Tips and tricks on writing a perfect CAE Part 1 essay

Writing a perfect essay with a discursive focus (CAE Part 1)

Writing a perfect essay with a discursive focus (CAE Part 1)

04.03.2024

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  • Writing
  • Cambridge English
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

Writing Part 1 is the first part of the C1 Advanced (CAE) Cambridge writing paper and requires a combination of language proficiency, critical thinking skills, and familiarity with the exam format.

It is an obligatory task where a candidate has no options to choose from. An essay is addressed to a specific reader and has a discursive focus. But what does discursive stand for?

As it requires critical thinking, discursive essays must be supported by reasoned arguments on a given topic.

Therefore, a candidate's opinion, emotions, and feelings must be excluded from the introduction and main body paragraphs except for the conclusion, where a candidate can arrive at one demonstrating to a reader that they can do the same.

In this article, we will look at some tips that can help us understand what is required to produce a perfect essay.

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The four assessment criteria

Approaching Writing Part 1, it is essential to understand what is assessed

There are 4 criteria that a candidate needs to keep in mind while planning, writing, and proofreading an essay.

  • Content, namely, to answer a question fully and do what is asked to do by informing fully a target reader;
  • Communicative achievement – to use appropriate conventions of a communicative task and more complex ideas;
  • Organisation – to build a piece of writing logically in paragraphs, by using appropriate cohesive devices, with ideas clearly stated and supported with examples, opinions, statistics, etc. 
  • Language – to use a wide range of sophisticated grammar structures and vocabulary accurately and appropriately.

Top 5 mistakes in CAE writing

Stages of writing an essay

The process of writing can be divided into 3 parts, specifically:

Before writing an essay, students need to…

  • read a task carefully and make the following considerations whether there are any specific requirements, who is the target reader, what style is required, underline two points that are going to be developed in the essay, what arguments can be put forward to support the points chosen;
  • brainstorm ideas and think about relevant arguments, examples, statistics, expert opinions, and supporting evidence that can be used to illustrate bullet points effectively;
  • make a well-structured plan of what is going to be written, keeping in mind the number of paragraphs (introduction, 2–3 main body paragraphs, and conclusion). It will serve as an outline and will help not to leave a topic, structure an essay coherently and easy to follow for a reader and, therefore, get maximum score for Content criterion;
  • plan time to allocate a sufficient amount of it for planning, writing, and editing.

All things considered, a candidate will be well-prepared to write an essay that will meet the requirements of the C1 Advanced exam.

While writing an essay, students need to…

  • follow their plan, write an introduction generally exposing a topic, main body paragraph, following a structure – a topic sentence with the main idea + supporting sentences developing the topic sentence and a conclusion where a writer's opinion may be given on the issues discussed in the essay;
  • keep in mind that a formal tone should be used;
  • use sophisticated vocabulary and grammar constructions that are appropriate for the C1 level;
  • link ideas with cohesive devices to make it smooth and easy to follow;
  • remember about spelling and punctuation.

After writing, students need to…

  • take time to edit their essay paying attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as structure, clarity of ideas and logic;
  • double-check that an essay remains focused on the topic;
  • proofread before submitting.

Best activities to develop writing skills!

How it works in practice

Below an example task of Writing Part 1 is given. Therefore, let’s try and apply the tips from the Before Writing part

Task

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

Your class has listened to a discussion about the role of journalists in society. You have made the notes below: 

Aspects of the role of journalists in society: 

• provide information 

• influence opinion 

• inspire action 

Some opinions expressed in this discussion: 

'A good journalist will simply set out the facts accurately.' 

'A good article won't change my views on a subject.' 

'Many successful campaigns have resulted from stories in the press.' 

Write an essay for your tutor discussing two of the aspects of the role of journalists in your notes. You should say which aspect of their role you think is more important, giving reasons for your opinion. 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. 

Assess writing with ease

Have you underlined the key information in the task? 

Let’s see what we have.

Your class has listened to a discussion about the role of journalists in society. You have made the notes below: 

Aspects of the role of journalists in society: 

• provide information 

• influence opinion 

• inspire action 

Some opinions expressed in this discussion: 

'A good journalist will simply set out the facts accurately.' 

'A good article won't change my views on a subject.' 

'Many successful campaigns have resulted from stories in the press.' 

Write an essay for your tutor discussing two of the aspects of the role of journalists in your notes. You should say which aspect of their role you think is more important, giving reasons for your opinion. 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. 

Here you are, we have the answers to the first point of the Before Writing section

Now it is time to plan an answer, brainstorm ideas, and don’t forget about evidence and examples.

Introduction

Let us look at some examples of the introduction. Which do you think is a good one?

A) It is clear to everyone that this century is the era of mass media. There are plenty of supporters of the theory of media being „the fourth power“. But we should discuss the role of a journalist in this world of information. 

B) People are living in a period of digitalisation that simplifies the spread of information quicker. I believe that the role of journalists is to set out the facts accurately.

The correct answer is A. But why?

Firstly, in B the first sentence doesn’t restate the topic of the essay. 

Secondly, personal opinion cannot be expressed in the introduction, moreover, it is not asked in the task. 

Finally, one of the offered opinions in the task was copied.

Remember to rephrase the task and any phrases you take from the task! The example can be seen in answer A – ‘the role of journalists’ is expressed by the phrase ‘ the era of mass media’.

Some useful expressions for the introduction part:

  • It is often said that ___
  • ___is a hotly-debated topic that often divides opinion.
  • ___is a topic that is often discussed but rarely solved.
  • Many people feel that___
  • We live in an age when many of us are___
  • More and more families/people are choosing to___
  • The trend nowadays is towards +ing
  • Over the past/last ten years or so, ___
  • Recent research indicates that the number of ___ is increasing.
  • Statistics indicate that ___
  • Hardly a week goes by without another report of ___ appearing in the media. This raises the issue of whether ___
  • Although most people would generally agree that ___ few 

Teach writing for exams

The 1st body paragraph

Now we dive deep into the main body paragraphs. We know from the task that the 1st paragraph must be about the most important issue

Is it the same way here?

It is common knowledge that informing society is a crucial role of journalism. Mass media is able to connect main social institutions, which is why without the news our society is not able to function. But at the same time, we should look after the quality of information: it should be reliable, trustworthy and presented in a neutral way. Nowadays in the golden age of tabloids, when this principle seems to be forgotten we need to bring back to life the image of an honest journalist who is a servant of society.

Which aspect in the task does a writer refer to?

Right you are – provide information. 

Some useful expressions for the first paragraph:

  • ___ clearly/undoubtedly has an impact on ___
  • It is common knowledge that ___ plays a crucial role in ___
  • It is undoubtedly the case that ___
  • There is little doubt that ___
  • ___ is widely believed to contribute to ___
  • It is generally considered that ___
  • Recent research suggests that ___
  • Studies have shown that ___ has an impact/influence on ___
  • Few people would contest/dispute the fact that ___

The 2nd body paragraph

Despite journalism being viewed today as a means of manipulation, this has not always been the case. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was the start of investigative journalism. The correspondents tried to change the world, fighting against illegal or immoral actions of a government. With the help of these brave soldiers of the pen, there were numerous cases when social catastrophes were prevented.

Which aspect in the task does this one refer to?

Exactly – influence opinion. 

Some useful expressions for the second paragraph:

  • Another factor to consider is ___
  • On the other hand/In contrast ___
  • It is often claimed that ___
  • All the evidence suggests that ___

Constructive feedback on writing

Conclusion

Finally, let us look at the conclusion and answer the following questions.

  1. Are there any new points mentioned?
  2. Is there a writer’s opinion?
  3. Does the paragraph summarise the two points presented in the essay?
  4. Does it state ‘which aspect you think is more important’?

All things considered, the job of a journalist goes far beyond just inspiring people to make a difference in the world. In my opinion, journalism's main focus should be reporting trustworthy news, which should be at the forefront of their agenda. 

The answers are:

  1. No. In conclusion, new ideas cannot be added, only those mentioned in an essay.
  2. Yes. The writer’s opinion can be added in this part of the essay. Moreover, it is asked in the task.
  3. Yes. Sentence 1 – provide information, Sentence 2 – influence opinion
  4. Yes. By using the phrase ‘at the forefront of their agenda’

Some useful expressions for the conclusion part:

  • In light of the above, ___
  • Taking all this into consideration/account, ___
  • As far as I am concerned, / in my opinion, / as I see it, etc. ___
  • ___ is the most effective way to ___ due to the fact that ___
  • Despite the fact that ___ undoubtedly plays a role in ___ 
  • I firmly believe that ___ is more effective due to the fact that ___ 
  • Its advantages outnumber/ outweigh those___
  • All in all it seems to me that ___
  • The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that ___
  • All things considered ___
  • The world would surely be a better place to live in if ___

Some useful expressions for expressing an opinion:

  • As I see it, ___
  • It seems to me that ___ I would also say that ___
  • I am convinced that ___
  • I am inclined to believe that ___
  • There is no doubt in my mind that ___
  • One of the drawbacks of ___ is ___
  • However, one of the benefits is that ___

After crossing the finish line

Editing, reviewing and proofreading are of paramount importance since it is always neglected by candidates. Believe it or not, but if students reread their essays, they will increase scores for sure.

Following the steps and considering the tips, learners will definitely receive the maximum score for your Writing Part 1.
Good luck!

Article authors & editors
  • Iryna Tychyna

    Iryna Tychyna

    Author

    CELTA-certified teacher of General English

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