Cambridge Advanced Exam Writing Checklist

Writing well in the Cambridge Advanced (CAE) exam is not only about what you write (the vocabulary, grammatical structures, the topics/things you write about etc...), but also how you write it (the structure, if it easy to read etc...).

To help you write better in the exam, I have created the below checklist that you can use to check if your pieces of writing do what they should do. This checklist can be used when writing any of the different pieces of writing you will find in the CAE exam (essays, reports, reviews etc...).

Below this checklist, you will learn what each of the points in the checklist means and also some advice for how to do them. At the end, you'll learn how to use the checklist when writing a piece of writing.

Cambridge Advanced Writing Checklist

  • Does it include what it should?

  • Does it have the appropriate structure?

  • Does it flow?

  • Will the reader(s) be satisfied after reading it?

  • Is the tone of vocabulary appropriate for the reader(s)?

  • Does it include vocabulary you would expect to find in this type of piece of writing?

  • Does it include some advanced words and phrases?

  • Does it include some advanced grammatical structures?

Does it include what it should?

Make sure to write about everything that you are asked to do in the question for the piece of writing. I would recommend you underline these when you read the question for the piece of writing.

Does it have the appropriate structure?

There are 5 different pieces of writing you will find in the exam: An essay, a letter/email, a review, a report and a proposal. Each has its own 3 part structure (the start, the body and the end). Make sure you know what the structure is for each different piece of writing that you will find in the exam and use it when writing them.

Does it flow?

This basically means is it easy to read. Make sure that each of the points/topics you have chosen to write about naturally flows to the next (like you would when giving directions to somebody to get to somewhere) and tell the person reading it that you are going to talk about a new point/topic so as not to confuse them. Using linkers (e.g. however, in addition to etc...) and putting each point/topic in its own paragraph helps to make a piece of writing flow.

Will the reader(s) be satisfied after reading it?

A reader will have a purpose for reading a piece of writing. This differs depending on the type of piece of writing. For example, for an essay it will be a teacher whose purpose is to assess if a student has sufficient knowledge about what they are writing about and can argue well. Whereas for a review, the reader is reading it to make a decision whether to do or buy something or not.

So, it is important to know what the purpose of each piece of writing in the exam is and to make sure that what you have written meets the purpose of the person/people who will be reading.

Is the tone of vocabulary appropriate for the reader(s)?

Some pieces of writing (like essays, reports and proposals and some letters) need to be written using formal vocabulary and style (no contractions or phrasal verbs for example). Whereas other pieces of writing (e.g. reviews and most emails) don't. Make sure you only use the right type of vocabulary for the piece of writing you are writing.

Does it include vocabulary you would expect to find in this type of piece of writing?

Make sure to not only use set phrases which you commonly find used in the different types of pieces of writing (e.g. Yours sincerely, (for formal letters), This report looks at... (for reports) etc...), but also a wide range of vocabulary on the topic you are writing on. For example, for a review on a film use a lot of film vocabulary (e.g. scene, main character, the score etc...) and words used for expressing opinion about it (e.g. dull, complex, astonishing etc...). Learn both these set phrases and vocabulary for different topics before doing the exam.

To learn the types of topics and vocabulary you will find used in the exam, read our article called 'Vocabulary Used in CAE Exams'.


Does it include some advanced words and phrases?

Most of the words that you are going write (70 to 80%) are going to be common/simple English ones. However, for the rest you need to use more advanced, less commonly used words (for example, recall for remember, issue for problem or terms for words etc...). Learn and practise using some advanced vocabulary before doing the exam.

To learn some advanced synonyms for common words which you can use in the exam, read our article called 'Vocabulary to Improve your Writing and Speaking in the CAE Exam'.


Does it include some advanced grammatical structures?

Like with words and phrases, the majority of the grammatical structures you are going to use (again 70 to 80%) are going to be simple grammatical structures (present simple, past continuous, the first conditional etc...). Even so, you should also use some advanced grammatical structures (like inversions, mixed conditionals, using 'do' for emphasis (e.g. it does help) etc...). Learn and practise using some advanced grammatical structures before doing the exam.

To learn the grammatical structures you find used and need to use in the exam, read our article called 'Improve your Grammar for the CAE Exam'.


How to use the checklist

I would recommend that you first understand what the different points in the checklist mean. Once you know these, I recommend that you use it whenever you practise writing one of the parts of the exam. I would recommend you use the checklist after you have written the piece of writing. If you haven't done one or more of the points, then try to change your writing so it does.

The more times you do this, the less mistakes you will make in your writing and the more automatic it will become. This will mean that by the time you do the exam, you will instinctively know what you have to do and you will write two good pieces of writing.