Top 5 FCE Writing Mistakes: Watch Out For These!

If you find the Writing part really difficult, chances are that you are making at least ONE of these mistakes.

Stop losing marks over the top 5 mistakes students make in the FCE Writing exam!

No, seriously. Just stop it!

Some of these mistakes are so easy to avoid.

What is worse is that some of these mistakes are considered ‘a good thing to do’ in the B2 exam!

Stop listening to all of the misinformation from the internet and keep reading to find out what you should not do in the First Certificate Writing exam.

Here is a full video on all of the mistakes. Watch it, learn it, memorise this video and you will never lose marks for these silly mistakes again!

I’ve also written it all down so you can use this page as a reference.

Let’s start with mistake number 5.

Mistake #5: You don’t learn or understand all the types of writing in the exam. 

In Part 1, you will always do an essay. So I’m sure you’ve practised that a million times.

In Part 2, you have a choice between a letter (formal or informal), an email, a review, a report and an article.

A lot of students have asked me if it is a good strategy to just learn how to write 2 of these options for the exam.

I think the answer to this is mainly no.

It is definitely a good idea to write something that you enjoy writing. So, if you enjoy reviews, then definitely consider writing a review in the exam as well.

But what if the exam question requires you to write a review about a historical book? Have you read a historical book? Do you even like history?

The topic is just as important as the type of writing. You need to have the specific vocabulary and grammar for the topic given in the exam to impress the examiners.

Having said that, I never teach my students how to write articles. I’ll write another blog post to explain that one day.

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Mistake #4: You don’t plan OR

You think planning is a waste of time. 

Yes, I have heard all my students complain about planning.

“If I cannot finish my answer in time, how can I also spend time on planning?”

Well, you probably don’t finish your answer on time, because you did not plan.

Every examiner I have met has said very clearly that they can identify which answers are planned and which ones are not. Why is that?

Because planned answers are (almost) always better! 

You plan everything. You plan your weddings, your trips abroad, you even plan your outfits for your holidays. Why wouldn’t you plan your writing?

Stop whining and watch my video on planning. Trust me, it will completely change your mind about planning!

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Mistake #3: You don’t understand the examiner marking criteria. 

I’m really surprised by the number of students who have been preparing for the exam for a long time and yet don’t know how the examiners mark their writing.

How do you know what to write?

Writing without understanding the examiner’s marking criteria is like trying to score a goal in football without any idea where the goal post is. It’s madness!

I’ve got a full video that describes what the criteria are and how to improve your marks for each criteria. Go watch it, now!

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Mistake #2: You count your words OR

You worry too much about how much you’re writing. 

It is a really bad idea to waste precious time in the exam by counting each individual word. I’ve also seen students who try to edit their writing (in terrible ways, usually) just to get their writing to be the exact number of words the examiner wants.

Honestly, your examiner doesn’t care that much.

If you write a little bit less or a little bit more, the examiner will completely ignore that. The number of words you write doesn’t affect your score in any way.

If you write significantly less than the lower limit, the examiner will think about whether you have answered the question completely. This could affect your marks for content.

If you write significantly more, you may not have organised your writing well. The writing is designed to be completed well in the word limit given so you may have repeated yourself or written things that are not related to the topic directly. These mistakes can also result in fewer marks in content and/or organisation.

So, the number of words you write doesn’t directly affect your score. So, don’t waste your time counting words and just use that time to check your work for any mistakes. This will save you a lot more marks!

If you are really worried about the word count, here is my biggest tip.

Count your words when you are practising at home. This will give you a good idea about how much you have to write on a page in your handwriting to hit the right word count. Then, in the exam, it will be really easy for you to guess how much you need to write!

By the way, this tip is for people who are doing the written paper based exam. If you’re doing the computer based exam, the screen will show you how many words you have written! (Cool!)

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Mistake #1: You don’t use your previous writings to review the mistakes and revise! 

There is no point in doing hundreds of questions if you won’t actually use them to improve!

It is so important to look back at your writings you’ve done and at all the feedback you’ve received from your teachers. Consider your mistakes in detail. How can you avoid them in the future?

Are you a self-studying student?

If you’re self-studying, please use my ‘write, research, write’ method. Most of the time, you only do the first part – ‘write’ where you try answering a writing question. The next thing you should do is go online and look for model answers for the same topic. Usually, the book where you found the question will have some model answers at the back of the book.

Don’t just look at FCE model answers! If you really want to challenge yourself, look at a few articles written by native speakers. You can learn some great new collocations and structures by doing this.

Every time you do this, you learn more specific vocabulary related to one topic. As you try more question, your knowledge of different topics will also increase.

The final step in the ‘write, research, write’ method is to write again! You have a fantastic opportunity to use all of the new things you’ve learned in the second step of researching. It is a great way to test whether you can actually USE all the new vocabulary you’ve learned.

This sounds like a really long process, but every time you do this, you accumulate the vocabulary necessary to answer any questions about similar topics in the real exam. Isn’t that cool?

So those were all of the top 5 mistakes! 

How many of these mistakes have you been making? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to know.

Need a qualified teacher to give you feedback on your writing?

I provide detailed writing feedback on my website.

For each task, you get corrections, detailed feedback and pointers for the future on your writing test. You can either answer a random question I send you OR you can use your own questions.

You need to send me a scan or typed copy of your answer WITH the full questions. Make sure your answers are below 500 words in total!

Here is an example of a writing feedback I did for one of my awesome students earlier this year. (SPOILER ALERT – this student passed her B2 exam!)