Top Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge First (FCE) Writing Exam

Why can it be so difficult for students to improve their writing and get better results in the Cambridge First Writing paper? One of the obvious reasons is that we don’t get to practise writing enough! But there are also other reasons. So, what can we do to achieve better marks in the Cambridge First exam? Well, here are 5 tips that we at Atlas think will help you improve your writing skills and put you on track to pass your exam with higher marks.

1. Learn what each writing requires you to do.

So, what do you actually know about the Cambridge First exam? It is essential that you go into the exam prepared and know what you need to do in each paper.

There are five types of writing question on the Writing paper:

  • Essay
  • Letter
  • Report
  • Article
  • Review

You must do two of the writing questions. Everyone has to write an essay, but you then have a choice of a letter (formal or informal), a report, an article or a review.

Each type of writing is unique and has its own style, tone and language. It’s really important that you get these right! For example, a review should have a more relaxed conversational tone, while a letter of complaint should be very formal. It’s very important to understand the differences between each type of writing.

You get marked on Content, Communicative Achievement (using the correct writing features and getting your point across correctly, Organisation (correct paragraphing and use of linkers) and Language (vocabulary and grammar). 

If you do not differentiate between the tasks correctly, you will lose points on Communicative Achievement which are the easiest points to get in the writing if it is done correctly.

At Atlas, one thing we recommend is making flashcards to test yourself on what each type of writing wants you to do.

     Essay Features

Compare advantages and disadvantages;

ideas for and against,

Include language related to the topic,

Support your opinions with reasons and examples,

Use a range of linking words and phrases correctly,

Include a clear introduction and conclusion,

Write in a formal register,

Make sure sure to proofread at the end.

2. Learn chunks of language.

What are chunks of language, you say? Chunks are words that commonly go together i.e., ‘I look forward to meeting you’. ‘Kind regards’, ‘a convincing argument’. Learning chunks of language for each type of writing can really prepare you with a bank of vocabulary that you will need for the exam.

A great way to do this is by using flashcards. You can make these yourself at home or there are many online resources available. But one website that you could also try is Quizlet. Click the links below and start testing yourself now and your language will develop in no time.

*Quizlet is a free study tool that provides students with games and activities to improve their language and learning in general.

3. Record your errors and rewrite your answers!

Why do some students fear the Writing paper so much? One reason can be because they have a visible record of their errors! But making errors and learning from them is an important part of the language learning process.

A good way to take advantage of this is to keep a written record of your mistakes, especially mistakes that you are constantly repeating, and learn from them. If you are having difficulty with gerunds, for example, then record the error that you made, what the correction was, and make a note of the reason behind it. You can then revise this later and test yourself on your own mistakes.

With essays and articles that you hand in, another great suggestion is to look at your teacher’s feedback, think about how you could change the organisation and language you use to make it better, and then rewrite your answer from scratch taking on board your teacher’s feedback.

 Mistake Correction Note
It depends of the weather It depends on the weather Depend + on 
I’ve lived in Barcelona since six years I’ve lived in Barcelona for six years Since – for points in time

For – for periods

4. Learn your synonyms. 

So why is it that some students who write with no mistakes still get low marks in their writings? It could be that they get deducted marks for repeating the same vocabulary and not paraphrasing the instructions!

Learning to say the same thing in different ways will not only help you sound more articulate when you speak, but it will also get you more marks in your exam as you will be tested on your range of vocabulary.

You will need to make sure that you are well-equipped with a bank of synonyms relating to different topics and be able to do certain things using different expressions. For example, learn how to ask someone for information in different ways – e.g., ‘I was wondering if you could tell me…’, ‘Could you let me know if…’, ‘do you have any information about….’.

This will make your language richer and will certainly gain you extra marks.



5. Improve your writing with the Grammarly App.

There are many really useful online resources that can help you improve your English and get a better score in the Cambridge First exam. One of the apps we love at Atlas is Grammarly. Grammarly is a google chrome extension that monitors your writing as you write and analyses your mistakes. It also gives you possible answers for why they are wrong and records your errors in a diary for future reference.


You can download it by going to the website here:

This can be a really useful tool to help you learn autonomously, especially when you can’t get help from your teacher to correct all your writings.

If you get into this app, the only downside is that you have to pay for the premium version! But it comes highly recommend. Do take advantage of this great tool.

If you found the above tips useful make sure to follow our blog series on Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge First (FCE) Exam, such as our Top Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge First (FCE) Speaking Exam.

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