FCE Exam: How to write an Article for the Cambridge B2 First
In this FCE Exam class, we take a look at how to write an article for part 2 of the Writing test in the Cambridge FCE Exam…
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 an article, 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 an Article. 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 write an interesting and engaging article – like you might read in a magazine or on a website. To be able to interest the reader and use the correct vocabulary. Articles are usually quite informal and want to attract the reader’s attention and tell an interesting story.
How to do Writing part 2 - Article
Read the task
The first thing to do is to study the task carefully. What do you need to write the article about? There are lots of possibilities, but they will usually be related to something that interests you – and something you want to interest the reader with too! You might need to give your opinion about something, or explain your point of view, or to recommend something to the reader. As practice, think about the sorts of things you read in magazines or on websites.
Make a plan
The plan doesn’t need to be very detailed – just some short notes on what you want to include in each paragraph. You will usually need four paragraphs, but you could write three if you feel there are some ideas that can be grouped together, but four would be ideal.
You want to begin with an interesting opening paragraph – you want to attract the reader’s attention so a good thing to do is to use a question. But how can you use a question to attract the reader’s attention? Well, read on a find out.
You will also need a conclusion at the end where you summarise your ideas or opinions and where you make a final comment to really solidify the opinion with the reader.
Formal or Informal English?
Articles can be written mainly in Informal English, so contractions and phrasal verbs are perfectly fine to use – but you can throw in a sentence or two of more Formal English for emphasis. When you have a sentence using a formal grammar structure in the middle of a piece of informal writing, it really stands out and provides a strong emphasis, so this would be appropriate in an article.
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 article 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 article will be ignored. This could mean that a whole section of your article (likely the final sentences or final paragraph) will not be considered. You’ll then lose points for the Content; and lose points for Organisation.
What if I have no idea what to write about?
Well, you do have the option to choose one of the other Writing part 2 tasks – remember you don’t have to do an article if you don’t want to.
Articles are a good piece to do because most people have had previous experience of reading articles – you most probably will have read articles in magazines or on the internet almost every day of your life. A good way to practise is to find articles in newspapers/magazines or on the internet and to read them to see what kind of information is included and how the article is structured.
Now have a go at this example task.
When you have finished you can send your article to the school in an email and we will correct it and sent it back to you! Just write Exam Guide Article B2 in the Subject line of the email.
Speaking Part 1 of the Cambridge FCE Exam tests your ability to talk socially about yourself… So, you’re thinking of