The part 1 essay of the Cambridge Advanced English Writing exam is not particularly difficult to do or understand. In fact, I would say of all the essays that candidates have to write in the different Cambridge English exams (including the essays for the First and Proficiency exam), it is the easiest to do. One of the reasons why is that you will have probably done one very similar to it before at either school or university.
Having said that, it will help you to write a good essay in this part of the exam to be clear about what you have to and can do in it and to know some things about writing good essays in general. And this is what you will learn in this article.
In addition, towards the end of the article you will see two examples of the type of essay which you should write for this part of the exam. But let's start by looking at the task.
Below is an example of a task you will find on the exam paper for part 1 of the CAE writing exam. It includes instructions of what you have to do and three things you can write about and a question you have to answer in your essay.
Don't refer in your essay to where you were discussing this topic
At the beginning at the task, it tells you both what the overall topic of the essay is about and where you were talking about it:
Do not in your essay at any point refer to this discussion in class. It is neither important information nor done in normal essays.
What an essay does
Before I explain what you need to do with the task information, I will explain a little about what the purposes of an essay are. Writing an essay in the real world (at school and university) is to show your teacher, lecturer or professor that you not only understand the topic you are writing about (you have the knowledge), but (and this is very important for the essay that are going to write for the Advanced exam) that you can make a good argument (i.e. something is good or something is bad). Everything that you choose to write about is to support the main argument you have (e.g. Social media is bad for our mental health). You shouldn't write about things or make assertions which contradict what your main argument is.
Important task information
It will tell you the topic of the essay (from the above task "learning a second language") and also what the focus of the essay should be; the question which your essay is answering:
The whole purpose of the essay is for you to argue which of the two options which you choose is the most beneficial/important, nothing else. So apart from introducing the essay, thats the only thing you write about.
Choose two of the benefits to write about
You are given three possible benefits to write about. Of these three, you have to choose two to write about in your essay:
Which two to choose
As I said before, one of the purposes of writing an essay is to show your ability to make a good argument. This is going to influence which of the two you are going to choose because your essay is basically you saying:
"Why I think x is more important than y for doing something"
You can choose to write about any two of the three options (you will see different options being written about in each of the two example essays towards the end of the article), which you choose is entirely up to you.
So look at all three and make notes on a piece of paper of the reasons you can come up with for why each is important/beneficial and why they are not. Once you have done this, decide from what you've written which one you think has the strongest reasons for being the most important/beneficial and which one you think has the weakest reasons. These are going to be the two which you will write about.
Choose two reasons to write about in your essay for each option
You only have 45 minutes to do this and between 220 to 260 words (although it is perfectly fine to write more words if you want), so for each of the two options only talk about two reasons in your essay.
Which reasons to choose
Apart from showing your level of the English language, this essay is showing to the examiner you can make a good argument. And the reasons which you write about are what makes your argument good. So for the option which you think is the strongest, choose to write about two good reasons why you think it is important. For the option which you think is the weakest, choose one good reason to write about why it is important/beneficial and one reason why it is not.
See this in practice
After you have done this, you will know what you are going to write about in the essay. There are some other things you need to know in order to write a good essay for this (e.g. the structure, the type of vocabulary etc…), however, I am not going to talk about these in this article (I will do that in a separate article on writing this type of essay in the future).
Below you are going to see two examples of essays for this part of the exam. Each of them is an essay on the task you read about at the beginning of this article (on "Learning a second language"). However, each essay argues that a different one of the three options is more important/beneficial (to show you that it is perfectly fine to choose whatever two options of the three that you want).
Whilst reading the essays, think about how the writer is convincing the reader which one of the two points is the most important/beneficial. Also think about what the structure of the essays are and what each part does and why.
Please bear in mind that you are not expected to produce something of this quality to pass the Advanced Writing exam, because you aren't. The examiners know that you are not a native speaker and expect you will make mistakes. These are just two perfect examples (which took a lot longer than 45 minutes to write) of what you should be doing which were written by a native speaker.
As the world becomes more interconnected through the continuing advances in technology, the learning of a second language is now seen as almost essential. Two of the benefits of learning a new language are improving job opportunities and helping one's understanding of other cultures. But of the two, which is the most important for learning one?
No one can doubt that having a second language can help certain people's chance of getting a job. As many companies either sell or buy in other countries from where they are based or even have operations in other countries, there is an increasing demand in the workplace for people to be able to speak more than one language. However, the necessity of speaking another language to get a job depends on the profession and/or company. There are still many jobs where the ability to communicate in another language is neither necessary or essential to do a role.
And whilst knowing another language may not benefit everyone in their search for work, it does enable everyone who knows one to better understand those from other cultures and countries. By being able to speak another person's language, you have a greater insight into their culture than you would have if you did not (through interacting with them, consuming films, literature etc... from that culture). And what having this insight shows us is that despite having differences in customs, food or styles of dress etc..., we are all more alike in who we are than we might have thought. And in a world where nations are becoming increasingly nationalistic, this is important to be aware of.
So while it is undeniable that knowing a second language can help in improving one's chances of getting a job, it is not essential for every job. However, having a better understanding of another culture which knowing one gives us, not only broadens our horizons about the world, but it shows us that each of us - no matter what country we are from - is more similar than different. And this is so important to know for the future of us all.
Whether it is at school, a language academy or work, more and more people these days are learning a second language. There are a variety of benefits which speaking one gives people. Two of the main benefits of doing it are helping one's understanding of other cultures and for education. But of the two, which is the most important for learning one?
When you visit another county and are able to communicate with the people in their own language, it not only makes your time easier and more enjoyable, but it gives you a better understanding of the culture and people than you would have if you did not. Although this is important, most people learning one unfortunately don't either spend much time in other countries or have that much contact or exposure to people from other cultures in their life in their own country.
However, one of the places where knowledge of another language does help many people is in education. This is not only due to the fact that second languages are studied more than ever before, but also because having a high level in a second language is now a requirement to get onto many non-language courses at both university and further education. In addition, research has shown that anyone who has a high level in a second language generally performs better in other subjects which are non-language related, like social studies and creative subjects.
In conclusion, while knowing a second language does benefit some people in the better understanding of another culture, it is more beneficial for more people in education. Firstly, owing to the fact that having a high level in a second language is important for students at schools and universities. And secondly, being good at one also improves their performance in other subjects as well.
I hope this long article has helped you understand better what you need to do for this piece of writing in the Cambridge CAE Writing exam.