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Cambridge FCE exam - Writing part 1

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Today we will be focussing once again on the FCE paper, specifically Part 1 of the writing section. We will first talk about the format of this section and then hope to provide you with some of the tools you will need to complete this section successfully when the big day comes.


writing for fce


What do I have to do?

In Part 1 of the writing section you are asked to write an essay of 140-190 words. You are given one question which you must answer using all three notes provided in the space below. This part is aimed to test your general writing skills, so no specialised knowledge is required here but you must write a structured essay using formal language.

How much time do I have?


man with tie


You should spend 40 minutes on your essay in part 1. The writing section is in two parts and you have a total of 80 minutes to complete this. Since parts 1 and 2 carry the same number of marks, you should spend the same amount of time on each of them. Do not underestimate the importance of time management in the writing section, to help you with this we insist that you…


Always have a plan


football plan


With 40 minutes to complete the exercise, we recommend that begin by spending up to 10 minutes of this time on planning. It is essential that you write about all three notes so planning your paragraphs and deciding how many words to spend on each note will ensure that you do not lose any unnecessary marks for content or organisation in your essay. Here is a general plan which you can follow for any writing task you might encounter in this part.

Beginning: - introduce the topic using one sentence to describe what you are writing about. Write about 25-35 words here.

Middle: - think about your three notes here. Write one or two short paragraphs using each note. Make sure you present both sides of the argument before giving your own opinion.

Conclusion: - summarise your key points that you made in the middle section. Write about 25-35 words here. 

Do not throw away marks!


paper flies above


Look at the sample test question below:

1.In your English class you have been talking about work. Now, your English teacher has asked
you to write an essay.

Write an essay using all the notes and give reasons for your point of view.

Is it better to earn a lot of money or to enjoy your job?


Write about:

a.How much time is spent at work
b.The type of work which is done
c.Your own idea

You must cover all of the notes in order to receive full marks. In your middle section you should follow the order of the notes to make sure that you do not miss out any of the content they have asked you to provide; in the example above, you will not receive full marks if you do not write about how much time you spend at work, you will not receive full marks if you do not write about the type of work which is done, so write about these first before offering your own idea.

Other considerations

Today we have focussed on content and organisation but to help you with the communicative achievement and language aspects of your writing, have a look at our FCE and CAE Writing Tips: Linking Words and Phrases (link) article.

We hope you found these tips useful and we wish you the best of luck in your FCE exam!