Cambridge English Southern Europe

Experts in Language Assessment

Tips and FAQS for the Writing paper of the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam

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Here are some tips and answers to questions we often receive on the Writing paper of the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam.


  • Read the whole question thoroughly and underline important parts.
  • Make a plan for each answer, including ALL points.
  • Expand the points in Part 1 if you can, using relevant ideas and information.
  • Write in paragraphs, whenever appropriate.
  • Use a range of vocabulary, even if you are unsure of the correct spelling.
  • Check tense endings, plural forms and word order in sentences.
  • Check irregular past tenses and question formation.
  • Use language that is appropriately formal or informal for the task.
  • Choose a Part 2 question that you feel confident you can write about.
  • Write clearly, so that the examiner can read your answer.
  • Don’t misspell key words which appear on the question paper.
  • Don’t use the exact words from the question paper too much.
  • Don’t mix formal and informal language.
  • Don’t use formal linkers in an informal letter.
  • Don’t waste time writing addresses for a letter. They are not required.
  • Don’t answer Question 5 if you haven’t read one of the books.
  • Don’t worry if you run slightly over the word limit.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How many texts do I need to write?
Two. You must do the task in Part 1, and you can choose one task from Part 2.

How long should I spend on each part?
This is up to you. However, remember that each part is worth the same number of marks. You should allow time for planning before you start writing each task, and for checking your own work after you have finished.

In what ways is Part 1 different from Part 2?
In Part 1, there is one compulsory task, while in Part 2, there is a choice of tasks. In Part 1, before you start writing you will need to read material of up to 160 words including:

  • advertisements
  • extracts from letters
  • articles.

In Part 2, the instructions are shorter. In Part 1, you always need to write aletter or an email, whereas in Part 2, there is a range of different text types to choose from.

How many marks is each part of the Writing paper worth?
Each part of the Writing test is worth the same amount of marks: Reading, Writing, Listening, Use of English and Speaking are each worth 20% of the total score for the Cambridge English: First for Schools exam.

Where do I write my answers?
In the question booklet. This booklet also contains enough space for you to write your rough work.

How is the Writing paper marked?
Your Writing paper will be marked by a trained examiner working with aTeam Leader. They are guided and monitored by a Principal Examiner.Each examiner is given tests to mark randomly. In this way, examiners will be assessing candidate’s papers from a variety of centres and countries.

How are extended responses in Writing assessed?
Examiners mark tasks using Assessment Scales developed with explicit reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The scales, which are used across Cambridge English General and Business English Writing tests, are made up from four subscales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language:

Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task – if they have done what they were asked to do.
Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register.
Organisation focuses on the way the candidate has put together the piece of writing, in other words, if it is logical and ordered.
Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is.

Each response is marked from 0–5 on each of the four subscales and these scores are combined to give a final mark for the Writing test.

Written by Cambridge English Southern Europe

April 25, 2013 at 10:00 am

One Response

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  1. Good luck to all candidates!

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