Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) Essay (Mini-series Part 1) – Getting started

There is no choice here. If you take the CAE -C1 Advanced, the essay is mandatory. 

It is, therefore, crucial to be prepared and well-informed about what is expected of you. Daunting as it may seem at first, breaking it down into smaller tasks will help you get the hang of it. Let’s give some thought to what to do before you start writing. This simple action will guide you through and help you elaborate a successful piece of writing. 

Before you keep reading, please, ask yourself this question.

Do you know the purpose of an essay?

An essay is a piece of formal writing in which you discuss a subject (in CAE, a follow-up to an academic activity), express an opinion and give reasons for it, 

In other words and quoting the official Cambridge  Advanced Handbook:

The main purpose of the essay task is to allow candidates to underline relevant salient issues on a topic and to support an argument with subsidiary points and reasons. 

The more compelling arguments you have, the better. Your goal is to persuade the reader.

Having established that, let’s move on to the next step. Once you are given the essay task, you should read it carefully to determine what exactly is required.

Once again, carefully. I can’t emphasise this enough. Pay close attention and do not rush here! Take your time to make sure you know exactly what you have to do. Rushing at this stage may end up in missing a point or misunderstanding something. Besides, while you are analysing the task, some ideas that you can later use in the planning stage might pop up effortlessly.

Tip: Underlining or highlighting will give you a clear picture.


Here is a task taken from the official Cambridge Handbook for teachers (pdf here). Go through it and ask yourself the questions below.



(Advanced 2015 Writing sample paper 2)


  • Who is your target reader? (e.g. your teacher)
  • What is the context in which you are asked to write this essay? (e.g. after having attended a panel discussion or having listened to a radio programme in class)
  • What question is asked and which two of the three bullet points do you have more things to say about? 
  • What notes are given (each corresponds to a bullet point)? Are you going to use them (if so, paraphrase, do not copy word for word)  or base the writing on your own ideas?
  • Which one of the two points you develop have you chosen as the best option? Say so in the conclusion.
  • How many words are required?
  • Are you ready for planning?


Give yourself a few minutes to organise your ideas before you set out to tackle the essay.

You will need 4 paragraphs. 

Title (optional)

Introduction: present the topic in a wider context and introduce the points you are going to discuss. 

Paragraph 1: Develop one of the points.

Paragraph 2: Develop the second point.

Conclusion: Sum up and say which of the two points is more important in a given situation giving reasons for your opinion. 

And now you are equipped for writing a well-planned and crearly structured essay  (220-260 words). Don’t forget to bear in mind that you should write in a formal register and use advanced grammar structures (inversions, relative clauses, passives, past modals…) and connectors. Feel free to head on to this blog post if you need to revise formal phrasal verbs.  For more information on this, a bank of set phrases and my attempt at completing this task, read my post: CAE Essay (part 2) – Writing Stage.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *