One of the writing tasks we encounter in Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET) is a short message; this is Writing Part 2. If you’d like to know all the different parts of Cambridge English: Preliminary before carrying on, check out an outline here or go to the official Cambridge English website to read more about the exam.
In the writing paper you will find the following 3 parts:
But in this particular post we will focus on part 2; short messages.
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1. Writing Part 2: Sample Task
In this part you have to answer a task by writing a short message to a friend or relative. The message must be 35-45 words and has to answer a specific set of writing prompts. Here’s an example:
As you can see in the task above, you are given:
- a situation: Your friend, Chris, has invited you to a special party…
- a task: Write an email to Chris.
- prompts or subtasks: accept the invitation, suggest how…, ask Chris…
- number of words: Write 35-45 words…
and all of the above are essential when writing your answer.
2. Writing Part 2: Sample Answer
Below you can see a sample answer to the task in the previous section:
As you can see in the sample answer, we:
- greet our friend: Hi Chris!
- thank him: Thanks a lot for…
- suggest how to help him: Shall I give you a hand…?
- ask him for ideas: …what could I get for the teacher as a present?
- say goodbye: Write back soon,…
And all of the above is what you have to do in virtually any short message you may have to write for Cambridge English: Preliminary (PET), except that the writing prompts will change.
3. Language to use in your writing
What follows is a list of expressions you should use when writing these short messages. For your convenience, they are divided into greeting expressions (saying hello), language functions (thanking, suggesting, asking, reminding, etc.) and farewell expressions.
In order to start a short message of this type, it’s important to bear in mind that we are writing to a friend or relative, so we have to adapt our language. In this case, it is a good idea to say:
– Hi … , or Hi … !
– Hello … , or Hello … !
– Hey … !
– Dear … ,
While Hi and Hello are appropriate for every kind of addressee in this task, Hey is kind of informal, so it should only be used with friends. On the other hand, Dear could be okay to use with friends, but it sounds a little stiff and stilted. Therefore, I recommend using it when we write to a relative older than us, such as our aunt/uncle or grandparents.
In this section I have gathered plenty of expressions to use when answering the different writing prompts. For this reason, they are divided into what you could be asked to say in your short message:
Would you like to come over…?
Do you want to…?
I’d like to you come…
Why don’t you come…
Don’t forget about/that…
It’s important to remember sth./that…
It’s essential that you do/bring…
Congratulations! It’s great that you…
Well done with…!
Way to go!
I’m really sorry about…
I’m sorry that I…
Forgive me for…
Please, forgive me!
Why don’t we…?
Let’s…, shall we?
It could be a good idea to…
– Arranging meetings:
Let’s meet at…
I’ll see you … at …, okay?
Is it okay if we meet at…?
Can I help you with…?
I can give you a hand with…, if you want.
I’ll …. , if you want.
Let me know if you need any help with…
– Saying “yes” / accepting:
Of course I’ll go (to…).
I’m more than happy to…
I’m glad to…
Great! I’d really like to…
– Saying “no” / refusing:
I’m sorry, but I can’t…
(Thanks, but ) I’m afraid I can’t…
Sorry, but it’s impossible for me to…
I’d like to, but I can’t…
What happened was that…
The thing is that…
– Asking for information:
Could you tell me…?
Can you tell me…?
Is it true that…?
Do you know (if…) …?
Please, let me know (if…) …?
– Expressing preference:
I would prefer to… (if that’s okay).
I like …. better.
What I’d like/love is to…
– Wish good things:
Good luck (with…)!
All the best (with…)!
Hope you enjoy …!
Have fun (at/in…)!
Have a good time (at/in…)!
You’ll have no problems with…!
You can do it!
– Asking for advice:
What could/can I do (about/with…)?
Do you think I should…?
What would you do?
– Saying what you liked/disliked:
What I really enjoyed/liked/loved/hated was…
I really enjoyed/liked/loved/hated…
What I liked/enjoyed/… most was…
My favourite (part of the…) was…
The best thing (about…) was…
Be careful with…
Be careful not to…
Remember (not) to…
It’s not a good idea to…
I wouldn’t… if I were you.
There are many ways to say goodbye in an email or a letter. However, given the word limit we have in these short messages, we must keep it short and simple, so try to avoid long sentences like I’m looking forward to… unless you have some leeway. Some expressions you could use are the following:
– Bye for now!
– All the best,
– Best wishes,
– See you soon!
4. Another sample
Just so you see another example, here’s another task:
And here’s a sample answer:
Again, we are answering the task in the following way:
- greeting our friend: Hi James!
- thank him: Thank you very much for the party!
- saying what we liked best: What I enjoyed most was the music.
- suggest meeting again and when: How about meeting again next Saturday?
- saying goodbye: Best, …
So, in theory, if you become familiar with the expressions provided in this post, I wouldn’t say that passing this part of the test is hard. Of course, you need to have appropriate grammatical and vocabulary levels. But if you already do have that, simply study the information in this post and practise as much as possible.
5. Important considerations
In this part of the Preliminary (PET) exam, it is important to take the following ideas into account:
– Your message is supposed to be understood without difficulty.
– You are not expected to be 100% accurate in your grammar, spelling, etc. It’s okay to make some minor mistakes, as long as your message is clear.
– It’s important to stick to the word limit, although Cambridge English says you wouldn’t be penalised for exceeding it. The problem is that if you exceed it too much (or not reach it) you’re probably using information that is irrelevant to the task, so you might be penalised for that. On the other hand, if you don’t reach the word limit, it’s likely that you’re missing some essential information.
– Read everything several times in order to spot silly mistakes and improve your task.
– Risk it in class, but not in the exam. Before the test, try to do as many tasks as you can, using a variety of language in order to boost your writing skills. However, don’t take any risks in the exam unless you are absolutely forced to do so. In the exam, you should keep it simple.
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