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Top Tips for Preparing for the Cambridge PET Writing Questions (Parts 1-3)

Posted on
January 16, 2017
by Atlas Language School

The writing section of the Cambridge PET exam can be one of the more difficult parts, especially if you haven’t done any practice papers or haven’t completed a full B1 Intermediate course. You will need to be familiar with the grammar from the course, know useful words and expressions, and also the have developed an effective way to approach each writing task.

Here are some of the best tips that we highlight in our classes at Atlas. They should help you get good marks in the PET exam.


How to do part 1

It is extremely important that you revise the grammar from a B1 intermediate syllabus to do part 5 well. Of course, there are some grammar topics that will come up more than others, but you need to be prepared for whatever appears.



Generally, the topic of the sentences will always be the same, so that should make it a bit easier. But you will have to transform the sentences so each one has the same meaning as the original. Be very careful as even a spelling mistake will mean you don't get the points. Also make sure to write your answer as clearly as possible.

Have a look at the questions below, taken from the PET Handbook and try to see if you can do them.

Remember, you cannot use more than three words.

1. I asked my new neighbours where they had lived before.
I asked my new neighbours. "Where did _______________ before?"

2. They said their old house was quite near London.
They said their old house wasn't very ________________ London.

3. This house is larger than their old house.

Their old house wasn't as _____________ this house.



4. The kitchen needs painting.

They must get someone to ____________the kitchen.



5. 

We are very lucky that our neighbours are so nice.


We are very lucky to have _____________ nice neighbours.

Give these questions a try and don't look down until you have finished.

____________________________________


So let's give the original sentences and answers a look.

1. I asked my new neighbours where they had lived before.
I asked my new neighbours. "Where did you live before?"

2. They said their old house was quite near London.
They said their old house wasn't very far from London.

3. This house is larger than their old house.

Their old house wasn't as large as this house.



4. The kitchen needs painting.
They must get someone to paint the kitchen.

5. 

We are very lucky that our neighbours are so nice.


We are very lucky to have such nice neighbours.

What changes have taken place?

In 1, we change the sentence from an indirect speech statement in the past perfect to its original direct speech question which uses the past simple.

In 2, the second sentence is using a negative so we need to use the opposite of near....far.

In 3, both sentences are comparing the houses, but the second is a negative so we need to use ...as adjective as....

In 4, the answer can be that simple. You simply need to change the gerund to an infinitive form.

In 5, we need to change the intensifier so to such.

If you had difficulty with the above questions, we strongly recommend that you begin studying a B1 Intermediate course.

How to do part 2

In this part of the test you will have to write a short communicative message of about 35-45 words.

For this you will be tested on your use of functional language. You will also nearly always have to use informal language.

Here is a list of possible functional language that may appear:

  • Suggesting or recommending
  • Giving advice
  • Requesting
  • Apologising
  • Offering
  • Warning

To prepare for this, at Atlas we advise our students to remember chunks of language (words that usually go together) so that they will be prepared for whatever language you will be tested on.

Here is a list that we would recommend.

Language to suggest, give advice and recommend:

Why don’t you …...


You really should …...


If I were you, I would …...


How about ……


Have you thought about …….


Maybe, you could …….


You had better …...

Language to request:

Would it be alright if …...


Could I …...


Would you mind if …….


Do you mind if …...

Language to apologise:

I’m really sorry but …...


I hope you can forgive me but …...


I’d like to apologise for …...

Language to offer:

Shall I …..


Would you like me to ……


Would you like another …….


Can I ……

Language to warn:

Take care on …...


Mind how you go …...


Look out for ……


Watch out for …...

How to do part 3

For the final part you will be asked to write either an informal letter or a story. Choose only one of these. You will have to write around 100 words. The functional language from the previous section may be useful for this part too.

Once again, here is a list of set phrases that you can use to help you with you can use for each part.

An informal letter….

Starting your letter (Paragraph 1):

Thanks for your letter.


Lovely to hear from you.


How are you?


How are things?


Hope you're well.

Commenting on something (Paragraph 1):

I'm sorry to hear/learn ...


I'm so pleased to hear ...


It's great to hear ...


What wonderful news about ...

Moving the topic on (Paragraph 2):

Anyway, the reason I'm writing ...


I thought I'd write to tell/ask you ...


Anyway, I was wondering ...

Ending your letter (Paragraph 3):

Well, that's all for now


Write back soon


Looking forward to hearing from you again


All the best


Best wishes


See you soon


Take care


Yours


Love


Lots of love

This list is taken from the generally very usful Flo-Joe website: 
http://www.flo-joe.com/preliminaryenglish/writing/phrases-for-informal-letters.htm



A story….

To write a story, you will need to use a variety of time clauses to help take the story from start to finish.  Here is an exercise taken from Random Idea English blogspot that can help you see how they can be used in a sentence.

PET-writing-exercise.png

To find the answers go to this page:

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http://random-idea-english.blogspot.ie/2012/11/time-clauses.html



As you can see from the examples above, when you write a story in the past you will need to use a variety of tenses. You will especially need to use tenses that express things that happened in the past. And you’ll need to show that you can use a good range of these tenses.



Past simple.


I lived in an enormous house in the country.



Past continuous and past simple.


I was playing video games alone when I heard a crash outside.



Past Perfect.


I had already finished before he arrived.



How to improve your PET writings on your own

It can be very difficult to improve your PET writings by yourself. But there are some really useful websites that can help you. The Cambridge Write and Improve website is one really good that we’ve started to recommend.


https://writeandimprove.com/workbooks#/wi-workbooks



The Beginner options should really help you improve your writings.

So, heads down, develop a study plan and get practising! The more you practise, the better you’ll get.

If you need help improving your English and getting prepared for an exam please don't hesitatet to contact us, we are happy to help!

Contact Us



For more tips on the Cambridge PET Speaking Exam, Reading questions or Listening Exam click the links below:

 

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