Skills tested

Transactional Writing

The task is to write a 100 - 120 word transactional formal or semi-formal letter or email using the information provided

writing in the genre of a semi-formal or formal transactional letter

Discursive Writing

The task is to write a 150-word text within the genre specified (topic is from a choice of 3)

writing in any of the following genres: discursive essay, article, report, non-transactional letter


Preparing Students for the Writing Test

Both parts of the writing test at level B1 focus on useful, everyday types of writing. For the first task, the teacher needs to obtain forms that are used in a variety of contexts (applying for school/camp/a book club; questionnaires about learning English, consumer preference; feedback on English lessons, or service in a restaurant). In filling out the forms, common misunderstandings may arise in terms of what information is requested, and how much to write. The teacher should help students recognise the source of their misunderstandings so that they will be aware of pitfalls; as part of this task requires full sentences, usually focusing on expressing basic information about oneself, the teacher can administer simple question and answer tasks on common personal topics (see the topic list elsewhere in this booklet).

The second task is normally an informal letter, and students need to be aware of conventions regarding appropriate layout, paragraphing, salutations, and the use of contractions. Keeping a learner diary, especially one which is carried out as correspondence with the teacher, is a useful way of providing ongoing practice and feedback on the relevant points.

At level B2 students might need help in raising their awareness of different transactional and discursive genres, formality and register differences.

In marking students’ more extensive writing (of the kind that is tested on Task 2), it would be helpful to students if the teacher used a marking scheme similar to that used on the exam. The language used is of course important, but students’ attention should be drawn to the importance of understanding the rubric, and of including all of the information requested. It is not unusual that a good piece of writing loses valuable points simply because it does not fully or directly answer the rubric. It is also important to arrange the ideas into a logical order, to divide the piece of writing into well-organised paragraphs, to use appropriate cohesive devices, and to choose the relevant range and register.