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Writing a report for the Cambridge CAE exam

by Mark March 02, 2021
Write a review for the CAE 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. In this post, we are going to look at writing a report. 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 report, 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

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 writing a Report. 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.

Time

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

What's being tested

Your ability to describe and analyse a ‘factual’ situation based on the input text. Your ability to provide objective information for a superior or a peer group. You will also probably be asked to make a recommendation for a future action to be taken.

How to do Writing part 2 - Report

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 report. It will usually be someone in a ‘superior’ position to you – for example you boss at work, a local politician, your teacher at school etc… The task will ask you to describe the current situation, and give suggestions as to actions that could be taken in the future to improve the current situation.

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? Is a situation deteriorating? Have things changed over time? The best way to begin a report is with a sentence like this:

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

MAIN PARAGRAPHS: Two paragraphs in which you should describe the situation and provide more factual details – statistics or information as appropriate. When providing the ‘factual’ information it can be useful to use the results of a survey, or questionnaire that was given to relevant people. Obviously, the survey or questionnaire can be completely created by you, and you can invent all of the answers in order to then make up the statistics.

RECOMMENDATIONS: In the final paragraph you make the required suggestions or recommendations.

Formal or Informal English?

Reports should be written using Formal English as they are being written for someone in a superior formal position to you. You should try to use the passive voice as much as possible and I would recommend not using personal pronouns (I, me, my etc…) as the report isn’t really concerned about what your opinion is, but it wants analysis of a factual situation.

Paragraph Headings

Each paragraph in a Report should have its own heading – the introduction can simply be called “INTRODUCTION” and the last paragraph can be called “RECOMMENDATIONS” – but you will need to think of your own ideas for the other Main Paragraphs. Try to keep your headings short and to the point – 1-3 words, rather than a whole sentence.

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 Report and a Proposal?

The difference between a Report and a Proposal is the amount of emphasis that you place on the two types of information. In a Report 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. In a Proposal, on the other hand, 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.

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 report (likely the conclusion/recommendations) will not be considered. You’ll then lose points for the Content (no conclusion and recommendations to the reader); and lose points for Organisation.

What if I don’t know what to write – I don’t know any statistics about this topic?

Well, you do have the option to choose one of the other Writing part 2 tasks – remember you don’t have to do a report if you don’t want to. In terms of the statistics – you can invent all the information that you need. It has been shown that only 20% of C1 Advanced students have a good knowledge of data related to writing reports, but in any case, over 65% of students still pass the exam when they choose to write a Report in part 2 of the Writing exam. Your report won’t be fact-checked for truth so you can pull any numbers or percentages out of the air to suit your purpose. Like I have done in this paragraph!

Tips

Reports can be quite difficult to write because most people haven’t had much previous experience of writing them. But having said that, if the topic suits you and you have good ideas it can be very easy to show off and get a good result in a Report. Make sure you have lots of vocabulary related to numbers, statistics, and percentages and you’ll do ok.

Test Yourself

Now have a go at this example task.

When you have finished you can send your report to the school in an email and we will correct it and sent it back to you! Just write Exam Guide Report 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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