Cambridge PET Writing Exam Guide

Summer exam dates are coming up and students should be getting prepared for whatever might be thrown at them. Following on from my recent post on how to prepare for the reading exam (see below for link). I have also put together this guide for the writing exam!

Cambridge PET Reading Exam Guide

The writing exam makes up 25% of the overall score and is taken at the same time as the reading exam. Which means that those 90 minutes are worth 50% of their mark for the certificate, for which they need 70% to pass.

Writing Part 1

  • 5 questions
  • One mark for each correct answer
  • 5 sentences along with 5 incomplete ones that students must complete to have the same meaning as the first.

While this section may look easy to us natives, students tend to have a lot of problems with it. Whether it’s that they don’t understand the sentence, they don’t know how to replicate the meaning, or just because they don’t read the question properly. Have a look at an example.

I asked my teacher to lend me a pencil.

I asked my teacher if I could __________ a pencil.

There is no multiple choice, candidates much identify the structure being tested on their own. Here, its testing the difference between ‘Borrow’ and ‘Lend’. Remember that both verbs describe the same action from different points of view.

The way to prepare for this part is practice, practice, practice. If you are confident that you have, throughout the course, explained the grammar properly and that they understand it. It’s a case of dedicating time in class to going through them together and making sure that they don’t make any silly mistakes.

Have a look at my worksheet with lots of example questions separated by category – Cambridge PET Writing Part 1 Practice

Writing Part 2

This part is very very easy.

  • Writing a short, informative note
  • 5 points for a full and correct answer

Have a look at an example question;

Your friend Sarah has invited you to the cinema, but you can’t go. Write a note to Sarah explaining, in your note you should;

  • Apologise for not being able to go
  • Explain why you won’t be able to go
  • Invite Sarah to go out with you another day

Write your note, using 35 – 45 words.

PET short note

The above example would get top marks because it includes all three of the given messages and despite some mistakes, is clearly understandable and keeps to the word limit.

Just remember these points;

  • They must write between 35 and 45 words
  • They must include all of the given notes
  • They must address the note with a name and sign off with one
  • They must write so that the examiner can understand, beyond that any grammar or vocabulary mistakes are not a problem.

Identify what the note wants you to do and give your students some fixed phrases for each possible outcome;


I’m sorry, I regret to…., forgive me.


You should, you must, I think a good idea is….


Did you know that…, Let me tell you, Guess what happened..


Why?, Can you tell me…, I need to know…


How about…., why not……, we could…..

Use some of these examples and add your own for other situations!

Writing Part 3

A little trickier!

  • A longer, more structured, letter to a friend
  • 15 points
  • 100 Words

First of all, when students arrive at the writing exam, they should always do this section first. The ideal order is this;

  1. Part 3, as this is worth the most points and if they run out of time, it’s better to have this one done.
  2. Part 2, because this is the easiest
  3. Part 1, because it’s the most difficult

Fixed Expressions

  • It was great to hear from you (Beginning)
  • I look forward to hearing from you (End)
  • I wanted to let you know…..
  • Guess what!
  • Anyway…
  • I have something to tell you!
  • I hope you’re well
  • Drop me a line soon
  • Keep in touch

Things to include for top marks

  • A Conditional (1st or 2nd are the ones they need to know for PET)
  • A modal verb, included in the conditional if they wish
  • Advice
  • Comparison / Superlatives
  • 3+ verb tenses
  • Adverb of frequency (Any adverb that makes sense really)
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Expressions (See above)

And obviously, they should answer the question.

It can be difficult to include all of these things in a letter of only 100 words, so make sure that students practice a lot to they can squeeze in as many as possible.

Remember! Students must always include the name of the person they are writing to (Invent a name if none is given!) and their own name at the end.

Did you find this helpful? Let me know in the comments!


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