How to write a report for the Cambridge FCE
So, you’re thinking of taking the First Certificate exam? Welcome to this series of posts about the Cambridge B2 First exam, sometimes known as the FCE exam. The whole exam is divided into four different ‘papers’ – Reading & Use of English, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. This page offers a guide to the first part of the Writing exam in the Cambridge B2 First 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 twenty minutes (80 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 an Article. You have to write the same number of words for each piece of writing: 140-190 words, so you can divide the exam time equally between them – 40 minutes on Part 1, and 40 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 an Article. In this blog post we’re going to focus on how to write a Review.
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.
40 minutes approx. (of the total 80 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. Find out what the context is and who has asked you to write the report. 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 getting better or worse? 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: One or 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 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. 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.
How to organise your time
You should spend about 40 minutes on Part 2 of the exam (and 40 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
20-25 minutes – Write
5-10 minutes – Check for spelling/grammar mistakes
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens if I don’t write enough words?
You will lose points for the Content of your Report as you obviously haven’t developed the ideas sufficiently.
What happens if I write too many words?
The examiners will find word 190, and then stop counting, so any words from the one hundred and ninety-first to the end of your essay will be ignored. This could mean that a whole section of your report (likely the recommendations) will not be considered. You’ll then lose points for the Content (no conclusion and probably no decision as to which topic is best); 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 B2 First 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!
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.
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 Letter B2 in the Subject line of the email.
Thank you for reading our post. For more information about the Cambridge B2 First Exam (FCE) you can check out the official site here.