your answer carefully, like this:

Think of good and bad points about the museum, especially in relation to students
of English.

Join the good and bad points using linking expressions. The most useful are:

despite / in spite of but

although / even though On the other hand

Organise your sentences into numbered paragraphs, with sub-headings, like this:

1. Introduction

2. Price

3. Interest

4. Language

5. Conclusion

Give your report a clear title, like this:

Report on the Seals Museum, La Spezia

To: School Director

From: Excursions officer

Follow your plan and write your report. Remember to read and check carefully for
grammar and spelling mistakes.

Here are some phrases which may help you with this type of report:

I visited the Seals Museum last week in order to decide if it would be an interesting place
for students to visit.
I will comment on the following: price, interest, language
The entrance fee to the museum is
There is a reduction for students.
Students pay half-price on Wednesdays.
There are many interesting exhibits on display.
The Egyptian section was closed on the day I visited.
I especially liked the
I found the . especially interesting.
I think students will appreciate the .
Most students will find the . of interest.
A guidebook in English is available.
The guidebook is rather expensive.
It contains some beautiful colour photographs.
The guides are helpful.
The guides dont speak English.
There is an audio commentary in English.
It wasnt working on the day of my visit.
In my opinion .
To conclude, I think that .
I am therefore of the opinion that .

Now write your report. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 5

Letter of Application

In Paper 2, Part 2 you may be asked to write a letter of application.

Look at the following job advertisement:

Trading and Commercial Bank

Trainee Managers
We will be recruiting trainee managers to start work
In late June or early July in our branches all over
Europe. Applicants should have a degree in an
appropriate area and a knowledge of English and/or
German. Apply in writing to:
The Personnel Officer
Trading and Commercial Bank
134 Collins Street

The sentences in this reply are in the wrong order. Put them in the correct order, by putting
1-6 in the gaps.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I can be contacted by telephone on 01202 452234 in the mornings or at the above

address. __

I have a working knowledge of German and have recently passed the University of
Cambridge First Certificate in English examination. __

I look forward to receiving your reply. __

I am writing in reply to your advertisement in last Tuesdays Evening News. __

I will also complete a degree in Banking and Finance in June and will be available for work
immediately afterwards. __

I would like to apply for one of the trainee manager positions you advertise. __

Yours faithfully
Juan de Souza

This type of letter is based on a very small number of fixed, formulaic expressions. If
you can reproduce these correctly in the exam you are certain to get a very good mark.
Look at the following task:

You see the following advertisement in the newspaper. Write a letter applying for
one of these positions and asking for more details about the discounts. Do not write
any addresses.

Trainee Travel Agents

We are looking for students who are interested in
training to become travel agents. To join our training
scheme you must have a knowledge of English and
an interest in travelling. These positions are unpaid,
but you will receive large discounts on all our organised
tours and holidays.
Write to: Maria Sampras
Via Ardipane
Rome 04100

Underline the key words in the instructions. Think about the form of your letter. Will it begin
and end in the same way as the previous letter?

Plan your letter. Follow the order of the previous letter. Remember to ask for more
information about the discounts. You will also need to give some evidence for your
knowledge of English and your interest in travelling. You may also want to ask about the
possibilities of work at the end of the training period.

The following phrases may help you:

I am very interested in joining your training scheme.

I have loved travelling since I was a small child.
I have visited many countries in Europe.
I studied English for eight years at school.
I am currently attending a course to prepare for the First Certificate examination.
Could you please give me some more information about the discounts you offer?
Your advertisement mentions discounts, and I would be grateful if you could tell me
Could you give me some indication about the possibility of finding a job on completion of
the course?

Now write your letter. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 6

Article 2

Look at this question:

A local English language newspaper has asked students to write articles expressing
their opinion about this question:

Should students do part-time work?

Write your article for the newspaper.

In order to write a good answer to this question, you need to plan your article carefully.

First, decide what opinion you are going to express. Then think of at least three arguments
in support of your opinion. For example:

Important and useful to have work experience

Learn to appreciate the value of money
Come into contact with other people, not just other students

Decide in what order you are going to present your ideas. Then write your article. Be sure
to divide it into three or four paragraphs.

Make use of ordering expressions like these:

First of all Firstly In the first place

Secondly In the second place


Now write your article. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 7

Transactional Letter 3

Remember that Part 1 of Paper 2 is compulsory. There is only one question. You always
have to write either a formal or an informal letter.

Look at the question below.

You were travelling by train recently and left something that belongs to you on the
train. Write a letter to the lost property officer enquiring about the thing you lost.
Use these notes in your letter. Do not write any addresses.

- date of journey
- destination and departure time
- description of object

How to write a formal letter.

If you are asked to write to an official or a company you should NOT use

question tags
linkers like well, anyway, by the way
All the best or Love from Alex at the end of your letter


begin the letter with either Dear Sir / Madam or Mr / Ms/ Dr + the persons surname
use formal language, eg I look forward to receiving your reply
end the letter with Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely
sign your letter with your full name

Remember to plan your letter before you start writing. For the question above, the plan
should look like this:

explain why you are writing

say what you lost and when, describe it
ask how you can get it back
thank the recipient of the letter in advance

Now write your letter. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 8

Article 3

In Paper 2, Part 2 you may have the option of writing an article in which you write about
the advantages and disadvantages of something, the arguments for and against
something, or in which you write your opinion about a subject.

Look at this question.

You have been asked to write an article for a student newspaper on the following

Has television improved in your country over the last ten years?

Write your article, saying what most people think and giving your own point of view.

To answer this question well, you need to plan your article carefully, like this:

underline key words in the instructions.

Think of arguments for and against.
Write a plan. A good plan for this question might look like this:

Introduction: question as a statement; two points of view

Paragraph 1: describe a situation more channels than before.

Paragraph 2: more choice; entertainment mainly

Paragraph 3: not educational; fewer documentaries; fewer cultural programmes

Conclusion: what most people think; what I think.

Then write your article and check it carefully.

The following phrases may be useful in writing this type of article:

Many people think that . . However, there are people who think that .
A few years ago .. Nowadays, on the other hand, ..
It is therefore certainly true that ..
It is worth remembering however, that .
Furthermore, it must be admitted that ..
On balance, therefore I think that ..

Now write your article. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 9

Formal and Informal Letters

Here are some more expressions which you can use when you are writing a letter. Decide
whether they are suitable for use in a formal or an informal letter and mark them F or I.

Initial greetings
It was great to hear from you. __
I am writing with reference to your letter of 25 May. __
Thanks for writing to me. __

Well done! __
I would like to offer congratulations on your recent promotion. __
Please allow me to congratulate you on your recent success. __

Advice / suggestion
Why not try __
What about going __
It is recommended that you contact __
You could visit __
I urge you to consider the points I have made. __
If I were you Id __

Moreover, __
Then again, __
Furthermore, __
Better still, __
Whats more, __
Additionally, __

Do drop me a line if you have time. __
I look forward to hearing from you without delay. __
Hope to hear from you soon. __
Keep in touch. __
I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience. __

Now look at this example of a Part 1 task.

You have just returned from a trip to Florida. You flew there and back with Ocean Air. You
decide to write to the airline to complain about your flight and ask for some money back.

Read the advertisement and the notes you made and then, using the information, write a
letter to the airline. You may add other relevant points of your own.

We offer:
4 flights a day late boarding
wide, comfortable seats
friendly, well-trained staff quite rude
a good choice of food
(no problems with special diets) no vegetarian for me!
the latest in in-flight entertainment movie already been on TV!

Write your letter in 120-180 words. Do not include any postal addresses.

Now think about how you will answer this question. What kind of letter will it be? How will
you begin and end the letter? How are you going to organise the letter? How many
paragraphs will you write? What kind of linking words will you use?

Remember that you must include all the points in the rubric, so you must make reference
to the late boarding, the rudeness of the staff, the lack of a vegetarian alternative and the
old film. You may, if you wish, make further points, (you could, for example, comment on
the seats) but remember not to write much more than 180 words.

Here are some phrases to help you:

I am writing to complain about .

I recently flew to Florida with your airline, and unfortunately .
Your advertisement talks about . whereas my experience was that .
In your advertisement you say . . However, in reality, .
Your advertisement mentions . . On my flight, however, .
Another cause for complaint was that ..
Not only that, but ..
All in all, I am most dissatisfied with the service I received and .
I hope you will be able to refund at least some of the return fare, as .
I hope to receive an apology in the near future.

Now write your letter. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
FCE Writing Guide 10

Report 2

In Part 2 of Paper 2 you may be asked to write a report. This will involve the presentation
of information in a clear, factual way, using headings, and sometimes with some
suggestions or recommendations.

Look at this task.

Your local museum is quite old-fashioned and not many people visit it. Your local
tourist board has asked you to write a report on the museum, and give some
recommendations on how to improve its image. Write your report.

In the following report, the paragraphs are in the wrong order and they dont have a
suitable heading. Read through the text and decide on the right order and then choose an
appropriate heading from the list below.

A Purpose
B The museum today
C Suggested improvements
D Additional facilities
E Conclusion


1. ____________________________
The museum mainly contains items connected with the pottery industry and various
inventions connected with it. Generally, most of the items are displayed in glass cabinets
with explanations on small bits of card. These arent very easy to read and some of them
are placed too high for small children. The lighting inside the building is also very poor.

2. ____________________________
To sum up, I found that Wademouth Museum could have a bright future if some time was
spent up-dating the displays and opening some new facilities.

3. ____________________________
Finally, I spoke to some of the visitors, and one thing that most people mentioned is
having a good gift shop and a caf in the building. The profits from these would help to pay
for more interesting displays.

4. ____________________________
The aim of this report is to give an outline of what can be seen in this museum and to
suggest ways in which the museum can change its image.

5. ____________________________
Although the museum gives the visitor a good idea of how the pottery industry developed
through the ages in this area, it doesnt make the subject come alive. I would recommend
that the museum puts in some working models, or, even better, have people showing you
how the pots were produced.

The correct order for the paragraphs is: ______________________________________

Now look at the expressions in bold. Which of the functions below do they illustrate?

1. Introducing ____________________________________________________
2. Reporting an impression __________________________________________
3. Generalising ___________________________________________________
4. Making a recommendation or suggestion _____________________________
5. Concluding ____________________________________________________

Now look at this question.

You regularly write a column in your college magazine on new films that are being
shown in your town. Attendance at the local cinema is falling, and they have asked
you to write a report, based on research at your college, on the cinemas facilities
and to make some recommendations on how to attract more people to the cinema.

Write your report.

Plan your answer, and then write your report. Use the structure of the museum report to
help you.
CAE Writing Guide 1

Informal Letter 1

Look at this task:

Some English friends, Peter and Sue Hall, have written to you for advice. Their 20-
year-old son, Tom, wants to get a job teaching English in your country. This is part
of a letter you have received from them:

Toms doing a teacher-training course at the moment, as you know, but he thinks he ought to learn
something of the language before he comes, which seems like a good idea. Hes bought a Teach
Yourself book on the language, but we were wondering if you had any other suggestions which
would help him. Its quite a while since he studied a language at school, so hed also be really
grateful for some general tips on learning a language.

Write a letter to Tom giving advice and any helpful suggestions that you can. Write
about 250 words.

Read the question carefully and highlight the key points. Ask yourself:

Whats the purpose of your letter?

What two things do you need to give advice on?

Think about the content of your letter. Think about these points:

What would be the advantages of Tom being able to speak a bit of your language
when he arrives?
Think about the language: is there anything an English speaker would find
particularly difficult or unusual (pronunciation, grammar, writing system etc)?
Make a list of all the things Tom could do to learn your language, from having
private lessons or buying a cassette course to listening to radio broadcasts. Think
about the pros and cons in terms of cost, time and effectiveness. Decide which
method seems most realistic. Is there anything you could do to help, eg send
magazines or simple books?
Write down any general tips on learning a language that you think would be helpful.
Use your own experience as far as possible.

Make a plan for your letter. Decide on the main sections you want to have and think about
the best way to organise them. Jot down the main points for each section. Think about a
suitable introduction and conclusion.

Here are some points to remember when you are writing an informal letter:
Dear Ken, always use a name
Many thanks for your letter and the photos. Begin the first sentence with a capital


In an informal letter to a friend it may be appropriate to begin by mentioning a letter which

you have recently received, or by making general friendly comments.

Useful language
Many thanks for your letter
It was lovely to hear from you.
I was glad to hear that you had a good holiday.
I hope you and the family are well.

Giving advice

Useful language
You asked me for advice on .
Have you thought about .
It might be a good idea to .
One thing I would suggest is .


It is usual to end letters which expect a reply with a sentence on a separate line. For

Looking forward to hearing from you / seeing you.

Hope to hear from you soon / see you soon.
Write and tell me how you are getting on.
Write soon /See you soon.

Closing salutation

Best wishes and Yours followed by your name on the next line are useful general endings.
For close friends you can end with Love

Hope to hear from you soon

Best wishes

Now write your letter to Tom. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.
CAE Writing Guide 2

Formal Letter 1

Look at this task.

You are attending a course in London. Last week, because the trains were delayed by bad
weather, you were late for college every day. On the worst day, the train was 1 hour 20
minutes late and you missed two classes.
This is an extract from an information leaflet you have picked up at the station.

We hope you have a pleasant journey with Capital Rail, but if you have any comments or
complaints about our services, please write to the Customer Care Manager at the address
What we promise to do when things go wrong:
If you are delayed for more than one hour you may claim rail vouchers to the
value of 50% of the journey made.

Write a letter to the Customer Care Manager at Capital Rail complaining about the poor
service you have experienced and asking for compensation. Use your own words as far as
possible. Write about 250 words. You do not need to include addresses.

Read the instructions carefully and highlight the key points. Ask yourself:

What is the purpose of your letter?

What do you want it to achieve?


Your letter should include the following points.

Why you are writing

Which of your journeys were delayed
How long the delays were
What happened as a result of the travel delays
What compensation you require


Decide how you will organise these points into about four paragraphs. What kind of things
can you say in each paragraph?

Style and register

Thinking about what you want the letter to achieve, consider these questions:

Should the letter be formal or informal?

What tone is appropriate, eg angry, humorous, sarcastic, cool and factual?

Layout of a formal letter

This is how we organise a formal letter, although in the CAE exam it is not necessary to
write addresses.

22 York Street
BR8 450

The Principal 24 November 2006

Clifton College

Dear Sir,
I am interested in applying for a place on a computer course at your college and I would be
grateful if you could send me full details of the courses you offer and the fees, together with an
application form.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours faithfully
S. M. Gilchrist
S. M. Gilchrist (Ms)

Letter of complaint

In the first paragraph explain the reason for writing.

In the second paragraph explain exactly what the problem is. Give all the necessary
details about where and when it happened and who was involved. Give other relevant
information in further paragraphs if necessary.
In the final paragraph explain what action you want to be taken.

Useful language
I am writing to complain about
to express my concern about the fact that
to express my annoyance at .
I must insist that you .
I must urge you to .
I feel I am entitled to a refund.
I feel I am entitled to some compensation for the inconvenience I have suffered.
I hope you will consider the points I have raised very carefully.
I shall expect a written apology at your earliest convenience.


It is usual to end letters which expect a reply with a sentence on a separate line. The most
common ending is:
I look forward to hearing from you.

CAE Writing Guide 3

Personal Notes and Messages

Look at this task.

You are working as an assistant in the offices of an English company. You are
finishing some work after your colleagues have left when the phone rings for you.
As a result of the call, you need to take the following day off work.
Write two notes explaining the situation, one to your boss, and one to a colleague
and friend, with whom you had a lunch date. Write 60-80 words in each note.

A task like this will be more realistic and more successful if you decide on some concrete
details before you start. If you can use true facts, its very easy, but if you cant, invent
some interesting and believable ones!

Decide on answers to the questions below.

Your work: What kind of work do you do for the company? How long have you been with
the company? How will you be able to make up for the time you will miss?
The phone call: Who was it from? What was the message? Why is it important? Why was
there such short notice?
Your boss: Male / female? How well do you get on with him / her? How are they likely to
react to your being away?
Your colleague: Male / female? How long have you known him / her? Have you had lunch
together before?
The lunch: Where were you going to go? Will there be any problem about cancelling?
When could you have lunch instead?

Notes and messages are usually even more informal than informal letters, although the
exact degree of formality will depend on the specific relationship. Decide which phrases
from the list below would be more appropriate in the note to your boss (B) and which in
the note to your colleague (C)

I received a telephone call __ out of the blue __

rang me __ such short notice __
Ill gladly make up the time __ Im really sorry __
In the circumstances __ I apologise for any inconvenience __
Some other time? __
There are no fixed rules about the layout of notes and messages. Look at these examples
and the comments which follow.

Just to let you know that I managed to get 2 tickets for the Flaming Lips concert at the
Ensemble Theatre on Tues. It starts at 7.30, so shall we meet outside the theatre at about
We could have a bite to eat afterwards if you like.
See you soon

Hastings 7/11

Dear Clare,
A quick note to thank you for helping me with the job application. Your advice was much
appreciated. Ive sent it off now, so lets hope I get an interview.
Saw Frank yesterday. Ill pass on the news when I see you.
All the best,

The day, date or time is normally somewhere at the top.

You can begin with Dear , with a first name or just an initial, depending on
your relationship.
Informal language is often appropriate.
You need not always write in full sentences
Finish with your name or initial.

Beginning a note

No special introductory phrases are necessary but notes often begin with expressions like:

Just (a note) to let you know / tell you / check that .

A quick note to ask / see if .
thank you for / apologise for / about


Sorry I couldnt / wasnt able to / forgot to .

I (would like to) apologise for missing the meeting.
Ending a note

No special fixed phrases are needed but notes and messages may end with expressions

See you soon

Speak to you soon
All the best

Now write the two notes for the task above. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you
need it.

CAE Writing Guide 4


Look at this task.

You work in a fitness centre. The centre would like to encourage more business
people to use its facilities after work. There are many companies in your town which
have English-speaking employees and you have been asked to prepare the text for a
leaflet aimed at them.

You should:

1. introduce the fitness centre and its facilities.

2. emphasise the benefits of regular exercise.
3. give brief general advice on ways of avoiding stress in daily life.

Write the text for the leaflet using about 250 words.

First, you will need to think about the content of your leaflet.
- make a list of possible exercise and other facilities (such as a shop, caf etc)
- make notes about the benefits of regular exercise (and the dangers of inactivity)
- think about what to include in the general advice section.

Layout and organisation

Information sheets, leaflets and brochures are intended to inform, persuade or warn. The
two main aims are therefore to catch the readers attention and to present the message as
clearly as possible. To do this, layout and organisation need to be as effective as possible.
Short paragraphs with clear headings are much easier to read and absorb than long
blocks of text, for example. The best approach is to imagine yourself as the reader and to
ask what you would want to know, and in what order you would find it easiest to absorb the
information. Consider these points:
Main heading:
- Is this as direct and eye-catching as possible?
- Does it give the reader a clear idea of what the subject is?
- Does it make the reader want to read on?

- Are these short and clear? Asking a question in your heading may be more
interesting than stating a fact.

- Is the information broken up into short, easy-to-read sections?
- Is the order logical?

Visual help:
Can you help the reader, for example:
by indenting small sub-sections so that
they stand out as small blocks which
are clearly separate from the main text?
- by putting important points on separate lines? Or
6. by numbering your points? Or
by putting bullets in front of main points? Or
by using different STYLES and sizes of writing? Or
by underlining or putting boxes round important words.

You wont be marked on your design skills, of course, but you may make a good
impression on the examiner!

Look at this example of a leaflet which gives information about looking after your heart.
Here we have reproduced only the text of the leaflet, as this is all that you are required to
produce in the exam. A real-life leaflet would of course contain visuals as well.

Look After Your Heart

A Simple Guide To Feeling Fitter
Looking Better
And Living Longer
Why do I need to look after my heart?
By looking after your heart you can feel fitter and look
better and youll be protecting yourself against heart disease too.
England is one of the worst countries in the world for heart disease.
It causes one in three of all deaths among 55-64 year olds.

What causes heart disease?

Your heart needs a supply of oxygen that comes from the blood
in its arteries. Over a number of years these arteries can get clogged up
and the supply of blood to the heart can stop. This causes a heart attack.

Im fit and healthy. Why should I worry?

Heart attacks usually happen to people in middle age, but the damage
to your arteries can start long before that, without you realising it.
It can even start to develop in childhood.
So its important to look after your heart now, whatever your age.

Isnt a heart attack a quick way to go?

Not always. Heart disease can cause years of pain, discomfort and worry.

How can I avoid getting heart disease?

There are no guarantees, but the best way to avoid heart disease is:
Dont smoke
Eat healthily
Take regular exercise
Go easy on alcohol
Avoid stress if you can
If you have heart disease in you family you may have a greater risk of
getting it yourself so its especially important to follow this advice.

Now use these tips to help you write your answer to the task about the fitness centre. Ask
the Study Centre monitor if you need additional help.

CAE Writing Guide 5


Look at this task.

You have been asked to write a short film review for a school /college magazine.
Choose any film which you think might be of interest to your fellow students. The
film can be in any language and it can be of any type: comedy, thriller, science
fiction, romance, historical drama etc.
Your brief is to include a clear description of the story/contents, to comment on
what you think the most successful and least successful features are, and to give
an overall recommendation. Write about 250 words.

First, choose a film to review. It doesnt have to be a new film, though it is helpful if you
have seen it recently, and you dont have to have enjoyed it. Sometimes its easier to
pinpoint what you dont like about something than what you like! Think about what you
liked or didnt like about the film.

The purpose of a review is firstly to give factual information about the subject, and
secondly to give an opinion about it which will help the reader to decide whether to buy
the book, see the play or film or visit the exhibition.
Reviews normally contain three main ingredients: overview, pros and cons, and verdict,
which are described more fully below. A review may not always fall into three neat
sections, however. The writer may decide to describe an aspect of the subject and
comment immediately on strengths and weaknesses, for example, before going on to
describe another aspect of the subject.

Overview a description of the subject

Book non-fiction:
What is it about? Who is it for? How technical is it? How is it organised? What topics are
covered? What special features are there? How much does it cost? etc.

Book fiction
What kind of book is it? (thriller, historical novel, science fiction etc)? Is it different in any
way from other books of this type? Whats the story? etc (You can give an outline but dont
give the ending away!)

Play / film / TV programme

What is it about? Is there anything special / unusual about the production? Play / film:
Where is it on? Are there any well-known actors? Who is the director? TV programme:
Which channel? Is it part of a series? Who is the producer?

Pros and cons detailed comments on the successful and unsuccessful features of
the subject.
Your comments will probably include both objective views (the photographs in a book
were poor quality or the costumes didnt fit the actors properly, for example) and
subjective views (based on personal feelings) the story wasnt interesting or the film
was too violent. Make sure, however, that you give reasons for your comments.
You may have strong positive or negative feelings about the subject of the review and this
is no bad thing. A strong opinion, clearly argued, is often more interesting to read than a
carefully balanced assessment. Even so, try not to be completely one-sided.

Verdict summing-up and recommendation

The last paragraph should sum up your feelings and make it clear to the reader whether
you recommend the subject without any reservations, recommend it with one or two
reservations, or dont recommend it at all. In real life, readers often look at the last
paragraph of a review first to see what the general verdict is. Make sure your review gives
a clear verdict.

Example of a film review.

Crazy Plumber Plaza Cinema

If you have seen the advance publicity, you might imagine that this was a funny film. Wrong. Its a film which
tries very hard to be funny and fails consistently. The story concerns a plumber who isnt very good at his job.
When his customers desert, and he cant pay his bills, he decides to turn to crime. He tries a little shoplifting
(he isnt very good at it, of course) but then he gets involved in bigger things.
Wayne Gibson, who plays the hero, has one or two good lines but most of the time hes struggling
with a terrible script. There are a few good moments the car chase sequence is memorable but the
storyline is very slight and the director seems to have run out of ideas very quickly. As the film progresses,
the level of violence increases. Despite the publicity, this is not a film for young children.
A great deal of money went into the making of Crazy Plumber but in the end spectacular effects are
no substitute for real humour.

Useful language


The book / film / programme concerns a study of

deals with a survey of
shows a history of
tells the story of
It contains a chapter on
It includes a section on

Pros and cons

really extraordinary quite interesting really boring

fascinating amusing unimaginative
absolutely amazing fairly entertaining completely humourless
beautiful exciting hopeless
stunning informative amateurish
superb attractive over the top
brilliant successful predictable


All in all In the last analysis In conclusion To sum up On balance

Now use these tips to write your answer to the task. Ask the Study Centre monitor for
additional help if you need it.
CAE Writing Guide 6


Look at this task.

You have a friend who works for an organisation that arranges study exchanges for school
and college students. The organisation produces a regular magazine, which features
articles about exchange countries, experiences people have had abroad, etc. Here is part of
a letter from your friend.

theres been a big increase in the number of people applying for study exchanges to your
country nearly double last years figures, in fact. Almost all will be staying with local
families and, as itll be the first time most of them have been to your country, we thought we
ought to put an introduction to the basic customs in the next edition of our magazine. So I
was wondering youve guessed it! if you could possibly write a short article on the
topic. You could explain any special habits to do with greeting, eating, being a good guest,
etc, and also include any points about family or social life which you think they should be
aware of. I know youd do a brilliant job and Id be really grateful.
Hope to hear from you soon

Write your article in approximately 250 words.

An article is a piece of writing on a particular subject which is written for publication in a

newspaper, magazine or newsletter.

A wide range of approaches is possible, depending on the subject matter. A light-hearted
or humorous topic might be given a fairly personal treatment, for example, while a more
serious topic would be treated in a more neutral, analytic way.

Articles should have a heading which makes the subject matter clear but which also
catches the readers eye and makes him or her want to read. Newspapers and magazines
often use dramatic statements or word play in headings for this reason, and sometimes
add a sub-heading which gives more information.

Layout and organisation

As with any other kind of composition, its important to have an interesting introduction and
a suitable conclusion to round off the piece, and to organise the information into
paragraphs which help the reader to follow the argument or understand the different
aspects of the subject. In addition, articles often include an outline of the story or the topic
near the beginning so that the reader begins with a general picture and then reads on to
find out more information.

Your CAE coursebook will certainly contain many examples of different types of articles,
taken from English-language newspapers and magazines. Look at each one carefully to
see how the writer uses organisation and style to create interest.

Now look at the example below:

Screaming Tyres
By Tracy Cole

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit behind the wheel of a racing car? Are you
looking for a really imaginative birthday present for a car-mad friend or relation? If the answer to
either of these questions is yes, then you may be interested to hear about a course I took at
Stoke Lodge Racing School recently.
My day as a racing driver was the first prize in a newspaper competition I had entered, and
I must say that it was the most exciting prize Ive ever won. The day began with theoretical
instruction covering all aspects of safety. This was followed by practical tuition in a high-
performance saloon car. With no traffic to worry about, I was able to practise controlling the car on
bends and prepare myself for the ultimate experience the chance to drive a single-seater racing
And finally, with crash helmet on and full harness seat belts secured, I was able to rev up
the engine and edge my way out onto the circuit. Six breathtaking laps later, my dream had
become reality.
For those not lucky enough to win a day at the racing school, the cost of the introductory
course is 120, which includes all equipment and also an impressive certificate to hang on the
wall. Anyone who can drive a car can enjoy the experience, regardless of age. The oldest
participant so far has been 85, and I understand that he has booked a second course!

Note in particular the following points:

heading short, dramatic
Opening catches the readers attention by asking a question
Separate paragraphs for different aspects of the subject
Ending rounds the article off suitably with a joke.

Now, plan your answer the task above, like this:

- Think of a title, perhaps one with a touch of humour.

- Make a list of the topics suggested in the question and jot down any ideas you have
for each one. Imagine yourself as a visitor to your country and your family. What
would seem strange? What mistakes might you make?
- Decide on the best order for the topics.
- Make your article readable. Remember your readers ages. How can you get their
attention to begin with? How can you keep them reading? What would be a good

Now use the tips above to help you write your article. Ask the Study Centre monitor if you
need additional help.

CAE Writing Guide 7

Information Report

Look at this task:

An English friend of yours is working on a series of articles called Young and Old Around
the World which looks at different towns and cities through the eyes of teenagers and
senior citizens. She has written asking for your help and this is an extract from her letter.

What I want is some first-hand information about what its like to live in your town from the
point of view of the two different age groups. You would need to interview, say, ten people
in each category on the main topics of public transport, entertainment, and shopping and
write me a brief report. Could you also include a short introduction about your town and
give a little summing up at the end?

Write your report in about 250 words.

A report is a formal document prepared by one person or a group of people who have
been studying a particular subject. There are two basic kinds of reports:

The first simply provides information on a topic and gives a brief conclusion or
summary at the end. Example: a report on the educational system in a particular
country, written to help someone research the subject.
The second sets out to identify strengths and weaknesses in a particular situation
and make recommendations for improvement. Example: a report on the library
facilities in a college written at the request of the principal.

Language and register

Reports are the most impersonal kind of writing and it is usually best to avoid expressing
personal opinions or feelings, except, perhaps, in the conclusion. Instead of I think that
or I found that for example, you can use the impersonal It construction and a passive,
eg It seems that It was found that
It is also advisable to avoid making very definite statements unless youre absolutely sure
theyre true. Instead of saying It is for example, you can use a modal verb eg It could/may/
might be or a more tentative expression such as It seems to be or It tends to be.
Layout and organisation
Reports should have a clear factual heading and may also have subheadings which
divide the writing into shorter sections. The information should be organised and presented
as clearly and logically as possible, with a short introduction explaining the aims of the
report and how the information was obtained and a suitable conclusion, summing up the
information and making recommendations if necessary.

Useful language
Introduction: The aim of this report is to.. It is based on
This report is intended to.. It draws on
This report looks at / describes.. It uses..

Reporting an
observation: It seems/appears that.. It was found that..
The majority / minority of It was felt that ..

Quoting: According to As X said In the words of

Speculating: It may / could / might (well) be that ..

Generalising: In general On the whole In the main

Commenting: Interestingly Curiously Oddly Strangely

Surprisingly Predictably
As might be (have been) expected It is interesting that

Making a recommendation: It is recommended that ..

(Perhaps) it would be advisable for X to (do)
(Perhaps) X might /should consider

Summing up: To sum up / To summarise On balance In short

Study the following example carefully:

Leisure Facilities in Grimthorpe

The aim of this report is to describe and assess the leisure facilities available in Grimthorpe. It is
based on information made available by the Grimthorpe Tourist Office, and on views expressed by
local people who were interviewed.
Grimthorpe has a wide range of sports facilities, both public and private. There is a large modern
leisure centre in the High Street and facilities include a swimming pool, a sports hall for judo,
fencing and other activities, and tennis courts. The centre runs courses in all these sports and
these tend to be very popular. Membership costs 150 a year, which was felt to be rather
expensive, but a special temporary membership is available to visitors. The public swimming pool
on the outskirts of the town is older, less attractive and often overcrowded, but entry is only 1.50.
There are two theatres in town, the Kings Theatre in Bee Street, which offers mainly serious
drama and has a good reputation for its productions of Shakespeare, and the Little Theatre in Sea
Street which specialises in lighter entertainment and the occasional pop concert. In general, it
seems that the Kings Theatre is more popular with the older members of the community while the
Little appeals more to people in their teens and twenties.
Museums and Art Galleries
The City Museum has an extensive collection of maps, pottery and other articles connected with
Grimthorpes history. The attendants are said to be very friendly and helpful, and there is also a
small caf with reasonably priced home-made snacks. Interestingly, few of the local people
interviewed had ever been to the museum but it was recommended highly by several tourists.
Grimthorpe is well provided with leisure facilities for a town of its size and these are well used by
the townspeople on the whole. Sport seems to be the most popular leisure activity, while cultural
activities like visiting the museum or art gallery appeared to be the least popular among the
Grimthorpians who were interviewed. Perhaps the City Council should consider launching a
publicity campaign to show how much these facilities have to offer.

Now use these tips to help you write your answer to the task above.