CAE Writing

CAE Writing

This article is about the basics of CAE Writing. For CAE Writing samples, click here.

Writing will be the second part of your Certificate in Advanced English exam. CAE Writing is 90 minutes long and it consists of two separate tasks:

In CAE Writing Part 1 you have to read three points on a topic and then write an essay based on two of them. In your answer you have to point out which of the two points are more important. Your essay has to be 220-260 words long.

For CAE Writing Part 2 you get three different assignments to choose from. There are four possible types of assignments: a proposal, a review, a report and a letter. Again, it must be 220-260 words long.

CAE Writing Assessment Criteria
Writing Part 1
Writing Part 2
— Letter
— Proposal

You might want to read advice on basics of essay composition before moving to the exam tasks.

CAE Writing Assessment Criteria

Your Writing score depends on four different aspects:

  • Content.  How well you is your writing at achieving the task. Have you developed all the points required by the task?
  • Communicative Achievement. How appropriate is your writing in terms of style. Have you used the right register (formal or informal)? Does your writing fill the style requirements of your text type (report, review, essay, letter)? Do you understand the purpose of the text you’re writing?
  • Organisation. How logically you structure your text (introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion). How well you connect your ideas in the text (cohesion).
  • Language. Your grammar and vocabulary. How diverse is your choice of grammar structure?  Is the vocabulary you use fairly varied? Do you make any mistakes in both and how much do they affect understanding the idea you convey?

Writing Part 1

We will use an example task as an illustration:

You have watched a TV programme about scholarship and who should get in in your country. You have made the following notes:

Who should receive scholarship?

  • People with exceptional academic performance
  • Foreign exchange students
  • Members of low-income families

Some of the opinions expressed in the programme:

“Students have to earn their right for free education.”
“Children of parents with low income are usually more diligent learners.”
“Students from abroad should feel welcomed in our country.”

You should write an essay for your tutor discussing two groups of people that should get scholarship. You are free to use any of the opinions from the programme if you like, but you should use your own words whenever possible.

Your introductory paragraph should state the topic of your essay and its purpose. It is recommended to make it clear which two points (out of three) you will be writing about. Alternatively you may choose to state that in the first sentence of each body paragraph. It is possible to use both approaches together — then you will have to make sure to paraphrase these statements. Avoid making your introduction too long — 3-5 sentences is an optimal length for your opening paragraph.

Body paragraphs are the tools which you use to deliver the key message of your essay. As you will be writing about two different points it is natural to dedicate one paragraph to each point. You are advised to keep body paragraphs approximately the same size — both points should be developed equally well. Some of the tasks require you to choose which of the two aspects is more important, and to state the reason for it being more important. In that case it is acceptable to make one of the paragraphs slightly bigger. This can be done both in the body paragraph and conclusion.

Your conclusion is commonly the shortest of all paragraphs. Most students tend to write a slightly paraphrased version of ideas already mentioned in introduction or body paragraphs. This is a valid technique and there is nothing wrong about it. It is especially useful when you have exhausted the topic and therefore you have nothing else to contribute to the text. Another possible approach is to introduce extra ideas as shown in the example essay below.

CAE Writing Part 1 Sample Essay

Tuition fees have never been low — on the contrary, only the chosen few can comfortably afford paying their studying costs. To participate in a scholarship programme has always been every student’s aspiration. Not only does the scholarship spare serious expenses, it also looks good on one’s CV. In the paragraphs below I will explain my opinion on why members of poor families and students with outstanding marks should be getting preferences for scholarship programme participation.

Young people from families with insufficient means are generally unable to to pay for their education. Conversely, children of financially-sound households are more likely to get into scholarship, as they usually have much better secondary education — not to mention their parents being well able to cover tuition fees. These facts eventually lead to further widening of the wealth gap between the rich and the poor, entailing a number of social and economic issues. Such opportunity inequality could be mitigated by lowering the scholarship requirements for the less wealthy.

Prospective students with impressive academic records should not be discouraged from continuing their education by charging for it. Considering their mental aptitude and zeal, these young people are very likely to become highly-qualified professionals, potentially making an appreciable contribution to society. Therefore they ought to be eligible for scholarship participation even if they do not meet other, non-academic requirements.

Provision of scholarship grants is not an easy task. The decision-making system should be fair and impartial, ensuring that only the most worthy and needy have their academic expenses taken care of by the government. It is only then we can ensure that the programme serves its initial purpose.

(272 words)

Writing Part 2

The second part of CAE Writing gives you a choice of three different tasks to choose from. It is recommended to practice at least two out of four possible tasks (Review, Report, Letter and Proposal).

Your paper should be between 220-260 words long. Going over the limit is not penalized, but potentially leads to more mistakes. However if your text is under 220 you will have points deducted from your overall score.

CAE Review

CAE Review is about providing details on the task subject, giving your opinion and recommending (or not recommending) to see/watch/read it. Your review can be on a variety of things such as books, movies, plays, events and much more.

Your writing can be either formal or informal. It is clear from the task which register you are supposed to use. Whichever you use, you should be consistent and stick to one register throughout the whole essay.

Suggested CAE Review Structure

Use the introductory paragraph to name what you are going to be reviewing, state its genre (i.e. a science fiction novel, a horror movie, a vaudeville performance and so on). It is possible to write about author’s other notable works if there are any. To make your introduction more engaging, you may briefly state your general impression on it. Make your introduction at least three sentences long.

Your first body paragraph should give a short summary of the reviewed material. Give a brief overview — plot, setting, actors, general idea. Avoid giving your opinion in this paragraph — you will do this in the following passages.

Second and third body paragraphs can be used to describe good and bad points respectively. Unlike CAE Writing Part 1 your paragraphs don’t have to be of same length — if you liked the described thing then your paragraph with good points will be naturally bigger than the other one. In the negative points paragraph you can name things that could be changed to improve the quality of the product.

Conclusion will contain your general impression and your verdict. Use this paragraph to sum up the good and bad points to make an objective assessment of the reviewed material. You may then recommend or dissuade your readers from seeing/attending it.

An example CAE Review task to illustrate these points:

CAE Writing Part 2 Review Sample

Your teacher of literature asked you to write a review of your favourite book which has a film adaptation. Your teacher wants you to compare them and tell which do you like more and why.

The title I am going to review is a rare example when the movie manages to trump the book it is based on. Today I am reviewing Fight Club by an infamous American novelist Charles Palahniuk — his most widely-known, universally acclaimed work.

It is a daunting task to find a person unfamiliar with the movie. The plot engages you from the very start — a young professional finds his apartment destroyed by an explosion of unknown origin. Agitated, he phones his newfound acquaintance Tyler whom he had met on the plane. They see each other at a bar and the story becomes increasingly complex, yet pleasantly effortless to follow. Through its narrative a number of problems are tackled – self-identity, peer pressure, middle-life crises and some other. The characters are likeable and easy to relate to. Both acting and directing are superb. But what makes it better than the book?

The only objective fault I could find in the book was the order of events. It goes back and forth, which at times proves to be confusing. The movie manages the sequencing much better. Other than that the book is brilliant — vigorous prose that manages to evoke strong images. The movie however is so good that the book tends to slightly fade in all its glory. People tend to read the book after seeing the adaptation, thus coming with high expectations that can be hard to meet.

To sum this up, I would recommend reading the book nonetheless. It may seem inferior in some respects, but it does help to understand the main theme of “Fight Club” better.

(266 words)

CAE Review tips

  • The task clearly stated that you will be writing to your tutor, which implies use of formal register.
  • As you write review you will inevitably use words meaning “good, bad, very” and so forth. It is important to know as many synonyms to very and other general words.
  • To get more idea of what a review should look like check some user reviews: For movies go to and click on any movie. Then scroll down to see the user reviews. Click to see the full list of reviews like this one. Please note that these reviews do not follow the required CAE Review format — they are to give you some ideas and vocabulary examples. For book reviews try Just like the previous site you have to choose a book and read other people’s thoughts on it. The top-rated reviews are at the top of the main page.

CAE Report

CAE Report task is giving your opinion on a subject or assessment of a situation. The difference between CAE Review and Report tasks is that your report should be as objective as possible. Another important difference is that CAE Report should have clear headings for each paragraph.

CAE Report has to be written in formal English. Check this page on formal vocabulary to avoid making any mistakes or inconsistencies.

Suggested CAE Report structure

In your introductory paragraph you state the subject your report will be about. It is usually done by paraphrasing the information you are given in the task (see example report below). You may also state the main points of your report to make it easier for your reader to navigate through it.

As it was mentioned before, each of your paragraphs should have a separate heading. For body paragraphs each heading will be an aspect of the thing your report is about. For example, if your report is on a local school, your headings could be:

  • Staff. This paragraph will be about the school’s teachers and other personnel
  • Classrooms. Description of school premises and facilities
  • Curriculum. How the teaching process is organised.

The names of your headings don’t have to be that straightforward — you can show some creativity there. Make sure that the meaning of your headings is clear — your reader should understand the content of the paragraph from the heading.

Your conclusion sums up the points mentioned above and provides a general assessment. You can voice your recommendations and suggestions if the task says you to do so.

To help you structure your report you can write out possible headings. A properly structured text is much easier to write and more pleasant to follow. Use your draft paper to write up an outline plan, but do not spend too much time on it — 2-4 minutes are usually enough to come up with a solid heading structure.

CAE Writing Part 2 Report Sample

You have completed your internship at a big company. As a part of your job placement programme you should write a report to your employment counsellor. In your report you should describe the company you worked at, the problems you encountered and propose any additional training you feel is necessary.

For the past three months I had been working for Escom Limited, the biggest law firm in our town. I have participated in real working environment, gained new skills and made acquaintances with people from the industry. In this report I will sum up my experience in this company.

Escom Structure
The company has a well-defined tier system. Being an intern I started at the first tier with everybody except other interns being my superiors. To get used to this strict hierarchy proved to be a serious challenge but eventually I adapted to it. Such system has its merits — as you move up the ranks you get access to more documents, legal tools and get to interact with senior staff. Even though the system has its downsides it is nevertheless very effective and efficient.

The Challenges
As an intern I had to perform a wide array of tasks. I had to interact with the company’s clients, fill in various forms, go through tomes of legal data and sort the mail. Unfortunately some of them had no relation to my field of study whatsoever — oftentimes I would get asked to bring in some take-away food or fix a malfunctioning computer. Some of the tasks proved to be too daunting for me, but overall I think I did just fine.

Improving Myself
Having completed my internship I could finally see my professional shortcomings. There are many things to improve on — first and foremost I have to work on my social skills. I found it difficult to talk to clients that I see for the first time and it is a must to make them feel comfortable. I should also study up on the recent law amendments — at times I found myself unaware of the latest developments in legal proceedings.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay with the company. Even though the system has its downsides it is nevertheless very effective and efficient.

(274 words)

CAE Letter/E-mail

This type of task presents a certain situation that you have to write a reply to. CAE Letter is one of the more diverse type of tasks, as it can vary greatly in content of the letter as well as the required style and register. For example, a letter to your friend is going to be rather informal and its content will be narrative. Conversely, a letter to a manager of a restaurant should stay stylistically formal as well as factual.

Narrative or factual?

The terms “narrative” and “factual” can be a bit confusing – after all, when we talk or write about something, we tell a story (we narrate) and we include facts. That is true indeed, and both styles include elements of one another. In fact, they overlap considerably. However, there is a difference.

Narrative style (Informal letters/e-mails)

Narrative style focuses on the subjective aspect of your writing. It is about making your writing piece more emotionally engaging. It is more appropriate when you want to make the reader interested in what you are writing.

You can use a number of devices to engage your reader. The two most used ones in informal types of CAE Writing are exclamation and question marks. The former makes your message stronger and more emphatic. The latter can be used for a rhetoric question (one that requires no answer) or to make the reader more included in the narrative:

Hey, how have you been? I heard that your last music album was an immediate success. Really great to hear that!

16 thoughts on “CAE Writing”

  1. I appeared on CAE exam last month in part 2 of writing I forget to mention part number in the answer box and I did e-mail part one with full format etc .it will create any problem??

  2. Hello Waqas!
    I believe you shouldn’t feel too worried about it, unless it is not clear from the context of your answer!

  3. There is clearly a mistake on the report section. Instead of the example of the report there are two reviews. Would it be possible to fix it? Thank you very much!

  4. Thanks you, fixed that. We seem to have some text missing here, we will have to look into this at some point 🙂

  5. Hello, in the writing part of the exam, I did not finish my review (I only managed to write an introduction and one paragraph, but my essay was complete). Although, I am confident about other parts of the CAE exam. How does this issue affect my overall score. Does it prevent me from getting the certificate?

    Thank you

  6. Hello, Jessica. You get a choice of 3 different types of writing in Part 2, you can just choose something else. In fact, you might not get a review in the three offered tasks at all. Usually students struggle with reviews as it requires a more specific set of vocabulary, so many choose to skip it and not spend their time on it.

  7. Hello
    I have realized that both my essay and my letter consist of approximately 310 words each. Could it affect my score drastically? Or is it appropriate to put down more than 260 words (310 in my case) if I would like to cover all the points of the task?

  8. Hello, Julia! As per Cambridge CAE Handbook: “Guidelines on length are provided for each task; responses which are too short may not have an adequate range of language and may not provide all the information that is required, while responses which are too long may contain irrelevant content and have a negative effect on the reader. These may affect candidates’ marks on the relevant subscales.”

    In other words, the examiners might see excessive length as poor ability to organise your writing. I would recommend against going over 280 words. Your ability to write concisely and convey a message through fewer words is a skill they expect you to have at CEFR C1 level. I hope this answers your question 🙂

  9. Hello
    I would like to ask you if you think writing an email to a club organiser at your college is supposed to be an informal or a formal email? You know the whole name of the organiser and the note said something like: “You can choose the next 2 movies that we will watch next Tuesday. Tell us your ideas!”
    I wrote an informal letter but I’m not sure if it’s right. Thank you for any answers!

  10. Hey Barbora! Generally, exclamation marks like in “Tell us your ideas!” indicate that it would be informal. Moreover, the general context of the text hint at a more relaxed style, so sticking to informal register is the way to go. Therefore, you have made the right call!

  11. Hello. Unfortunately, I have exceeded the word limit of the writing (a lot). I am worried that they will deduct points. Do you perhaps know how many points or what impact it has? please be detailed. Thank you very much.

  12. Hello Hosi, I am sorry I missed your message at first. Exceeding your word limit considerably can be punished both directly and indirectly. The former way is to see it as inability to express your ideas in a structured and compact way. Indirectly you might get a penalty for all the possible mistakes that come with those extra sentences. It is a part of the four assessment aspects, so at best it accounts for 1/8th of your mark. So unless your general planning and structuring was absolutely terrible (I hope it’s not!) you should not be too worried about this.

  13. Hi,
    I attended the CAE exam just last week. I made a silly mistake in Writing part 2 when I jotted down the wrong number of the assignment (I chose letter and wrote down the number for proposal). Will this somehow affect my scores? Also, I’d like to ask, I was supposed to write a letter to all of my customers telling them about my company (what does it do, what makes it different, benefits for new customers) etc. is formal letter appropriate in this context? Thanks a lot for your answer!

  14. Hey Dionne, hope you’re doing great! To answer the first part of your question – no, it probably won’t affect your mark as it should be evident from the context of your answer which task you chose for the second part. As for using formal register when writing to your customers – yes, you definitely made the right call! Please let me know how it went as soon as you get the results.

  15. Hi! I attended CAE writing exam today and in Part 2 I chose to write a review BUT instead used the report structure, using subtitles ☹️. Also, I didn’t have the time to write a conclusion. Will I receive any points for Part 2?
    Thank you!

  16. Hello Monica! Using titles is not punished directly. You should be fine, provided these titles add cohesion rather than confusion to your writing. You will probably get slightly lower mark for failing to include a conclusion on the grounds that the potential reader will not be “fully informed” (Content criteria). It might also affect your Organisation score. I wouldn’t worry too much about getting zero points as it is never the case with Cambridge exams. Please let us know how it goes when you get your score!

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