How To Write A Proficiency Essay

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This is a lesson plan to help prepare students for part 1 of the CPE writing exam, in which students are required to write a formal essay which summarises and evaluates two other texts.

Here is my step-by-step guide to approaching the task:

Download the class handout here:

CPE writing essay 2nd plan

Step 1 – Text analysis

  • Read both texts and decide if they are complementary or contrasting.
  • Underline the two key content points in each text.

Step 2 – Paraphrasing and summarising

  • Brainstorm different ways to paraphrase and summarise the key points.
  • What impressive structures can you use? Inversions, passives, collocations, expressions.

Step 3 – Evaluate and react

  • Decide which points you agree and disagree with.
  • Brainstorm your own thoughts and experiences on the subject.

Summarise, evaluate, react.

Introduction

Present the topic of discussion and ask questions the essay will answer.

Hardly a week goes by without another report of …………….. appearing in the media.

Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ……………

The trend nowadays is towards (gerund)

How has the public’s opinion on this issue shifted over the last few years?

Although most people would generally agree that …………… few would deny that …………….

This raises the issue of whether or not……………..

This issue strikes a chord with the vast majority of the general public.

What impact, if any, have these shifts/changes/developments had on the general public’s psyche?

How are we to gauge the effect of such shifts/changes/developments?

Finish your introduction with the following sentence:

Both (1) extracts (2) discuss the nature of these (3) notions, but from different (4) viewpoints.

synonyms for text – extract passage

discuss/evaluate/explore

notions/concepts/ideas

viewpoints/perspectives/points of view

Paragraph 1 – Text 1

The first (1)text (2)argues that………

(1)extract/passage

(2)suggests/puts forward the idea that/asserts

Try and sum up the first point neatly with an inversion:

Seldom does the airplane make the top 5, let alone the top spot when the lists of the so-called most influential inventions are drawn up.

Not since…. Only when….. Not until….Not only…. But also, No sooner… than
Seldom/rarely……..Barely/scarcely/hardly……… when

Paragraph structure:

Option 1
  • Introduce content point 1 (paraphrased)
  • Evaluate and react. (your opinion)
  • Introduce content point 2
  • Evaluate and react. (your opinion)

Option 2

  • Summarise both content points
  • Own evaluations and reaction.

Stating opinion

Stating your opinion

As I see it,

It seems to me that ………… I would also say that ….

I am convinced that ……………

I am inclined to believe that ………………

There is no doubt in my mind that ………………

One of the drawbacks of ……. is ……….

However, one of the benefits is that …………

EMPHASIZING

I would like to stress that the research is still at an early stage.

It should be noted that there are a number of alternative methods available.

It is worth bearing in mind that 90% of the scientists researching herbicides in the US are employed by chemical companies.

CAUSE

-lead to: The research could lead to a cure for many serious illnesses.

-result in: The fire resulted in damage to their property.

-be responsible for: He was responsible for the accident.

-bring about: The war brought about enormous social change.

-give rise to: Poor performance in exams can give rise to depression and even thoughts of suicide.

-trigger: to make something suddenly start to happen, especially a bad situation such as a crisis or a war, or a medical condition: Certain foods can trigger allergies.

-contribute to: Passive smoking could contribute to the development of respiratory diseases among nonsmokers.

-factor: Cost is often the deciding factor when choosing any product.

Describing causes

One factor which has led to ………… is …………..

One of the factors which has brought this about is ………

The problem often stems from ………………..

The situation has been exacerbated by …………….

………….. has only made the situation worse.

One consequence of ……………. is …………….

Concluding

All in all it seems to me that ………..

The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that …………………..

All things considered, ………….

On balance, I tend to believe that …………

The world would surely be a better place to live in if …………..

If people stopped ….ing, we would have/ we could look forward to a ……………

The prospects for the future will be bleak/grim unless ……………….

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Related

When taking CPE, CAE, FCE, IELTS or any other international examination, you are often asked to write an essay.

Essays are formal documents and therefore must be written in a formal style. They are based on discussions on very serious topics such as the economy of a country or the environment. 

In the Cambridge CPE writing exam you are given two pieces of text with information on a topic and then asked to write an essay summarising the most important information in the texts. (See an essay sample )

In the CAE exam you are given a task which is usually something like "you've had a class discussion on Global Warming (or any other serious topic), write an essay giving your opinion on the following statement..." (See an essay sample)

There are a number of things you should take into consideration before you write, while you write and after you write an essay:


1. Types of essay


Take into consideration that there are two main types of

essays: Discursive essays and Opinions essays.


In a Discursive Essay you introduce the topic in the first

paragraph. Then present arguments for in the second

paragraph, arguments against in the third and a conclusion in

the forth.

In an Opinion Essay you give you opinion in the first

paragraph and in the paragraphs that follow you support that

opinion with ideas and examples.

"A discursive ( or for and against ) essay is different from an opinion essay. In an opinion essay, the writer starts out stating his/her opinion; in a discursive essay, the writer gives a balanced view and in the conclusion can either state his/her opinion or give a summary of both sides of the argument." Source: "Speak Out" by Eales Frances and Oakes S.



2. Useful language for essays 


Here there are some useful phrases you can use:

Sentence openers :

-          The first text suggests that…..

-          
The second text raises the issue of …..

-          The writer is of the opinion that….

-          Additionally, it is ragued that…..

-          The two texts contrast differing views of…..

-          According to the first passage…….

-          Personaly, i …………….

-          The second text put forward……

-          I believe that………

-          In conclusuon , it is my opinion that……

Linking points and arguments

-          As opposed to

-          In the sense that…..

-          For this reason……..

Making generalisations :

-          On the whole….

-          In general…..

-          For the most part….

-          As a rule……

-          It is often that….

-          It is usually the case that…..

-          People to regard…..

-          The reality is that…..

Being specific:

-          With respect to...

-          In the case of...

-          As regards...

-          In terms of….

-          With the exception of…..

-          From the ….. point of view….

-          They are seen as…..

-          As far as ……are / is concerned……

Raising an argument:

-          Considering…..

-          On the question of….

-          No one would dispute…….

Giving one side:

-          One argument in favour of this is ….

-          In support of…..

-          It is true that……

Giving the other side:

-          At the same time….

-          In actual fact…..

-          On the other hand….

-          In contrast to….

-          Set/ weighed against this is…..

Attitude :

-          Personally...

-          Unfortunately...

-          Obviously...

-          Evidently...

-          Presumably...

-          Naturally...

-          fortunately..

Quantity:

-          a great deal of...

-          to some / a large extent...

-          a large number of….



3 F.A.Q: What´s the difference between an article and an essay?

(Click to read origial post)

We asked 6 CPEs (people who have successfully passed the Cambridge Proficiency in English exam) and this is what they said to us:



CPE1: "An article is a piece of writing where a topic, either serious or light-hearted, is tackled from a personal point of view, including personal experience or arguments. Its purpose is generally to both inform and entertain. On the other hand, an essay is a piece of writing tending towards the academic: the topic in discussion is of a more serious nature and the writer is expected to provide an idea plus the arguments that discuss it. In doing so, they will have to refer to specific points about the issue in question and will generally have to use more precise language."

CPE2: "Article, informative, based on facts. Essay, develops an argument, involves opinions (so does a for an against article, oops!)."





CPE3: "As far as I´m concerned essays are more academic, you need to analyse both sides of the topic, and provide arguments to back you up, whereas articles are somehow more flexible and can have a more neutral tone."

CPE4: "I think an essay develops arguments and has always your opinion. An article gives information, although sometimes you can write your opinion."

CPE5: "As far as I know, an article is a piece of writing in which the writer chooses a topic and develops it giving his/her own opinion throughout the text. The language used can be fun and eye-catching as usually an article is meant to get as many readers as possible. An essay, on the other hand, is a rather formal piece of writing with a usually 4-5 paragraph structure, where usually the last paragraph carries the writer´s opinion."

CPE6: "Well, I think an essay is normally more academic and analytical, when the writer supports his views usually has to make reference to factual information and other people's or authors' views and findings. An article is basically aimed to inform or entertain the reader, it can be formal or informal depending on the topic and publication it appears whereas an essay is rarely informal. An article is published mainly in magazines or newspapers, for example a school´s newspaper, while an essay is normally a university assignment. Some essays might be of more than three pages, but for international exams we have to keep them short. The tone of an essay is generally serious, compared to the one of an article which might sound more relaxed and include some humour. I hope I have contributed with something."

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