Saturday, 20 July 2013

How to write an article for an international exam (CPE, CAE, FCE, IELTS,...)

When taking CPE, CAE, FCE, IELTS or any other international examination, you are often asked to write an article. This can be either formal or informal and on a wide variety of topics. There are a number of things you should take into consideration before you write, while you write and after you´ve finished writing...

1. Before you write

Take a minute to read the task(instructions) carefully and decide what to write and in which style.

Ask yourself the following questions

What do I have to write about? (Content/ check task)
Who is the article for? A newspaper, a formal magazine/ a blog...? (To decide on style/check task)
How many paragraphs am I going to write? (Organisation)
What kind of language should I use? (Language/grammar I am expected to use/ check task)

2. While you write

Have into consideration that articles have two main purposes, to inform and to entertain/interest the reader. Ideally after going through your text, your readers should have the feeling that they have learnt something or at least that they have had a good time.

It is always a good idea to start the article with an inviting title and a riveting introduction. Something that makes your public continue reading. It could be a question (that they will only be able to answer after reading the text), or something intended to caputure the reader´s imagination. You are free to be creative when choosing a title but make sure it reflects what the text is about.

As you write remember to stick to your plan, check that you are truly answering the task questions and that you have clear well-organised coherent paragraphs (You shouldn´t start writing about A and end up writing about Z.)

At CAE and CPE level it is also of vital importance to include some advanced examples of the use of grammar as well as lexis (idioms, collocations, sayings.) So instead of saying something like "I had a lot of fun although I don´t normally enjoy jazz concerts" say something like " I had a whale of a time although jazz concerts are not my cup of tea" (idioms: have a whale of a time; not my cup of tea.)

3 After you write

Take your time to proofread. Check for spelling mistakes and see if you have to make any corrections. Make sure that you have used a wide variety of words and if you find one that has been used more than once, replace it for a synonym.

Avoid repetition: Don´t say "I like history programmes, I also like music programmes."
Say: "I´m into history programmes and I also like music Tv shows."

Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I completed the task? (Content)
- Is my article well-organised? (Organisation)
- Have I used a wide range of vocabulary? (Language)
- Have I used different grammar tenses? (Language)
- Is all the article writen in the same style? (Style)
- Is the article interesting enough? (Reader)

Take a look at some examples of articles:

Sample 1
Sample 2
Sample 3

Commonly asked questions:

1. How long should a piece of writing be?
It depends on the international examination. At CPE for example, it is between 250-350. It is important to read the instructions carefully, the expected number of words must be there.

2 What is the difference between an article and an essay?
As I see it, an essay is more academic, usually written for a university/college class. An article is usually for a magazine or a blog, they can be formal or informal, the topics can be serious or trivial, they are intented to inform and also to entertain.

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