Cambridge First: Top 6 Tips For The Writing Exam


Cambridge First Top Tips

The Cambridge First writing exam can help candidates get very good scores in the overall exam and these are our top 6 tips for doing a good exam.

Tip #1 Answer the question in the right format

While this is extremely obvious, the stress of exams can often make people forget very simple things. The essay is one clear case where you must include all three points and if you don’t you can lose you a lot of marks. In other options like the report and informal letter pay attention to the style and format. Formal writing has a different style to informal tasks.  

Tip #2 Watch the clock

Many candidates have no problem with the time limit in the Cambridge First but it can still leave you in a rush to finish if you are not aware of how much time is left.  In the computer exam this is less of a problem as you can always see the time displayed at the top of your screen. However, if you have not copied very much of what you’ve written by the 10 minute or the 5 minute reminder in the paper exam, you may not fully complete the writing exam. So try to give yourself 40 minutes for each part and follow that timing.

Tip #3 Make A Plan

Even if you are doing the computer based exam and you can quickly change what you are writing it is still a useful idea to make a plan. An extremely common approach to the paper-based Cambridge First writing exam used by candidates is to write a complete draft or version and then copy it onto the answer booklet. This can work perfectly as there is usually enough time to do this. However, it is very inefficient and candidates often write more than double the number of words. Write some brief notes and organise the ideas you want to use. Use graphical tools like spider webs and mind maps to help plan it out.  Take a look at our suggestions for writing plans.

Tip #4  Respect The Word Limit

 While there are no rules about an exact number of words you should try to avoid going over the limit by more than a couple of words. Set a maximum limit of about 10 words over the total (200 words) in case you do write more. You should also be careful not to go below the minimum level of 140 words. Better scores on the exam generally come from writing that is closer to or at the upper limit of 190 words. We suggest a range of 170-190 words for any writing exercise is a good limit as it gives you more opportunity to develop your ideas more completely.

Tip #5 Be prepared and choose your Part 2 writing carefully

Sometimes candidates decide to answer a question because they like the topic. This can be risky if you have not done enough practice on a particular type of writing and you just want to avoid the other questions. When you choose a Part 2 writing exercise select the writing options you are most comfortable and confident writing.  

Tip #6 Keep Some Time To Review What You've Written

In the pressure of an exam this may not be the first thing anyone thinks of, but it is essential. Reviewing your work can identify grammar, spelling and vocabulary errors. Some candidates do it as they write but whatever way you choose to do it make sure you actually do it.

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