FCE Writing Exam Basics

The Writing exam is one of the four exams that you will do when you take the Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) exam. Below you’ll learn some essential information about the Writing exam and the different parts of it.

How many parts

There are two parts of the exam. You have to write one piece of writing for each part.

How much time you have

You have 1 hour 20 minutes (80 minutes) to do this exam.

When you do the exam

You will do the Writing part of the FCE exam on the same day as you do the Reading/Use of English and the Listening parts of the exam. The Writing part of the exam will be the second exam you will do on the day (you will start by doing the Reading/Use of English exam first).

The format of exam

As I said above, there are two parts of the exam and you have to write one piece of writing for each. For each part, you are told to write between 140 to 190 words (I’ll explain more about this later).

Part 1

In the first part you are given an essay (and it will always be an essay) to write. You are given instructions about what the essay is about (the topic), to who and two things that you have to write about in the essay. You also have to write about a third thing in the essay and it is your decision what that is.

Part 2

The second part is different. Unlike in the first part, you are given three different things that you can write about. You have to choose one (and only one) to write. Each tells you in their instructions what type of thing you have to write (e.g. an email, an article etc...), to who (e.g. a friend, a newspaper etc...) and what things you have to include and write about in the piece (so you don’t have to think of something else you have to include like in the essay in part 1).

Each of the three options that you can choose will be a different type of writing (they will tell you what type of piece of writing they want you to write at the bottom of the instructions for each).

The type of writing they want you to write will be different for each of the three options. It can be one of the following:

  • An Article
  • An Email
  • A Letter
  • A Review
  • A Essay (not very often, but it is possible of the options in part 2 could be another essay)
  • A Report (this type of piece of writing is only an option for those who are doing the normal FCE exam. Students doing the FCE exam for schools won't be asked to write a report in their exam)
  • A Story (this type of writing is only for those who are doing the FCE for schools exam. For the normal FCE exam, you’ll never been given the option to write a story.)

The percentage of the final mark it gives

This Writing exam contributes 20% of your final score.

What score you need to pass

Each piece of writing you do in the exam will be given a mark out of 20. For a piece of writing to pass, each piece of writing needs to get a mark of 12 (equivalent to 60%). They then add the marks you get for both pieces of writing and this gives you your final mark/score for the Writing exam. They then convert this mark to their ‘Cambridge English Scale Score’.

For you to pass this part of the FCE exam, your combined final mark needs to be 60% or over (which is equivalent to a ‘Cambridge English Scale Score’ of 160 or over).

Remember, you can still fail this part of the exam (get less than 60% (equivalent to 160 points on the Cambridge marking system which you’ll see on your results)) and still pass the FCE exam (as long as you do well on the other parts of the exam and your average score for all of the exams is 160 points or over).

How your pieces of writing are marked

To learn how the examiners mark your pieces of writing (what they give you points for), read my article on 'How the Writing Is Evaluated/Marked in the FCE Exam'.