What’s in the Writing paper?

In the two parts of the Cambridge English: First Writing paper, you have to show that you can write different types of text in English.


Time allowed:1 hour 20 minutes

Number of parts:2

Number of questions:   Part 1: one compulsory question, Part 2: one question from a choice of fiveMarks:20% total

Types of task:  Article, email, essay, letter, report, review, story.

Set texts

Set texts for Cambridge English: First until December 2013:

  • William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair (Black Cat or any edition)
  • Mary Stewart: This Rough Magic (OUP)

Set texts for January 2014 - December 2014 are:

  • LP Hartley: The Go-Between (Penguin Readers)
  • Sebastian Junger: The Perfect Storm (Macmillan Readers)

The suggested editions are Graded Readers which have been adapted to the level that is suitable for Cambridge English: First candidates. Teachers and candidates should be aware that the language level in other editions may be less accessible.

Candidates should not attempt the optional set text question in Part 2 unless they have the necessary understanding of the text to answer the task set. Teachers are best placed to judge which, if any, of the set texts and/or film versions may be appropriate and stimulating for a given teaching situation.  

Note: From 2015 onward, set texts will be discontinued in the revised Cambridge English: First exam. 

Parts 1–2

Part 1

What's in Part 1?

Some material to read (up to 160 words).  You have to write a letter or email using the information in this material.                   What do I have to practise?   Writing a letter or email.  You may have to apologise, compare, describe, explain, express opinions, justify, persuade, recommend and/or suggest something.

 How many questions are there?    One compulsory question.                                                                                                                       

How much do I have to write?      120–150 words

Part 2

What's in Part 2?    A choice of five questions.

The answer you have to write will be one of the following:    an article, essay, letter, report, review or a story.

What about Question 5?                                                                                                                                                                                     If you have read one of the set books and want to write about it, you may decide to try Question 5.                                                     You have a choice of two tasks, 5(a) or 5(b), for this question.

What do I have to practise?     Writing different types of text: articles, essays, letters, reports, reviews.                                                 Depending on the question, you will have to advise, compare, describe, explain, express opinions, justify and/or recommend something.         

How many questions are there?   One task to be selected from a choice of five.                                                                                             How much do I have to write?      120–180 word