C1 Business Higher (BEC Higher)
Writing Part Two. Time 40-45 minutes.
You are given three questions to choose from. You have to write a report or a proposal or a letter. You are given three points to make for each question. You have to write 200-250 words.
You can download an example of Writing Part Two here.
Common mistakes (which you will avoid making thanks to this guide!)
It is a classic exam mistake to forget to include one or more of the points made in the handwritten notes. If you do not talk about all of them in your written document, you are not completing the task so you cannot get the maximum amount of points.
Another regular mistake, unfortunately, is writing the document as a block of text with little or no spaces. This is a mistake for a letter because it needs a paragraph and even more serious for reports or proposals because they require a specific structure with paragraphs with headings.
Including irrelevant or incorrect material is also a common error. In most writing exam tasks there is a small amount of imagination necessary to give examples or add content. However, it is not necessary to invent or talk about things out of the context given in the exam task. Doing this will lose you marks.
Writing too much or not enough can be a problem too. If you do not write enough, this probably means you have not included all the points in the notes. If you go over the word limit the examiner will not read the extra words. It also means you have probably included irrelevant material. The word limit is useful because it is actually the correct number of words you need to complete the task correctly. Cambridge is very experienced at preparing exams, so it is a good idea to trust them and follow their guidelines.
Quickly read the context of each question to help you decide which one to choose. Even if you have a preference before starting the exam about which type of document it is advisable to read all three questions, or at least check that you are able to answer the question for your preferred document type.
When you have decided which question to answer. Reread the context in more detail because this tells you who you are, who it is for/to.
Read the three points you need to make and highlight the keywords.
Plan! Use the three points to give structure to your document. With a letter, you can often use them in the same order as they are given on the exam paper. With reports and proposals, you can use them or what they refer to to provide headings to your paragraphs. For example, if one of the points talks about or refers to orders, then this can be the paragraph heading. With all three types of document, you can often combine two of the notes in the same paragraph.
Decide and make notes on the subject of each paragraph. It is important here to remember that you need to develop the three points and also interpret the information in them. It is also a mistake to reproduce the information in the bullet points using the same words.
Write your document.
Styles for each type of document.
You can learn more about the Cambridge English Marking Scheme and writing a Proposal in the C1 Business Higher Preparation Guide, available here.
A letter should be formal. You will be writing to someone you do not know so your style should be polite and professional. You should start with an appropriate opening, use Dear + Mr/Mrs + first name + surname if there is a name given, or Dear Sir/Madam if there is no name given – do not use any variation of Dear Sir/Madam. Try to begin the content of the letter with a sentence explaining why you are writing, simply I am writing to…
Use at least two paragraphs in the letter combining points in the handwritten notes where possible.
After your paragraphs, write I am looking forward to hearing from you. (This is almost always the most appropriate form, do not try to vary the grammar).
Close the letter with, yours sincerely if you used a name in the opening, or yours faithfully if you used Dear Sir/Madam.
A report should be formal and impersonal. It is not usually necessary to use I, using the passive is more appropriate.
A report needs a title, (use Report on.…) and must start with an introduction and finish with a conclusion. These paragraphs must be introduced with a heading. The introduction should explain the purpose of the report with a sentence like, this report shows/outlines…
There should also be two or three paragraphs containing information and these must also have a heading. Ideally, you should use a heading which shows what the subject of the paragraph is, such as orders, prices, new markets. If it is difficult to find an appropriate heading quickly, don’t panic, you can also write Findings as a heading in a report because this gives a general idea of the topic. Only use this if you can’t think of anything else though.
The conclusion should summarise the content of the report including positive and negative information. It might be necessary to mention action required to improve any negative points.
A proposal should also be formal and impersonal. It is possible to use I, but using the passive is more appropriate, It is recommended is more professional than I recommend.
Visually a proposal and a report look quite similar. A proposal also needs a title (use A proposal to/for..) an introduction, a conclusion and paragraph headings. However, the perspective is quite different, A proposal talks about the present and future, making recommendations for changes and improvements. A report explains information from the past and might suggest changes.