Cambridge Advanced essay writing is the mandatory exam task in part 1. Here we will look at what you need to know.

What you find in the Cambridge Advanced Exam

In Part 1 of the exam, the essay question asks you to select two points out of the three given, to include in your answer, along with an evaluation of the merits of one of them. Your answer must also include an opinion on the second part of the question as well.

CAE Essay example

You must answer this question. Write your answer in 220 – 260 words in an appropriate style on the separate answer sheet.

1 Your class has been having a discussion on the problems facing young people today. You have made the notes below:
Write an essay discussing two of the points in your notes. You should explain which problem is most challenging, giving reasons in support of your answer. You may, if you wish, make use of the opinions expressed in the discussion, but you should use your own words as far as possible.

What are the greatest challenges for young people today?

  • Decisions about careers
  • Living accommodation
  • Workplace skills

Some opinions expressed in the discussion.

 “Picking what you want to do in life is impossible at such a young age.”
“Many young people are stuck at home with their parents.”
“This generation has even more skills than their parents, especially in technology.”

How to write your essay

Before you do anything prepare a plan. Although some people persist with the double copy method you really will not be able to complete two tasks properly in the time allowed. Even assuming you are a fast writer or typist it can take up to an hour to write an essay with that method, leaving you very short of time for the second task.

The method of constructing a plan is entirely up to you. The link above has some suggestions and ideas but choose the approach that suits you best.

Essay layout

As always a writing task should follow the standard layout of

  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion

In this case the body contains the two points you’ve selected. As regards the third point where you are asked to choose the most useful/important etc. Many books suggest that this should be incorporated into a final fourth paragraph with the conclusion. We tend to draw attention to a 5 paragraph model , one for each stage, the advantage being that you remember to include all required components.  So your layout might look like one of the following.

Four paragraphs

Introduction
Point 1
Point 2
Conclusion(+ most challenging)

Five paragraphs

Introduction
Point 1
Point 2
Most challenging
Conclusion

For and Against or just one side?

There are two approaches you can choose to write your essay.

  • For and against
    This is the traditional approach where a writer discusses points in favour of their position and against. Typically this means that one point will be used to contrast the general position.  There are advantages to this method. Firstly, candidates are often more familiar with it and find it easier to write. Secondly, it gives them more scope to use a wider variety of linking language.
  • One side only
    Writing an essay like this means that all the points will be included as if part of a list and requires language like firstly, additionally etc.  Commonly a writer supports the idea. As mentioned above it can limit some language people might want to use but it may suit some.  

Structuring your essay

Armed with a general plan the next step is to structure each section of the essay.

Introduction
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.

Your Points(First & Second)
The simplest approach is to write about the points in order so that point 1 becomes your 2nd paragraph and so on. If you are using the for and against method it’s a lot easier to start with the positive point first and then do the contrast.

Second Part – Most Challenging
Giving your views on this second part, in addition to your two selected points, is essential. An answer that does not contain all three components will not get a pass score.   

Conclusion
The conclusion is often quite brief and as mentioned above can be combined with the second part of the task. Every essay should have one as it is considered fundamental to a writing task. Its purpose is to conclude the writing task in a suitable manner. 

Some points to think about!

  • Answer the question fully
    This means choosing two points and giving your opinion on the second part of the task.
  • Vary your language
    Try to use a wide range of vocabulary and in particular linking expressions. 
  • Make a plan
    While this is obvious, not using one may result in a very disorganised essay.