Monday, October 31, 2011

Writing an Article 3

In Paper 2, Part 2 you may have the option of writing an article in which you write about the advantages and disadvantages of something, the arguments for and against something, or in which you write your opinion about a subject.

Look at this question.

You have been asked to write an article for a student newspaper on the following topic:

Has television improved in your country over the last ten years?

Write your article, saying what most people think and giving your own point of view.

To answer this question well, you need to plan your article carefully, like this:

  • underline key words in the instructions.
  • Think of arguments for and against.
  • Write a plan. A good plan for this question might look like this:

Introduction: question as a statement; two points of view

Paragraph 1: describe a situation – more channels than before.

Paragraph 2: more choice; entertainment mainly

Paragraph 3: not educational; fewer documentaries; fewer cultural programmes

Conclusion: what most people think; what I think.

Then write your article and check it carefully.

The following phrases may be useful in writing this type of article:

Many people think that …. . However, there are people who think that ….
A few years ago …..   Nowadays, on the other hand, …..
It is therefore certainly true that …..
It is worth remembering however, that ….
Furthermore, it must be admitted that …..
On balance, therefore I think that …..

Now write your article. Ask the Study Centre monitor for help if you need it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Transactional Letter 3

Remember that Part 1 of Paper 2 is compulsory. There is only one question -  a formal or an informal letter.

Look at the question below.

You were travelling by train recently and left something that belongs to you on the train. Write a letter to the lost property officer enquiring about the thing you lost. Use these notes in your letter. Do not write any addresses.

-       date of journey
-       destination and departure time
-       description of object

Do's and Don'ts


  • question tags
  • contractions
  • linkers like well, anyway, by the way
  • All the best or Love from Alex at the end of your letter


  • begin the letter with either Dear Sir / Madam or Mr / Ms/ Dr + the person’s surname
  • use formal language, eg I look forward to receiving your reply
  • end the letter with Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely
  • sign your letter with your full name


  • explain why you are writing
  • say what you lost and when, describe it
  • ask how you can get it back
  • thank the recipient of the letter in advance

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Writing an Article 2

Look at this question:

A local English language newspaper has asked students to write articles expressing their opinion about this question:

Should students do part-time work?

Write your article for the newspaper.

Don't forget that planning helps you organize your thoughts and ideas and stay focused on the topic.

Decide on your stance (what is your opinion) then think of arguments, at least three, that support that opinion. 

·         Important and useful to have work experience
·         Learn to appreciate the value of money
·         Come into contact with other people, not just other students

 Decide on the order and organization, how many paragpraphs would you  need, etc. 

Linking words of sequence would be useful here:

First of all       Firstly             In the first place

Secondly       In the second place


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Letter of Application

Look at the following job advertisement:

Trading and Commercial Bank
         Trainee Managers
We will be recruiting trainee managers to start work
In late June or early July in our branches all over
Europe. Applicants should have a degree in an
appropriate area and a knowledge of English and/or
German. Apply in writing to:
The Personnel Officer
Trading and Commercial Bank
134 Collins Street

1. Rearrange the sentences and put them in the correct order.

Dear Sir / Madam,

I can be contacted by telephone on 01202 452234 in the mornings or at the above address.  __

I have a working knowledge of German and have recently passed the University of Cambridge First Certificate in English examination.  __

I look forward to receiving your reply.  __

I am writing in reply to your advertisement in last Tuesday’s Evening News.  __

I will also complete a degree in Banking and Finance in June and will be available for work immediately afterwards.  __

I would like to apply for one of the trainee manager positions you advertise.  __

Yours faithfully
Juan de Souza

This type of letter relies on fixed, standard expressions. 

2. Look at the following task:

You see the following advertisement in the newspaper. Write a letter applying for one of these positions and asking for more details about the discounts. Do not write any addresses.

Trainee Travel Agents
We are looking for students who are interested in
training to become travel agents. To join our training
scheme you must have a knowledge of English and
an interest in travelling. These positions are unpaid,
but you will receive large discounts on all our organised
tours and holidays.
Write to: Maria Sampras
               Via Ardipane
               Rome 04100

Underline the key words in the instructions. Think about the form of your letter. Will it begin and end in the same way as the previous letter?

Plan your letter. Follow the order of the previous letter. Remember to ask for more information about the discounts. You will also need to give some evidence for your knowledge of English and your interest in travelling. You may also want to ask about the possibilities of work at the end of the training period.

Useful language:

I am very interested in joining your training scheme.
I have loved travelling since I was a small child.
I have visited many countries in Europe.
I studied English for eight years at school.
I am currently attending a course to prepare for the First Certificate examination.
Could you please give me some more information about the discounts you offer?
Your advertisement mentions discounts, and I would be grateful if you could tell me … 
Could you give me some indication about the possibility of finding a job on completion of the course?

Now write your letter.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writing a Report 1

You work in a language school helping to organise excursions and trips for students. The school director has asked to prepare a report on a museum in your area.

Write your report in 120-180 words describing the museum and what it has to offer students of English as a foreign language. Mention both good and bad points in your report.

1. Planning:

·        Jot down the negative and positive points about the place, keep in mind students of English.

·         Use linking expressions to contrast the negative and positive aspects.

despite / in spite of                                       but
although / even though                              On the other hand

·         Group your ideas into numbered paragraphs, with sub-headings:

1.    Introduction

2.    Price

3.    Interest

4.    Language

5.    Conclusion

Give your report a clear title, i.e., Report on the Seals Museum, La Spezia

To: School Director

From: Excursions officer

Useful phrases:

I visited the Seals Museum last week in order to decide if it would be an interesting place for students to visit.
I will comment on the following: price, interest, language
The entrance fee to the museum is …
There is a reduction for students.
Students pay half-price on Wednesdays.
There are many interesting exhibits on display.
The Egyptian section was closed on the day I visited.
I especially liked the …
I found the …. especially interesting.
I think students will appreciate the ….
Most students will find the …. of interest.
A guidebook in English is available.
The guidebook is rather expensive.
It contains some beautiful colour photographs.
The guides are helpful.
The guides don’t speak English.
There is an audio commentary in English.
It wasn’t working on the day of my visit.
In my opinion ….
To conclude, I think that ….
I am therefore of the opinion that ….

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing an Article 1

Look at this question.

You have been asked to write an article for an English language newspaper aimed at parents with young children. Your article should be a response to the following statement:

Foreign languages should be taught at nursery school level.

We have already mentioned the importance of planning in previous posts. Organize your thoughts and ideas by carefully planning. Jot down some FOR and AGAINST ideas. It doesn't have to be a full sentence, just notes to help you stay focused.  Think of arguments that support each idea. 

This is what your article should look like: 

Plan A (if you have fewer points to make)

  • Introduction: my opinion
  • Paragraph 1: one point  for the statement; argument against this point.
  • Paragraph 2: another point  for the statement; argument against this point
  • Conclusion: state my opinion again.

Plan B (if you have more than two points for / against )

  • Introduction: my opinion.
  • Paragraph 1: arguments in favour of the statement.
  • Paragraph 2: arguments against the statement.
  • Conclusion: state opinion again.

Useful phrases to remember:

These days, many people say that ….
Nowadays, we often hear people say that …..
In the last few years it has become fashionable to say that ….
The question of whether very young children should be taught a foreign language is one which is often discussed these days.
There are several arguments which can be made in favour of the statement.
Opponents of this view argue that ….
Another argument which is often put forward is that …
In support of this view it may be said that …..
On the other hand, it can also be argued that …
In my opinion, ….
It is often suggested that ….
I agree up to a point that ….
Another argument against teaching very young children a foreign language is that …
This is true to a certain extent, but ….
There is a certain amount of truth in this argument, but …
I cannot agree with this viewpoint, since …
In conclusion, I have to say that …
On balance, therefore, I feel that ….

Friday, October 21, 2011

Transactional Letter 2

Look at the following task. Are you asked to write a formal or an informal letter?

Look at the advertisement and the notes you have made below it. Then write a letter of between 120 and 150 words in an appropriate style asking for more information covering the points in your notes. Do not write any addresses.

for water-sports club. Water-skiing, scuba diving, jet ski, windsurfing! You name it – if it’s a water sport we offer instruction and facilities for it. Plenty of opportunities to practise your chosen sport with other enthusiasts at Club Aquarius! For your membership application form write to:
The Secretary
Club Aquarius
PO Box 312
Sussex, SU3 5JT

-       membership fee?
-       Annual or monthly payment?
-       Use of facilities free to members?
-       Sports not mentioned in advertisement?


1. Read the instructions carefully and make sure you understand the key points you have to cover. Underline key words and expressions from the instructions.

2. Think of how you can ask questions about the points mentioned without using the exact same words and at the same time show off your language skills.

3. Decide on the organization of your letter. Which of the questions can go in the same paragraph (i.e., refer to similar issues)? 

4. Make sure you use linking words, such as firstly, also, as well as this, finally when you write your letter.

5. Finally, make sure there are no grammar and spelling mistakes.

Useful expressions:

I saw your advertisement in this week’s “Daily Post”.
I am interested in becoming a member of “Club Aquarius”.
There are a few points which I would be grateful if you could clarify.
How much does the club cost to join?
Could you give me information regarding membership fees?
Is the membership fee payable monthly or annually?
Are members subject to additional charges?
Is the use of the facilities free to members?
Does the club offer other sports in addition to those mentioned in the advertisement?
I would also be grateful if you could tell me more about the kind of sports on offer.
Thank you very much for your help.                                                                                                
I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Now write your letter in about 150 words. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Transactional Letter 1

 In Part 1 of Paper 2 of FCE you are usually asked to write a letter asking for or giving information. This task is compulsory. 

1. Register.

The first thing you have to decide is whether the letter is formal (to someone you do not know very well or do not know at all; i.e., to an organization) or informal (to a friend or family). 

Which of the phrases below are formal (F) and which are informal (I)?

1. Dear Sir / Madam  __

2. Love,
     Elena  __

3. See you next week! I can hardly wait!  __

4. I look forward to receiving your reply.  __

5. Yours faithfully,
     Ana Garcia Herrera  __

6. I am writing in reply to your letter of 15 May.  __

7. Give my love to your parents.  __

8. Should you require any further information, do not hesitate to contact us at the above address.  __

9. Write back soon and tell me all your news.  __

10. I’m sorry I haven’t written for such a long time, but I’ve been really busy.

11. I would be most grateful if you could send me any further relevant information.  __

Building up a stock of fixed phrases and expressions will help you sound more natural. Avoid translating from your own language into English. 
Look at the task below and decide what is your letter supposed to be, formal or informal?

Some young people you met last summer are planning to visit your country on holiday and have asked you to suggest some places of interest to see. Write a letter of reply using the notes below.

- when?      - how long?   - come and stay?

2. Planning
Planning may sound like a waste of time but it's not! It helps you stay focused and organize your thoughts. You are expected to divide the letter into clearly marked, three or four, paragraphs.

Look at the following plan and number the point in a logical order from 1 to 7.

Apologise for not writing sooner.  __
Thank them for their letter.  __
Ask when they will be coming.  __
Tell them to write again.  __
Invite them to stay for a few days.  __
Suggest places to visit and things to do. __
Say why you haven’t replied sooner.  __

Think of ways to extend your ideas adequately: give a reason for not replying; possible ideas of spending their time - activities, entertainment; best time of year to visit.

Useful phrases to remember:

Thank you for your letter.
It was great to hear from you.
Sorry I haven’t written back for so long.
Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply.
I’ve been really busy recently.
I’ve been working really hard.
I’ve been studying like mad for my final exams.
I’m really pleased you’re coming to Italy.
It’s great that you’re coming here soon.
When exactly will you be coming?
Do you know when you’re coming?
When are you going to be here?
Why don’t you come and stay with me for a few days?
I’d love to put you up for a few days.
Would you like to stay with me for a few days?
You could visit Lerici and Portovenere.
The Cinque Terre are well worth a visit.
I’m sure you’d really love the Museo Lia.
You can swim and sunbathe on the sandy beaches.
We could go for walks in the countryside together.
Write back soon and tell me your plans.
Write and tell me exactly when you are planning to come.

Now write your letter in about 150 words.