The Academic Writing Exam

There are 2 Tasks in the writing exam and you have an hour. In this time you need to plan, write and check your work.

Timing is very important. It is better to increase the time spent on planning, and reduce the time spent on writing and checking.  If your writing is well planned, you should be able to write quickly without having to stop to think, and there should be fewer problems to correct.

Word count is also important. You need to write at least 150 words for Task 1 and 250 words for Task 2. You are penalised if you write less than the required number of words. If you write a lot more  words, the examiner will not assess them all. You could be spending too much time writing and not enough time planning. The quality of your writing will probably suffer, as you may not be answering the question, and you may have less time to check your writing at the end. Again this is linked to the reality of academic life, as at university you will need to reach certain word counts in your essays and you need to check carefully that you don’t write too much or too little.

Planning is essential. Read the task and underline the key words. Key words helps you to identify exactly what it is that the examiners want you to write about. If you plan carefully then you can avoid  repeating the same ideas in your essay.

Some pointers for Task 1

This task can be very hard as there may be several charts or graphs and you need to think quickly and provide an interpretation of trends and also try and show a range of vocab and structures.

If you do write an introduction, it must not repeat what is written in the task instructions. The examiner will ignore this kind of information.
It is important to show that you understand the function of paragraphs, so try to find an appropriate way to divide your answer into at least two paragraphs.
If you are given more than one graph or chart, check carefully to see whether you should be writing about them together or separately. You may need to compare them, but usually they provide different types of information, so should be written about separately.
Do not make any assumptions about information that is not given in the diagrams/charts. Do not attempt to explain the information using your general knowledge.

Some pointers for Task 2

This task is more familiar, but you must often read and breakdown a long question. Topics range from congestion in cities to opinions on tourism and disabled people. You need to give an opinion and give reasons, or make suggestions about how to solve a problem and say how. You need an introduction, clearly divided paragraphs and a conclusion.

You must be sure that you answer the question. This means responding to the task rubric by establishing if you need to provide solutions to a problem or showing to what extent you agree with something. This also means understanding the content of the question and responding appropriately.
Your opinion should be clear in the introduction and backed up by in the body of the essay.
The ideas in your paragraphs need to be supported by examples
You need to leave some time at the end to go back through your essay and check for simple grammar slips. These can create a negative impression on the examiner.

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