Writing in the Exam – Recipes for Success

Presented at FECEI, Greta, and ACEIA Sevilla in 2018

This workshop was the culmination of many years’ work at ELA, Úbeda to develop a method for teaching writing skills and improve students’ performance in the writing paper of their Cambridge Assessment English test.

My assumption is that when the majority of students get to the end of the first unit of their B2 coursebook and face their first writing task (usually an essay or an email), they switch off. Writing long texts is not something most of them are used to or enjoy, and the style of writing required in an English exam is often very different to what they’re used to doing in School.

Traditionally in language teaching the response to these issues has been to send writing home as a homework assignment, although perhaps this has/had as much to do with the teacher’s own lack of confidence, interest, or value in writing as it does with the students’ lack of interest in it. Nowadays teachers will often prepare students for writing tasks in class, but still the writing happens at home. I think this is something we need to challenge. Writing is a crucial communicative skill.

The chances are, especially if you’re a millennial like me, that you’ve spent a good proportion of the last 24 hours reading and writing texts. It’s no longer the case that spoken English is king; indeed, publishers of dictionaries and grammars now value corpora of written English equally to spoken English. There’s a lot to be said, therefore, for teaching writing as a core communicative skill.

Besides that, it’s at least 20% of the mark of a Cambridge or Trinity exam, and therefore students need to be able to do it. But if we can teach it well enough, and get the students feeling confident enough about it, we can send them into their exam knowing that they’re going to ace what used to be the most difficult part of the test.

I have turned this workshop into a full teaching guide, which you’ll find in the menu bar above, or by clicking this delicious-looking burger.

I hope to start presenting a second ‘edition’ of this workshop in 2021, focusing on teaching A2 and B1 writing for the new 2020 exams, and allowing for the change in teaching methodology and style brought about by Covid-19.