Writing Tips for FCE
1. Short Story Hints:
Narrative story also needs paragraphing. You can start your paragraphs with the expressions listed below. Use the variety of tenses. Try to keep the chronological order of events. It will help you avoid traps of sequencing. Short sentences create suspense, which makes your story more interesting. Do not make the plot of your story too complicated. You can incorporate short dialogues into your story.
Past Simple: o
to describe simple facts and states She opened her eyes, yawned, and slowly got up.
to describe events that follow each other She left the building, went to the shop where she realised she did not have enough money and returned home.
Past Continuous: o
to set the scene The wind was blowing, dark clouds were gathering over his head and he was getting cold.
(used with Past Simple) to show that the continuity of one action is interrupted by another action Tom was watching the news when a strange noise came from the basement.
Past Perfect/ Continuous: o
'past in the past'- to indicate that something happened earlier than the action described She stared at him trying to remember where she had seen that face before.
to indicate that what happened earlier was a longer activity She was dirty and sweaty as she had been playing volleyball all day.
Useful expressions: the first thing that happened; at first; it began with; it started with; after that; just then; afterwards; when; once (meaning after); just as; then; after some time; suddenly; out of the sudden; gradually; step by step; slowly; in the end; eventually; finally; it ended with;
Remember who your target reader is. Do not forget to give the title of the film/book of which you write this review. Summarize the plot of the film/book. Remember to use the Present Simple tense. No spoilers ;-) This means that you should reveal only the basic plot of a novel or movie, without giving away the entire story. Try to incorporate humor into your review... Focus on evaluation and recommendation. If you include both positive and negative points try to keep proper balance between them.
3. Transactional Letter Hints:
Remember to write in a formal letter format Begin your letter with: Dear Sir/Madam (if you do not know the name of your addressee) or Dear Mrs Penney (if the name is given in the task)
Explain who you are and why you are writing this letter. Do not copy phrases from the question. State clearly and politely what actions you want to be taken. Do not use contractions. Use formal language. In this type of letter you may need to use a construction that is called a dependant question. Regular (independent) questions in English are formed by inversion: Where is my book? When does it start?
However, if you precede these questions by phrases like: I do not know; Could you tell me; I want to ask, the word order remains like in the statement, not question. Note that these sentences do not end with question marks, either. Compare: Could you tell me where my book is. I want to ask when it starts.
Useful expressions: Complaining: I am writing to complain about... I am sorry to inform you that... I was very disappointed with... I have some complaints about...
Requesting: I am writing for information about...
I would like to learn/ know more about... I would like to ask whether/ if... I would be grateful if you could...
Asking for particular actions: I would like to ask you for... I would suggest that you/ your company... I think that I can ask for some compensation. In the light of the above, I would like to ask you for...
4. Informal Letter Hints:
Imagine that you write to a real friend of yours. Friends usually have names ;-) so address him/her with a name: begin the letter with Dear Joey/ Tim /Rebecca, etc. Begin your letter with some general statements. Refer to the letter you have received from your friend and thank him/her for it or apologise for the fact that you have not answered the last letter soon enough. Use the proper register. The letter is supposed to be informal so you can use contractions, informal linking words like well, by the way, anyway, so, colloquial expressions, etc. You can use more-conversation-like statements or questions in your letter: You know that I had this exam, right? You think he will be able to come to the party? Use questions to ask about your friend - arrange the next meeting, send greetings to his/her friends and family, etc. End your letter in informal way: Best wishes; Love; Regards. Instead of these phrases you may put two XXs. They indicate sending kisses ;-)
Useful expressions: Thank you for your letter. It was nice to hear from you. Your last letter was a real surprise. It was so nice of you to remember about... Thanks a lot for the information you've sent me in your last letter. I've just received your letter. I'm so happy to hear that... I'm sorry I haven't answered earlier but I was really busy with my school. I'm sorry I haven't written for so long but...
Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Well, that's all for now. Will talk to you soon. Give my regards to your Mummy. I hope we will be able to arrange a get-together. Do write back as I'm waiting for the news from you.
5. Article Hints:
Just imagine you really write an article :-) Think of an appropriate, eye-catching title. You may refer to your title in your article - that will show that your text is coherent. Do not use very formal language, however try to keep in mind where you are writing to (school newspaper; daily paper; magazine) and adjust your register.
Use questions and question tags. Address your reader directly. Try to get him/her involved in what you are writing about. Be careful with tenses. The article may refer to the present or to the past. Read carefully what you are expected to do in the task. Focus on your introduction and conclusion - try to avoid one-sentence introduction/conclusion. There are several ways in which you may begin your article: o
a quotation or saying: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife' *. Detailed study of matrimonial offers given to magazines proves that this is still the case. 75 per cent of men ready to wear wedding rings declare financial independence and stability. * Jane Austen 'Pride and Prejudice'
criptic statement (you begin with a statement that is unclear for the reader): At last everything has been completed. The vans and trucks are loaded, equipment is checked and people are ready for their journey. It took over a year to prepare the whole action but for them it is just the beginning. The humanitarian aid is due to cross the border of our country today night at 2 a.m.
an anecdote: On 26 November 1922 Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon entered the new discovered tomb in necropolis near Luxor. After 3000 years they were the first people who passed the 'blind gate' and saw the Pharao's treasure. The legend claims that the discovery was accompanied by several signs of gods' disapproval and that ignorance of European archeologists cost them their lives. Nowadays the famous legend attracts hordes of tourists. The ancient spell that was to protect prince's eternal life turned against him. The 'house' of his soul is devastated year after year.
a question: Have you ever imagined climbing the Mountain? You think it is not possible without months of previous training and preparations, right? Here you are wrong. All you need to get ready is... your bank account number. Mount Everest, called the Mountain by people who feel respect to it, is now offered as a tourist attraction for those who can afford such a trip.
Good ending is very crucial. It may be the summary of the points made in the article, the rhetorical question or the paraphrase of the statement made before.
Useful expressions: Let's... How about...? Would you...? I think you will agree that... I hope you can imagine... What would you do if... All in all... To sum up... The conclusion is... 6. Report
Decide on your target reader - it will help you to choose the appropriate register. Use rather formal language. The distinguishing feature of any report is its layout. Reports are rather stiff - you may need to start as if you were making a memo. Do not panic! It is OK with this form to begin simply with: 1. To: 2. From: 3. Date: 4. Subject: The body of your report has to be clearly divided into sections: o
Introduction Make your introduction brief but clear. State the purpose of your report. Again, try to imagine that you are the only one who knows what is going on. Assume that everybody else needs explanation why you are writing this report. Repeat the question from the task but try to reword it. You may start like this: The aim/purpose of this report is to show exemplify illustrate depict
This report is concerned with... is intended to... is written to analyse... deals with... relates to... o o
points in which you present your opinion You may use separate headings for advantages and disadvantages and describe them in two paragraphs or just present them in a list of points. The advantages/ disadvantages are as follow... The most convincing arguments in favour of ... are ... I would mention...as the most discouraging feature of... Here is the list of benefits...
evaluation/recommendation (if it is required by the question) I would recommend...because... I would not hesitate to recommend... I would suggest... In my opinion, it would be worth... +ing
It is a good idea to repeat here why you are writing. It will show that you keep in mind the purpose of this report. In conclusion I would like to stress that... In my opinion... It is a fact that... It appears to/ seems to/ tends to There is no doubt that... Given this, it can be concluded that... Having proved/presented this, I would like to... 7. Discursive Composition Hints:
State the problem/topic once again in the beginning of your essay. Just assume that your reader doesn't know the question. Do not start with: It is right (what is right?); I agree/do not agree with this statement (what statement?) Separate positive and negative aspects of the problem you discuss. Remember that here you take the floor. Your potential opponents do not have the opportunity to present their ideas. It is your task to present both yours and theirs and keep proper balance. Use linking words. They help to follow your way of reasoning. The most common linking words are and, or and but. You may want to interchange these words with their more sophisticated counterparts in your essay. Compare:
AND is used when you want to conjoin two similar ideas: He passed his examinations therefore as a result accordingly consequently thus hence
he was admitted to the university.
OR is used when you want to put two different ideas together or reformulate what you have stated earlier: In other words reformulation of what has come before To put it more simply It would be better to say To put it straightforwardly
BUT appears when you need to contrast one statement with another: The time available for writing However, an essay was very limited. Nevertheless, Nonetheless, Yet, In spite of that, All the same,
it was still possible to present the main ideas concerning the topic
refer back to the topic statement in your conclusion. It will show that you treat your essay as a whole. Yet, it may be a good idea to paraphrase this statement, not just to rewrite it. Do not use contractions!!!
Useful expressions: Expressing opinions: I agree/ disagree with the above statement (that...) In my opinion... I believe that... I am in favour of... I am against the idea of... It seems to me that... I sympathize with... Presenting and contrasting arguments: The main argument in favour/ against is... First of all I should like to consider... The first thing (I would like to consider) to be considered is... In order to make the problem clear, I would like to present some examples of ... Apart from that... Despite the fact that .../ In spite of... On the other hand... What is more... What matters most in this case is... It is a fact that... There is no doubt that... Reasoning: sth happened
because of as a result of on account of owing to through due to as a consequence of
Concluding: To sum up/ altogether On this basis, I can conclude that... Given this, it can be concluded that... Having proved this, I would like to... In conclusion, I would like to stress that... All in all, I believe that...