Proficiency Essay Writing Tips

Cambridge Proficiency or CPE essay writing is the mandatory exam task in part 1. Here we will look at what you need to know and how to write a proficiency essay.

What you find in the Cambridge Proficiency C2 Exam

In the Proficiency essay question you are asked to summarise the key points in two given texts and to evaluate them with your own supporting opinions. Each of these texts is approximately 100 words each. 

Read the two texts below.

Write an essay summarising and evaluating the key points from both texts. Use your own words throughout as far as possible, and include your own ideas in your answers.

Write your answer in 240 – 280 words.

Memory in our future?
A good memory is invaluable. An inability to make use of memory and past experience can severely impact how well we perform both mentally and physically. Nowadays, we rely on computers, mobiles and other electronic devices to store our most important information, which is never more than a mouse click away. However, there is growing concern that this reliance on electronic equipment may affect the how our internal memory system will develop in the future. It remains to be seen whether those concerns are indeed likely to figure in our future.

Using our memory
Memory is commonly assumed to be a record of our past, but all too often these memories have had our imagination shape them. It is not wise, therefore, to regard memory as a source of knowledge, as we will never be able to confirm the accuracy of a memory fully. Although memory is an unreliable source of knowledge about the past, its importance in our own identity is undeniable. With memory loss as a result of accident or illness, one of the most distressing consequences, for an individual, is likely to be a loss of self. Indeed, it might be said that a person’s true identity is really his or her collection of memories.

Write your essay.

How to write a C2 Proficiency essay

Initially you need to identify the key points in each of the texts. While the truncated nature of texts makes this task reasonably straightforward, be mindful of what the supporting sentences do in the context. Linking them with their respective key information should also simplify the process. Another essential element of this CPE essay and other writing tasks is the emphasis on the use of your own ideas and language. You should avoid “lifting” entire phrases, even individual words from the texts and put your efforts into drafting your own alternatives. 

As always this is just a brief overview of what the essay intends to consider. Some initial comments on the topic for discussion and the overall context tend to provide the best approach. Having a strong initial sentence can also help focus reader attention on what you have to say.

There are many ways to address this question. A common method is to combine the respective key points together in two paragraphs for discussion. As the initial texts provided context, these points will more readily combine in the exploration of a particular facet of the theme.
A second approach might be to place each point in its own paragraph to explore. While such an option potentially facilitates better individual examination of points, the word limits in the question make such an approach a lot more challenging.

The conclusion should draw the essay to a natural end with some commentary and thoughts on what has preceded and on the themes provided by the texts. You may also find it an opportunity to add some further ideas that the essay has brought up.


Proficiency Essay Completed Example

For convenience and clarity we’ve provided a sample answer to this question by evaluating the conclusions of each of the texts in respective paragraphs. You can answer the question by following this model or by using any other approach you may wish to choose.

Memory is something that defines us as humans in many different ways. It informs our perceptions of past events and memories, which in turn help us make present and future decisions.

First Text
We are fascinated with quality of having a good memory so much so that some people regularly apologize for poor recall. To add to this perceived flaw in our memories we now have to deal with the potentially less beneficial influence of technology on how we can recall information. No longer do we seek nuggets of knowledge from our memory banks but instead we make a technology source our first call. This has implications for how we may use and train our own memories in the future.

Second Text
Our perception of our memory can also sometimes be at odds with reality where we are inclined to believe that memories are perfect representations of past events. Yet, this does not take account of how such memories has been shaped by experiences and the extent to which our imagination may have altered or influenced that memory.  Nevertheless, we cannot imagine the level of loss for those whose memory is disrupted or lost through some type of catastrophic event. Memories speaks to the very heart of who we are and with this often debilitating setback it may hasten further health issues.

Memory is unquestionably complex as a concept but it still is one of the most valuable things we have in our lives. Notwithstanding this, we do attribute some remarkable qualities to it which may not necessarily be true. This should not be seen as a personal foible but should serve as a reminder of the need to retain a balanced view of memory.

281 words

Some points to think about!


  • Answer the question fully
    This means successfully identifying the key points and discussing them in detail.
  • Vary your language
    Try to use a wide range of vocabulary and structures. Be mindful too to focus on language you can use with confidence and try not to use the essay to experiment with new expressions. Take a look too at our posts on the use of topic sentences and on paragraph writing.    
  • Look at examples of essays 
    Search online for examples of essays. Many quality newspapers and magazines regularly publish such essays, also commonly known as opinion pieces. As always the aim is to look at the structure of such pieces as they can offer a very disparate range of opinions.