B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary) Writing.

2 tasks. 25% of the exam.

Introduction

Nobody likes writing is what I usually say. It takes more time than speaking because you have to think more, it is easy to make mistakes because you often translate more directly from your own language, and when it is written and sent (because most of the time you write emails don’t you?) then it is final, too late to change or to add anything. You can find some useful resources to help with your writing skills at the bottom of the General Resources page here.

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary)

Writing Part One

The Task

You have to write a short email or memo. You need to write a message giving some information usually to a colleague or an assistant. The exam gives you three things you need to say.

You have to write 30-40 words.

You can download a sample paper of Writing Part One here.

Guide to the Task

The task is clear and not too complicated. You just need to start the email, say all of the three things using slightly different words, finish the email and move onto part two.

Sounds easy enough, but wait. Who are you writing to again?

Common Mistakes (use the guide and you won’t make these mistakes).

1) Students write in the wrong style or “register”. This means they use the vocabulary or type of words which are not correct or appropriate for the context. For example, if you write an email to a close colleague, someone you work with regularly either face to face or by email then the style of the email is relaxed, friendly and a little informal. You can start with Hi or Hello, you don’t need to start with Dear Mr/Mrs or Dear John/Jane. If you are writing to someone more senior than you, you generally need to be more professional and polite. So you need to remember who you are writing to.

2) Students do not include all of the three things. It is essential to talk about them all or you cannot complete the task correctly. This is the same in your professional life if your job requires you to do three things and you only do two, then you are not working correctly.

3) Students copy the exact words from the three things which need to be included in the email. Your job is to give the information, to transmit and communicate it, not to copy it. For example, if the task asks you to write to someone…

Apologising for the faulty product

Explaining the origins of the fault.

Saying the new product will be sent.

Here you cannot write.

I apologise for the faulty product, the origins of the fault are… the new product will be sent next week.

This seems obvious, but I have seen numerous students write one or more of the three things in the exam question. This is perhaps because writing is stressful and it is easier to use the words given but it is a mistake and it means you will lose points in the exam.

Below you will find what you need to do.

Procedure

  • Read the introduction to the question and highlight or underline what you are writing about and who you are writing to. Highlighting/underlining helps you remember and also makes it easy to find if you need to check. Sometimes this information will be repeated in the To and Subject part of the email you need to write.
  • Read the three things you need to say. They always start with a verb (in the ing form) and then details. Common examples of the verbs are, explaining, saying, telling, apologising, describing, asking.

  • Start the email with an appropriate opening. Use Hello + name for your assistant. Use Dear + Mr/Mrs + first name + surname if it is a superior or the name is not given, for example, you are asked to write to the Marketing Manager.

  • Then do the three actions requested in the task. You will need to include some information from the questions but you will also need to invent some information.

B1 Business Preliminary (BEC Preliminary) Writing Part One
  •  Focus on the verbs, the majority require you to write a normal positive sentence. If the verb is asking for example then you need to be sure that you ask a question, if the verb is apologising then you need to say, I am sorry that…or even better if you are writing to a superior, Please accept my apologies….(you have changed the verb into a noun which is impressive for the examiners.
  • Change the nouns. Try not to repeat the nouns used in the three sentences. Use synonyms or express the same thing in different words. If the sentences use the word “away” say absent or out of the office, if the sentences talk about a product, imagine an example product.

  • Finish your email with a short polite closing. Best regards is very common and correct, so use it!

Now that you understand how to maximise your score for the Preliminary Writing Part 1 you are now ready to start learning how to prepare to succeed in Part 2.

If you prefer to focus on improving your score in a different part of the Preliminary exam then go to Reading, Listening, or Speaking.