Essay Writing For The Cambridge CAE

In my opinion, the writing test (in whichever level it happens to be) is on of the sections that should help boost others in which the students don’t do so well. Given that Use of English and Listening can be a little more unpredictable, the writing offers a chance to gain back some ground where points are concerned. As such, the essay is very important. Since the structure and the general idea of the essay doesn’t change, there will be little margin for error and they can learn how to smash Writing Part 1 with you in class. Have a look at my quick guide….


The student is required to write a discursive essay based on two of three possible options. They must choose which of the options is more important in relation to the essay question and give reasons for their choice.

You have read a newspaper article which suggests that shopping online is more convenient than going to a shopping centre. Write an essay considering two of the following options.

  1. Cost
  2. Variety
  3. Enjoyment

Some of the opinions expressed in the article;

“Shopping online is less of a social experience for many shoppers”

“Conventional shopping centres offer less variety for people with different tastes”

“Shopping online can be cheaper than most retail locations which have more overheads to pay”

In this case, students have to consider two of the three notes given when writing, and decide which one is the most important factor when choosing which method of shopping is the most convenient.

They are also welcome, but not obligated, to use any of the opinions expressed. Making sure to use their own words as far as possible.


CAE Essay Structure

Structure 1

In the first option on the left, students can effectively use contrast to talk about the advantages of both of their chosen options in one paragraph, and then in the second the disadvantages.

Structure 2

On the right you can see that instead of developing contrast in their paragraphs in the same way as in the first, students can develop their ideas about each option separately and come to a reasoned conclusion at the end.


  • Should outline the subject of the essay.
  • Should mention which two points are going to be discussed
  • Should provide some background on the topic

Useful things to include;

  • Rhetorical questions
  • Introduction techniques
  • Passive voice


  • Should sum up the essay
  • Must detail the candidates opinion and give reasons for it

Useful things to include;

  • Linking expressions
  • Ways to give opinion (‘The way I see it’, ‘As far as I am concerned’, etc..)

Want to see an example essay with examiner style comments and marks? Follow this link.. CAE Example Essay With Examiner Comments


Candidates are marked according to four areas.

1. Content

Students must ensure that their target audience is fully informed and that all of the content is relevant to the question they have been given. If there are any inconsistencies or irrelevant points in the essay, they will be penalised for it.

2. Communicative Achievement

They must be aware of the purpose of the writing. They should not use the same layout for the essay as for the letter or other types of writing. They should use appropriate tone, register, and style to communicate. That means a formal tone with no use of phrasal verbs, contractions, expressions or abbreviations. The essay must hold the readers attention and allow them to understand the meaning without being distracted by things which are irrelevant.

3. Organisation

Students should be carefully trained to write a coherent and well organised essay that includes cohesive devices and organisational patterns such as rhetorical questions to set up new paragraphs, sentences arranged in some sort of climactic order and linking words (a type of cohesive device) to prevent the reader becoming bored or distracted.

4. Language

For top marks, candidates are expected to make use of a wide range of vocabulary including less common devices and lexis. They should also make use of advanced grammatical structures such as passive voice, adverbial and noun clauses, verb patterns, modal forms and subordination.

Relevant Skills

The following is a list of grammar points to review before teaching the essay, and examples of the essay with examiners comments.

Any more questions about the CAE Writing paper? Let me know in the comment section!



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