How to Make a Writing Plan

writer-examWriting needs planning, whether it’s an email to a friend or a more complex formal letter.  It is especially important to have a writing plan when it comes to exams or writing for university or college.

It is a fact that the majority of students who take Cambridge First and a surprising number of those who who take Cambridge Advanced rely on the “double copy” method.

This is the double copy method in action!

My Notes
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,

consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Donec sollicitudin libero id elit.

Sed euismod nonummy neque. Nam dignissim urna vel urna.

My Answer

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet,

consectetuer adipiscing elit.

Donec sollicitudin libero id elit.

Sed euismod nonummy neque. Nam dignissim urna vel urna.

They look the same because they are the same!

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this if you want to write 800 words for an exam that asks for under 400 or a thousand words for an Advanced exam that  requires 500 or so words.

Why is doing it like this a problem?

It’s not a huge problem but it creates a lot of extra work and it can lead to a number of other issues.

Good points

  • You can see everything you want to write and fix it before copying to the answer sheet. You can also correct spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Writing so much can help you think of new ideas as you are writing.
  • It is an example of drafting or rewriting, a very good writing technique, even if most or all of it is exactly the same.

Problem points

  • It’s not a very efficient way to write , especially when the number of words is doubled.
  • It can really affect the amount of time you have to write your answer on the answer sheet, which is all that matters.
  • It can take more time to write because you may not always have a clear idea what you want to say.
  • It may not be very well organised as with this method of writing you are often just focused on one sentence at a time.
  • It can be more difficult to find time to review the writing carefully.

So what kind of writing plan should I use?

There is no one way to write a plan and we will suggest a few techniques below. A plan is making notes on the general structure or ideas for your writing. It doesn’t mean writing large parts of your essay or other writing to copy onto the answer sheet.

A plan helps your mind to prepare ideas and possible language for when you start writing. Planning can also be calming as it gives you time to think, highlight key information in the question and allows you to develop a clear idea of what you want to say.

Ways of creating a writing plan

Spider Web

The  spider web is a very visual way of representing linked ideas as in the image below. It is easy to refer to and very easy to modify.

Spider Web Writing Plan

Using Headings & Subheadings

This is a more traditional method of note taking and one that many people are familiar with. For example

Benefits of Technology

–  Work is easier
–  More Entertainment
–  Good for Medicine

Pros & Cons

Another traditional method, where you organise ideas according to whether they are positive or negative.

Using our example above we could  use the following lists

Technology benefits

 +                            –

Cheap                                                            Too dependent on it
Improved lives                                             Affects personal relationships
Makes work easier                                      Difficult to use for some people

Word Association

This is less of a planning method but can be useful as a way to think of what to write about.  The technique is simple. What words do you associate with the topic or question? It doesn’t matter what the words are or if they are even connected as the aim is to write down any words you think of. When you have about 8-10 words on the paper then you should start to see ways to connect some of them together in your writing.

Using our example of technology above you could have a random list like this


Benefits of Technology
Iphone                                                   supercomputer     Old people                 hard                 fantastic                                                conversations        dislike                    laptop                          operation            control                                            Spotify

Some things to take away!

Almost everyone at Cambridge First level uses the double copy approach. There’s nothing wrong with it but in the pressure of an exam it can affect your ability to write an answer in the answer booklet. It can also affect your organisation of ideas.  We think it’s extremely inefficient and planning is a much better approach to writing. The planning techniques here are just some of the many ways  you can create a writing plan. Choose one that suits you best. In the long term it is the only way to write. Take a look at our top Cambridge First writing tips as well.

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