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 asked in the appropriate 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 not including all three points can lose you a lot of marks. In other options like the report and informal letter pay attention to register and format.

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.  As we’ve said before, if you have not copied very much of what you’ve written by the 10 minute or the 5 minute reminder in particular, the chances of you submitting a fully completed writing exam are reduced. So try to allocate 40 minutes for each part and stick to that timing.

Tip #3 Make A Plan
The almost universal approach to the Cambridge First writing exam is to write a complete draft and then copy it onto the answer booklet. This can work 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 at look at our suggestions for writing plans.

Tip #4  Respect The Word Limit
Cambridge are tolerant of candidates exceeding the word limit and in theory you can write as many words as you like. While they do not insist on an exact number of words you should try to avoid going over the limit by more than a couple of words.You should also be careful not to drop 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 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 choosing a Part 2 writing exercise select from the writing options you are most comfortable 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.