How to write a Proposal for the Cambridge CAE Exam

by Mark March 05, 2021
How to write a proposal for the Cambridge CAE exam

Now, we’ll take a look at how to write a proposal for the Cambridge Advanced Exam…

So, you’re thinking of taking an Advanced exam? Welcome to this series of posts about the Cambridge C1 Advanced exam, sometimes known as the CAE exam – that is the Certificate of Advanced English. The whole exam is divided into four different ‘papers’ – Reading & Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. This page offers a guide to the second part of the Writing Exam in the Cambridge Advanced (C1) Exam in which you have to write a Proposal, what it tests, how to approach it and how to revise for it. Don’t be afraid, Writing part 2 – let’s go!

General Information about the Writing Exam

The Writing exam lasts for an hour and a half (90 minutes). There are two parts to the Writing exam – in Part 1 you have to write an Essay, and in Part 2 you will be given three options from four (or five, depending on how you count them!) possibilities, and you choose one of them to do. The four (or five) possibilities for Writing part 2 are an Email, a Letter (which is exactly the same as an email, really, so you may as well consider them together), a Report, a Review, or a Proposal. You have to write the same number of words for each piece of writing: 220-260 words, so you can divide the exam time equally between them – 45 minutes on Part 1, and 45 minutes on Part 2. However, time keeping is up to you – you could spend more time on one of the tasks and less on the other, but that’s not recommended.

What the test involves

As mentioned above, in Part 2 of the Writing exam you will be given three choices from four/five possibilities: an Email/Letter, a Report, a Review, or a Proposal. In this blog post we’re going to focus on how to write a Proposal.

In the exam you will be given a short input text which will explain the context that you need to write in, and this will also include at least two points that you must include in your writing.


45 minutes approx. (of the total 90 minutes for the exam)

What's being tested

Your ability to make recommendations and suggestions for a future action to be taken – and to provide persuasive reasons why your proposal should be considered.

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How to do Writing part 2 - Proposal

Read the task

The first thing to do is to study the task input. Identify what the context is and who has asked you to write the proposal. It will usually be someone in a ‘superior’ position to you – for example your boss at work, a local politician, your teacher at school etc… but it could also be someone in a similar position to you – for example members of the same Sports Club or Language School. The task will ask you to briefly describe the current situation but to focus on giving suggestions as to actions that could be taken in the future.

Make a plan

The plan doesn’t need to be particularly detailed – just some brief notes on what you want to include in each paragraph. You will usually need at least four paragraphs:

INTRODUCTION: Explain what the general context is – why you need to write about this? Is there a problem? Why are your suggestions necessary? The best way to begin a report is with a sentence like this:

The aim/purpose/goal of this proposal is + infinitive with ‘to’ (to describe/explain/analyse) …

MAIN PARAGRAPHS: It’s up to you whether you use one or two main paragraphs here to make the bulk of your suggestions and to provide the reasons for them.

FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS: In the final paragraph you make a summary of your recommendations and specific actions to be taken in order to achieve them. You can even use a brief bullet pointed list in this section – BUT you must still write in complete sentences. It is also a good idea to use a conditional sentence or two here to really hit home the importance of following our ideas, for example: “If these suggestions were implemented, it would provide a huge benefit to the local community…”

Formal or Informal English?

Proposals should be written using reasonably Formal English as will usually be written for someone in a superior formal position to you. You should try to use the passive voice as much as possible, but conditionals are also very useful – particularly First or Second Conditionals. You’re trying to persuade the reader to do something, so also Modal verbs like ‘must’ and ‘should’ are important, as well as verbs like ‘recommend’, ‘suggest’, or of course ‘propose’.

How to organise your time

You should spend about 45 minutes on Part 2 of the exam (and 45 minutes on Part 1). It is up to you exactly how you arrange your time, but I would suggest something like this:

5-10 minutes – Plan and think of ideas

25-30 minutes – Write

5-10 minutes – Check for spelling/grammar mistakes

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a Proposal and a Report?

The difference between a Proposal and a Report is the amount of emphasis that you place on the two types of information. In a Proposal you will begin with a brief explanation of the current situation, but then focus the majority of the writing on the suggestions/recommendations and the reasons for them. In a Report, on the other hand, the majority of the piece will be about analysing the future situation and providing the facts and data, with only a few brief recommendations as the end of the piece.

What happens if I don’t write enough words?

You will lose points for the Content of your essay as you obviously haven’t developed the ideas sufficiently.

What happens if I write too many words?

The examiners will find word 260, and then stop counting, so any words from the two hundred and sixty-first to the end of your essay will be ignored. This could mean that a whole section of your proposal (likely the final paragraph of recommendations) will not be considered. You’ll then lose points for the Content (no final recommendations and final persuasive sentences); and lose points for Organisation.

What if I don’t know what to write?

Well, you do have the option to choose one of the other Writing part 2 tasks – remember you don’t have to do a proposal if you don’t want to. The main thing to remember is that you’re trying to persuade the reader to do something – the task will give you plenty of guidance on exactly what you need to write about.


Proposals are quite similar to Reports in that they look similar – they both use headings for their paragraphs and can cover similar topics. Just make sure you get the right balance between “analysis of the current situation” and the “suggestions for future actions”. See Frequently Asked Questions above.

Test Yourself

Now have a go at this example task.

When you have finished you can send your proposal to the school in an email and we will correct it and sent it back to you! Just write Exam Guide Proposal C1 in the Subject line of the email.

[email protected]

Thank you for reading our post. For more information about the Cambridge C1 Advanced Exam (CAE) you can check out the official site here. Thank you for reading our post. You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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