Common misconceptions about writing for proficiency (and advanced)
I’ve seen a few unsavoury myths floating around about the CPE & CAE…
▪️ You need to use lots of really fancy structures.
Sure, but before that, you need to ???? ?????. Lots of candidates think more about the grammar than the meaning. Then what happens? It’s so difficult to read that the examiner can’t make sense of your position!
▪️ You won’t be graded for complex ideas.
There seems to be a misunderstanding of what “complex ideas” means. In Western culture, we value thinking beyond the task. This means considering the broad implications, consequences, and the overall effect on society.
▪️ The examiner knows your grade after reading the introduction.
Nonsense. Cambridge spend so much time standardizing their examiners that this is impossible. They might have an ??????????, but they definitely don’t know the grade until they read the entire text… multiple times.
▪️The word count needs to be precise. This is actually a guideline. While you definitely shouldn’t write less at risk of not fulfilling the task, it’s not a big deal if you write more. However, ??????? is more important than quantity, so make sure that your argument is tight and reasons are logical before filling 5 pages!
For some, the Cambridge criteria are as mysterious as the DaVinci code…?
It is critical to have an idea of how these work if you are planning to take CAE or CPE. Luckily, it’s not so difficult if you know the key terms. What they are looking for lies within the following:
?Conventions of the communicative task: Conventions are the way things are typically done in a community or society. Applied to writing, this means, broadly speaking, style. Beyond just formality, this includes tone of writing and format—does it look and sound like a (letter) usually would?
?Holding the target reader’s attention: How would you feel if you read it? Would you get bored and swipe up? Or would you be sitting on the edge of your seat? Are there any parts of the text that would leave you scratching your head? Or do your eyes glide naturally from one line to the next?
?Communicative purpose: Why are you writing, and what would you like to accomplish with your text, i.e. how convincing are you? Convincing in the sense that if your reader didn’t agree with your opinion at the outset, would they be swayed by the end? Your argument should be balanced and yet convey a sense of authority and knowledge.
?Straightforward and complex ideas: Straightforward means, well, straightforward. Simple and directly related to the topic, it’s something you would expect to see in an intermediate student’s essay. Complex ideas go beyond the topic, looking at, for example, the attitudes of society towards the cinema and how this has changed over time… critical thinking ?
The next in a series about the Cambridge criteria — “Organization” in writing
The second criteria that is the most difficult to comprehend (Communicative Achievement was in the previous post) exactly what is expected of you is Organization:
These are quite obvious—words that connect sentences (???, ???, ??, ???????) or sequence them (???????, ????, ???.). They are quite basic and generally should be ??????? in advanced / proficiency writing.
▪️???????? ??????? – this is what you need?
✔️One type is adverbial linkers and phrases (????????, ??????? ??? ???? ????, ????????????), which should replace linking words wherever possible.
✔️Another is pronoun reference and substitution (Becoming famous is ?? ???????? that is shared by a significant number of the youth. Whether it is ??? that is a cause for concern is worth discussing).
✔️Ellipsis is a type of cohesive device that involves omitting information that does not need to be repeated because it is obvious from the context (??? ????? is the lack of time, ??? ?????? is the lack of money).
✔️Repetition is a very valuable cohesive device that helps to keep your overall text organization (There are several ??????? worth considering . . . The first ?????? is . . . the second ?????? is…). This helps the reader to see how your point is being developed.
These ones are even better. This is the flow of ideas that helps the reader to glide from one paragraph to the next, that leads to a logical conclusion. It’s what leaves the reader satisfied that everything was built up coherently, and then tied together neatly at the end.
This involves sequencing of ideas to finalize with the most relevant one for the issue, organizing options to finish with the best solution, and providing transitions between paragraphs.
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Advanced / Proficiency exams. Many students get paralyzed because they think that they must use only high level words—nothing else!
Well I’ll give you news—even native speakers have difficulties doing this. Consistently producing less common lexis can actually have negative effects on your communicative achievement because meaning easily becomes compromised… instead of prioritizing clarity and brevity, a spew of complex phrases will only leave the reader bewildered.
So what should you do?
✔️Study language of course, equip yourself with an arsenal of collocations, but make sure you understand the appropriacy before throwing around these phrases. To set your heart on, have an ambition to, or feel inclined to? Depends on your context.
✔️Maintain control over your language: ensure that every sentence makes sense and is not overly complicated. So before taking a shot at writing the next Iliad, learn how to write sensibly first.
✔️Use a range of different words, collocations, phrases, and structures, and try not to repeat the same word (but repetition of key ideas is good for cohesion—see my previous post).
However, there are certain formulaic expressions that are multipurpose and can be applied in most situations. I’ll give you a few examples:
▪️A more viable solution would be (to impose taxes on disposable products)
▪️(A throwaway society) is becoming increasingly prevalent with (technological evolution)
▪️The implications of (not implementing a recycling program) are too severe to ignore
The final post in a series about the Cambridge criteria for Advanced & Proficiency exams.
Content is actually the easiest to obtain 5 marks in, if you’re careful. It is slightly different for each exam so let me break it down for you.
It’s pretty simple here. You are given a topic (a discussion that took place in class about a contemporary issue or situation) and three potential solutions. You must choose two to write about, and select the best one, giving reasons and examples for both.
It is very important that you select one of the issues and provide reasons for doing so. If not, you cannot score above 3.
This one’s a bit more difficult. You are given two texts, each on the same topic, but looking at it from different angles. While there is some overlap, you will find that these writers often have different purposes.
The trick in this task is to identify two key points from each text. You will see that each point stands independently from the other and can be broken down into examples. Beware of non-defining clauses, asides, or any small parts of the text that give extra information—these cannot be considered as key points.
In order to get full marks, you have to successfully identify all four points and express your opinion. Remember that you must evaluate these ideas—not just reformulate them. This evaluation should be integrated with the key points and the reader should be able to follow your argument throughout the essay.
Remember: essays are written for ????????. Teachers want to know ???? ??????? on the matter. It is not simply a matter of regurgitating information. Your voice must be clear!