Préparation aux examens de l'Université de Cambridge. Information et astuces.

How to pass FCE writing …..Part 3 :STORY

( To find FCE Writing Part 1 – General advice /FCE Writing marking system and Part 2 REPORTS - look in the "exam" section of my blog posts - on the right in the purple box.)

If you enjoy writing stories, you have a good imagination and lots of ideas, writing a STORY in part 2 of the FCE writing exam is a good choice for you.

Your story will be better and will get more marks if you include…

1. Three different tenses. You want to show the examiner that you know the story telling tenses, which are:- a) Simple Past b) Past Continuous c) Past Perfect.
Here’s an example: It was raining. (Past continuous) Billy hadn’t eaten for two days. (Past perfect) He saw some apples. He decided to steal them. (Simple past).
Of course, in order to use these tenses you absolutely MUST know all your irregular verbs!

2. Adjectives: It was raining. Billy hadn’t eaten for two days, so he was wet, hungry and miserable. He saw some delicious, red apples. He decided to steal them.

3. Adverbs: It was raining hard. Billy hadn’t eaten for two days, so he was wet, hungry and miserable. He saw some delicious red apples and quickly decided to steal them.

4. Direct speech: “Hey, you!” shouted the shopkeeper, “I know you, Billy Brown! I’ll tell your mum!”

5. Rich vocabulary, good grammar, detail and idiomatic expressions: Examples: Quick as a flash – soaking wet – starving hungry –to grab – to pass away – an idea popped into his head – to go straight (to hospital) (home) – to have a little chat


Write a STORY in an appropriate style. Your story must start or finish with the words: Grandpa Jo would be proud of him.

It was raining hard. Billy hadn’t eaten for two days, so he was soaking wet and very miserable. Passing a greengrocer’s, he noticed some delicious, red apples . He quickly decided to steal them. He grabbed two and started to run.
“Hey, you!” shouted the shopkeeper, “I know you, Billy Brown! I’ll tell your mum!”
Billy ran to the park where he found a dry place to sit and eat. He wasn’t worried about the shopkeeper telling his mum. He didn’t care about his mum, his teachers or the police. He only cared about Grandpa Jo, and Grandpa Jo had passed away last week leaving Billy to face the world alone.
Billy didn’t know what to do. He was 17 and had no money, no qualifications, no family – except his mother who he rarely saw. He closed his eyes and thought about his granddad. Suddenly an idea popped into his head. He walked back into town and went straight into a small office where there was a Union Jack in the window. “Can I help you?” asked the man in uniform at the desk. “Yes”, said Billy, “I want to join the army.”
“I see” replied the officer. “I think you’d better sit down, then. We need to have a little chat.”
Billy sat down and smiled. He knew that, wherever he was, Grandpa Jo would be proud of him.

So – to recap – 3 tenses/adverbs/adjectives/direct speech/idiomatic expressions/rich vocabulary ……and always double check your grammar & spelling.


Diplômes de Cambridge

Cambridge ESOL certificates

University of Cambridge ESOL certificates

étudiantes avec les diplômes de Cambridge

étudiants de l'école English Connection Vannes et leurs diplômes de Cambridge

English Connection students receive their University of Cambridge KET & PET certificates.


Cette année 20 étudiant(e)s se présentaient en tant que candidats des examens de l’université de Cambridge…. et 20 étudiant(e)s sont admis.

Cambridge ESOL preparation centre

Cambridge University ESOL Exam Results :

The following candidates have been awarded the KET (niveau A2):

Julie Benson (Pass with Merit)
Louis Ferrand
Paul Ferrand
Clara Feuvrie
Domitile Gourdin
Astrid Niculescu (Pass with Merit) (Also, best result this year – 95%)
Addie-Alyssa Nshimirimana
Foucault Vuillemin
Maxence Vuillemin

The following candidates have been awarded the PET (niveau B1):

Pierre Guilloux
Agathe Mariette-Gatinet
Jean-Claude Martin (Pass with Merit)
Claire Maudet (Pass with Merit)
Jocelyn Pommier (Pass with Merit)
Annie Robic
Monique Traineau
Pierre Traineau
Jean-Côme Vuillemin

The following candidates have been awarded the FCE (niveau B2):

Brigitte Clérét (Pass with Grade B)
Vincent Maire


How to Pass FCE Writing part 2 “REPORTS”

1. Tense. Read the question carefully. What tense should the REPORT be in?
2. Layout. (Mise en page) This should be very tidy and well organized with underlined sub-headings. (I have put my subheadings in bold)
3. Imagine that the report is real!

Example Question:
The school where you learn English has decided to buy some DVDs in English. You have been asked to write a report for the Principle suggesting what kinds of DVDs the school should buy. In your report you should also explain why students at the school will enjoy these DVDs.

OK, so if this was a real situation, you would probably ask all the students what sort of DVDs they would like. You would maybe do this with a questionnaire. Also, if the situation was real, you would probably have a budget. How much do DVDs cost? What is the situation at the moment? Are there already a few DVDs or none at all? You have to use your imagination.
So, I’m going to answer the question using the Present Simple in the Introduction. I’m going to use the Simple Past (and Passive) in the second part, and I’m going to use some modal verbs in the conclusion. (I want to show the examiner that I can use a lot of different tenses.)
Remember – this is a REPORT to the Principle, NOT a letter!

Example Answer:

English Connection School of English intends to buy a selection of DVDs for the school library. This report examines what sort of DVDs are appropriate.

Current Situation:
At the moment there are more than 100 videos in the school library. However, not many students still possess a video recorder therefore no-one borrows them.

Student’s choice:
All students were given a questionnaire which asked what sort of DVDs the students would like to see. The results are as follows: More than 75% of students wanted to see British films. Although they prefer American films for their action, almost everyone agreed that British films are easier to understand. Suggested films include “Harry Potter”, “The Queen” and “The King’s Speech”.
Students are also interested in documentary and factual films, particularly documentaries about science, nature, animals and history. These films have a slow and clear commentary and at the same time they are educational. Films of this sort include “Into the Wild”.

A full list of requested films is attached.

• DVDs currently cost between 5 and 20 Euros each, depending on the age of the film.
• I suggest buying 100 DVDs to replace the videos which are no longer used.
• Buying at least 3 copies of the most popular films would be sensible.
• This should be possible with a budget of 1,000€.

213 Words

(I have put in the answer that “a list of requested films is attached” – of course, I am only pretending. I will not really attach a list of films.)

The examiners are looking for a clear and logical answer.
Start with “Report on ……..” Then write your introduction.
Finish with “Recommendations” Then write your conclusion.
The other sub titles depend on the question.

Let’s look at another report question:

A group of language students age 14 – 18 is going to visit your town. You have been asked to write a report on different places to eat, both for them and their teachers.

Report on Restaurants in Vannes, Brittany
Vannes is a pretty medieval town with a Port which attracts tourists all year round. There are plenty of places to eat for all types of budget.

Galettes and Crêpes
For students on a tight budget, the best place to eat is in a Crêperie. You should try these pancakes which can be filled with anything you like, such as cheese and ham; and then try a sweet crêpe with, for example, chocolate, lemon or apples. The menu is long so there will be something for everybody.
Each Galette or Crêpe costs between 3€ and 7€. Try “Le Dan Ewen” in the Saint Patern part of town.

Salon de Thé
Alternatively, why not try “Le Salon d’Agnès” in rue Noé? Agnès makes wonderful homemade quiches and salad and cakes. Go early (12 o’clock) to get a table. This is also the best place to go if you just want some hot chocolate, or coffee and a cake.

There isn’t a McDonald’s in the town centre, but there are places near the Port where you can buy sandwiches. For a really cheap meal, try the pasta shop in rue Thiers. You choose your pasta and your sauce and you can either eat it there or take it away. Most local students find a place to sit down at the Port.

Italian & Pizza restaurants
There are plenty of these throughout the town, but “Le Cosy” in rue Thiers is particularly good.

Fish & Seafood
Brittany is well known for its seafood. Try a plate of “Moules Frites” in one of the restaurants at the Port.

Gastronomic Restaurants
You will find several restaurants which serve traditional French dishes. You could try the Alsace restaurant at the Port, or go to the Saint Patern part of town where there are lots of good restaurants. Le Terroir has a very nice, cosy atmosphere, especially in winter as they have a log fire.

• Always book on a Friday or Saturday night, especially if a large group is going.
• All prices include service.
• Don’t have wine with your Galettes and Crêpes, drink Breton Cider instead.

Note the use of “bullet points” in the final RECOMMENDATION paragraph. You don’t have to use them, but it looks more like a report if you do.
If you don't know the name of real places - invent them.

Finally, and this is REALLY IMPORTANT, check your spelling and grammar for stupid mistakes such as “he have” or “you can to buy a sandwitch”.


How to pass FCE ... WRITING

The writing paper consists of two parts: There is a compulsory question in Part 1
and one question from a choice of 5 in Part 2. Each question carries equal marks.
You have 1 hour 20 minutes to complete the task.
The aim of the exam is to establish that you are able to write in different styles and that you understand the concept of “register”. (If you don’t know what this is – see below.)
You should start to practice the different tasks as soon as you have decided to take the exam and it is a good idea to create a writing file.
In the writing file you should keep all the writing work you have done yourself as well as examples of good English, such as model letters or reports. You could also add magazine articles or a short stories.

What is “register”?
Register is the correct style of writing (and speaking) for the situation. You don’t speak to your boss or your bank manager in the same way as you speak to your friend, do you? You use different words for different people: “I apologise” to your boss, and “I’m sorry” to your friend.
We do the same thing when we are writing. You write an e-mail to a friend in a very different way to writing a covering letter for a job.
So the “register” is the choice of vocabulary plus the style of writing (formal or informal).

When you are writing your letter or report, you should think about the person who is READING it. The exam question will tell you to write to a friend, or to your teacher or for a school magazine (so the readers will be students in this case).
The examiner will consider himself as the reader (your friend, your colleague, a magazine reader or the Director who asked for the report.)
So, don’t think, “Oh, I’ve got to write 120 – 180 words for an exam.”
Think: “I have to write a 120 – 180 word report for my boss.” Or, “I’m writing a magazine article for teenagers.”
Imagine that the situation is REAL.
Before writing you should brainstorm your ideas & organize your answer. When you are satisfied with your ideas write your answer as clearly as possible. You will get zero points if the examiner can’t read your writing.

The exam:
Part 1: This compulsory question asks you to write a letter or an e-mail. You will be given information (from an advert, a letter, an e-mail, a schedule etc) and other notes which you need to read carefully before you start to answer the question.
Use all the information you are given but do not simply recopy it. Add some ideas of your own.
Don’t write any addresses for letters & e-mails.

Formal letter: Do not use contractions. Use a formal register : Dear Mr & Mrs Smith (not “Mister” & “Missus”)
I am writing for further information about…
I look forward to hearing from you,
Yours sincerely,

Informal letter, for example to a friend: use contractions and a bit of chit-chat to make the letter seem real (Hi, how are you? How’s your family? I haven’t seen them for ages!) but get to the point of the letter quickly.
Be natural : Just thought I’d drop you a line to tell you that…/ to ask if you could…../ to see what you think about…./
Finish with an expression such as: Hope to hear from you soon/ I’ll be in touch/ Can you let me know as soon as possible? Then: Love, (if you are a girl or VERY good friends) or Best regards, (men)
Don’t write “kisses”. If you want to express a kiss, do it like this: Love from Jenny, XXX

E-mails are semi-formal, somewhere between the two, even if it is about business. Start with Dear --- & finish with Best regards or Kind regards. You can use contractions, but don’t use “text” language. For example, don’t write “C U L8TER” (see you later).

Part 2 The options may include: an article, a story, a report, a review, an essay or another letter.
Letter: If you choose this option, read the instructions carefully. It will tell you to write “in the appropriate style”. If the compulsory letter was informal, this one will probably be formal & vice-versa. Make sure you get the style & register right.

Story: You are often given a sentence to start or finish your story. Eg: “It was midnight and I was all alone in the house. Suddenly someone knocked loudly on the door.”
Or “Without saying a word, John got up and walked out of the room.”
If you enjoy telling stories, then this is a good choice for you. If you have no imagination and you have never practised writing a story before, choose another option.
You should be able to use the story telling tenses: simple past; past continuous; past perfect; past perfect continuous.
There should also be plenty of descriptive adjectives .Use absolute adjectives where possible. For example, don’t say “big”, say “enormous”; don’t say “dirty” say “absolutely filthy”.
You should also use adverbs: suddenly, amazingly, unbelievably…

Click on the link below to go to an American website which has short stories which have been written by amateur (but native speaker) writers. It might give you some ideas.

Essay: This is the classic piece of writing demanded by schools everywhere. It should have an introduction, a clear development or discussion of the subject and a conclusion which gives your opinion. The essay should include your reasons for your opinion and you should give examples which can be from your own experience, from historical or scientific facts, from current affairs etc. Use a formal style, good linking words, make sure there is a logical progression and don’t repeat yourself.

If you do not know what linking words are, ask me for a list of them.

Article: If you enjoy reading magazines & newspapers and you have noticed the journalistic style of writing, then this could be a good choice, but it is quite difficult to do well. Magazine articles use journalistic headlines and sub-headings. They often use rhetorical questions. You must get the reader’s full attention and give some opinion or comment.

Review: This is to describe and give a personal opinion of a book, a film, a restaurant, a holiday, a website… Use your own experience and conclude with your recommendation. There are examples of book, film & restaurant reviews on this blog which I suggest you have a look at. Keep the register formal or semi formal.

Report: This option usually demands factual information which you should present in a clear, logical way. Use subheadings, don’t use contractions and make sure you control your tenses. Is the report about something which happened in the past or which is going to happen at some future date? You can invent some data or statistics to make the report seem real (eg: the vast majority of students (85%) were in favour of ….). Your personal recommendation can be given throughout the report or in conclusion at the end of the report.

Finally, there is a question about a set text (a book). Do not answer this question unless you have studied the book with your English teacher. English Connection students should never choose this option as we do NOT study for it.

Marking system:
When you understand how the exam is marked, you can get a better result.

There are 5 bands. I have written a simplified version of what the examiners are looking for. The University of Cambridge examiners have a much more detailed list which is too long to publish here.

Band 1:Lack of organization, lack of vocabulary, lack of control of grammar, irrelevant answer, question not understood, no understanding of register.
Band 2: Although the task is attempted, communication is limited, many errors make it difficult to understand, poorly organized, register inconsistent.
Band 3: All content points are included, ideas are properly organized, linking words used, correct register is attempted, errors will be present but will not stop the reader from understanding.
Band 4: Ideas are clearly organized & linked together. All points are included, shows good range of vocabulary & structure, an understanding of the appropriate register is demonstrated and is consistent. Grammatical or spelling mistakes do not stop the reader from understanding.
Band 5: The candidate’s writing full achieves the task. All points are included and expanded. Synonyms are used showing a wide range of structures and a rich vocabulary. Errors are few, do not stop understanding & are probably due to ambitious attempts at difficult structures. The register is consistent and appropriate to task.

One more thing. Have you noticed that throughout this article on FCE writing (which is about 1,500 words, by the way) I have only used an exclamation mark once and I have not found it necessary to use the word “indeed” at all.
Would all lycée students please note that we do not want to see “indeed” used four times in 180 words and we don’t want to see more than two exclamation marks in your text either.

I hope this information will help you to achieve a Band 4 or Band 5 result.

There will soon be examples of reports, stories, essays and articles at FCE (B2) level on this blog, as well as a writing competition, so come and visit it often.