Take every essay assignment as a golden opportunity to start training for exam day
I have hardly seen any students rejoice at the idea of writing an essay task for homework but here is the key to achieving that level of confidence you are aiming at. If you are consistent in dedicating time to writing periodically before exam day, you will get there with, admittedly, considerable effort, but also with the guarantee that the essay will not be a problem for you.
Consider which category you are in:
- If you are new to writing essays, use every tool you need to learn how to do it well. Namely: textbooks, blogs, reference books, dictionary, etc. Do this until you feel you know the ropes. Then, move on to step 2.
- If you have the knowledge but lack the experience, treat every essay written task your teacher gives you (or you set for yourself) as a real exam activity. In other words, when you get down to work, create (so to speak) exam conditions.
What you will need:
- An empty room where you can isolate yourself in complete silence.
- The task, your pencil case, paper, scrap paper and a timer (if it is your mobile, on silence mode).
- 45 minutes with no interruptions (tell everyone at home).
Get informed about the topics
Broadly speaking, the topics presented in this task require some level of knowledge and the development of ideas that you may or may not necessarily have thought about before. Or perhaps, not in detail. However, if you do not encounter any problems in this regard, skip this tip and move on to the next one.
While it is true that they give you some prompts that may serve as a guide, you will still have to generate your own ideas, and the more genuine they are, the more interesting and readable the text will be.
This is why I recommend that you become acquainted with some background information about the subjects that may come up.
In order to do so, you can:
- read related articles
- do some research on how things work in your local community
- bring up some of these topics and have a debate with a friend who might also be into it
- create vocabulary lists with key language.
Here is a list of topics that can serve you as a guide for your in-depth topic-based learning:
LIST OF 12 EXAM TASK TOPICS
(Based on Past Papers and Ready for Advanced 3rd edition)
- Ways of encouraging young people to study science:
- advertising/school programmes/government grants.
- Factors contributing to the increase in international travel:
- methods of transport/global business/media.
- Ways of motivating children to do regular exercise:
- parental example/government funding/school.
- Ideas for influencing people to be more environmentally friendly:
- laws and taxes/education/media.
- Methods governments should use to prepare young people for working life;
- apprentice schemes/work-related subjects at school/visits from employers.
- Ways that sustainable tourism might be achieved:
- providing employment/protecting local culture/preserving the environment.
- Methods school should use to improve literacy standards:
- testing/technology/volunteer schemes.
- Ways young people can be encouraged to keep fit:
- school programmes/sports clubs/technology.
- Methods the government could use to reduce anti-social behaviours amongst teenagers:
- Methods industry could use to encourage people to study science and engineering:
- promote the achievements of scientists/subsidize training courses/provide schools with technology.
- Facilities that should receive money from local authorities:
- museums, sports centres or public gardens.
- Methods governments could use to discourage the use of private cars in the city centre:
- investment, education or taxes.
Other topics you should be familiar with:
- Ways of keeping the urban environment clean and tidy
- Reasons why the Internet has become so central to our lives
- The negative effects of globalisation on local culture
- Inequality and work
- Work-life balance
- Ways can young people learn from past generations
- How to deal with too much traffic in our cities
- Priorities for governments aiming to preserve cultural heritage
- How technology affects our lives in the way we communicate, with our relationships and at work
- Why do people prefer to live in cities
Keep a record of the feedback you receive
Although a teacher now, I was first a language learner (and in many ways still am and will always be). Something I found extremely helpful as an English student all those years ago in London was to keep track of the corrections I had been given by my writing skills teacher at the time.
My aim was to avoid repeating the same mistakes once and again. Making mistakes can help you learn but making the same mistakes repeatedly can lead to frustration and is, to a large extent, avoidable (notice that I am discussing writing here. Speaking is another kettle of fish*).
The reason why I include this tip here is that I sometimes see this happening in some students’ written work. I understand that there can be slips and oversights but when it becomes a pattern, it sadly hinders the student’s progress and it is hugely unmotivating, to say the least. It is almost as if the corrections had never been there in the first place. So, let’s put a stop to that, starting with the next writing. This is what my notes would have looked like:
MISTAKES ON THE LEFT CORRECTIONS ON THE RIGHT
Little I knew back then that… Little did I know back then that…
We were four. There were four of us.
The mere act of writing might help to remember them but I also revisited the list and while covering the right column asked myself what was wrong with each of the phrases. Once the mistake was no longer an issue, I would cross them out (or if written on a computer, delete them). Sooner than later, the list will shrink and your writing improves.
This is the third part of a CAE Essay writing mini-series of blog posts. Click here for part 1 and part 2.
*Another kettle of fish: to be completely different from what I said before.