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

To be successful in the first task (Transactional Writing), the students need to be sensitive to the differences between genres in terms of formality of language, for instance the sort of salutations that are used in a formal letter as opposed to a message to a friend, and the use (or non-use) of contractions. One basic approach is to prepare and administer awareness raising exercises, where the teacher exposes students to different genres, and gets them to notice characteristic aspects of language, followed by production exercises where students have to produce a piece of writing within that genre. It is also useful to get students to “translate” from genre to genre, for instance giving them a formal letter of complaint and getting them to write an informal letter to a friend from the same (the customer’s) point of view, i.e. using the same content, but different language and style. It is also important with the first task to provide tasks that include textual stimulus, as in the exam, and to specify what should be included in terms of information. In giving feedback and guidance to students, the teacher should get them to pay particular attention to including the relevant information, and following the task as given; a candidate can lose points even on a linguistically strong piece of writing if it does not respond to the task if it is judged weak in terms of its ability to achieve the intended effect on the reader.

For the second task (Discursive Writing), the candidate needs to be able to write in language that is appropriate to an article, a report, a non-transactional letter, a descriptive or narrative composition, or a discursive essay. It is not unusual for a student even at this level to lack awareness of differences between genres, and as a result write a narrative where a description is required, or write an argument in an inappropriately informal style. Practice will clear up many of these understandings, but it is a useful simple task to give students a list of 3-5 topics, and ask them to identify the genre for each; discussion of what is, and isn’t appropriate to write could follow.

The teacher should take time over a course to provide practice in the different genre, so that a student has enough versatility as a writer to allow him or her to choose freely from among the three topics in the exam. At the same time, a candidate should be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, particularly which genre they are more skilled at-- as this will inform their choice of topic in the exam.

In marking students’ writing, it would be helpful to students if the teacher used a marking scheme similar to that used in the exam; the language used is of course important, but students’ attention should be drawn to the importance of understanding the rubric, and to 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.