This post is focussed on explaining how to write a proposal for the C1 Advanced Cambridge Assessment English exams.
In the writing part of the advanced (Cambridge C1) exam there are 2 tasks that need to be completed in 1:30 minutes. The 1st task is compulsory and the students must complete an essay. The 2nd task is a choice of 3 options (letter/email, proposal, report, review). The word count for each task is 220-260 words and students should not write fewer than 220 words nor go over the 260 mark. STUDENTS ARE NOT DIRECTLY PENALIZED FOR DOING SO BUT THE EXAMINER WILL LOOK MORE CLOSELY AT THE CONTENT PART OF THE EVALUATION AND IT COULD LOWER YOUR GRADE.
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What candidates need to understand is that the evaluation in the initial stages is very superficial. The ORGANISATION and STRUCTURE of a text is essential. IF IT DOESN´T LOOK LIKE A PROPOSAL, IT WON´T PASS! A proposal is a factual document that is written with the use of prompt material. It should be concise and to the point. There is some margin for you to include your own opinion but through recommendations. It is a formal text because it is usually written for a superior of some kind. REMEMBER THAT THE PROPOSAL NEEDS TO BE FORMAL, SEE OUR POST ON FORMAL WRITING (HERE)
IN THE PROPOSAL YOU MUST INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
- state the purpose of the proposal
- headings for each point made
- use a formal and impersonal style
- state what issues there are
- give recommendations on how to improve
OTHER POSTS ABOUT WRITING THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU
Why do the proposal?
Many students decide not to do the proposal because they are worried about using formal or business-like language, but the proposal is quite easy if you understand the structure. One of the BIGGEST PROBLEMS is that candidates do not understand the difference between a report and a proposal. Basically, they are very similar, but in a proposal you MUST MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS for changes that need to be made. You want to PERSUADE the reader.
So, how do we plan a proposal?
You need to describe a situation within a business or organisation. You need to make a balanced answer by saying what the problems are and then persuade the reader of how they could be solved. You need to use headings and you can use bullet points. One last thing, you must use full sentences.
Let’s see an example question:
The local authority is planning on knocking down the local cinema. The cinema is situated in an old, listen building and you feel it should be saved, not replaced by a modern cinema complex. Write a proposal to the town/city hall of how to modernize the facilities rather than demolish them.
Why preserve this historic building
How it could be modernized
The benefit of keeping the building for local people
Note: it is really important to give a balanced answer. Don’t only give one point of view. Recognize the problems with the current building (facilities, access, capacity) and persuade the reader that they can be solved without demolishing the building.
HOW IS THE EXAM CORRECTED?
It is a huge advantage if you understand how Cambridge will evaluate your writings as you can make sure that you meet the specific requirements when carrying out the tasks. We have provided an explanation of the evaluation rubric and ADVICE of how to pass with ease. It does not matter of your exam is done in the computer-based (CB) or paper-based (PB), the exam is corrected by an official certified examiner and therefore it is subjective, the more interesting it is and the easier it is to correct, the better!
All Cambridge exams are marked in the same way but the evaluation scales leave some room for interpretation and are, therefore, a little subjective. Examiners mark tasks using assessment scales that were developed with explicit reference to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The scales, which are used across the spectrum of the Cambridge English General and Business English Writing tests, consist of four sub-scales: Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation, and Language:
Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task, in other words if they have done what they were asked to do. DO NOT INCLUDE IRRELEVANT INFORMATION. YOU SHOULD ANSWER THE POINTS IN THE TASK TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY. FOCUS ON WHAT THEY ASK YOU TO DO.
Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register. YOU MUST USE APPROPRIATE LANGUAGE WHETHER IT BE FORMAL OR INFORMAL. EACH TYPE OF TEXT HAS ITS OWN REQUIREMENTS.
Organisation focuses on the way the candidate puts together the piece of writing, in other words if it is logical and ordered. THE TEXT MUST BE EASY TO FOLLOW BUT ALSO INCLUDE COMPLEX GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURES AND VOCABULARY. DO NOT OVER COMPLICATE THE TEXT! THE USE OF ADEQUATE COHESIVE DEVICES IS ESSENTIAL.
Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is. CANDIDATES MUST BE ADVENTUROUS WITH THEIR LANGUAGE USE AND USE SEVERAL COMPLEX GRAMMAR STRUCTURE (passives, inversions, cleft sentences, conditionals, modal verbs, relative clauses etc.) TO GET A GOOD GRADE WITH REGARDS TO VOCABULARY YOU SHOULD TRY TO INCORPORATE IDIOMS.
Responses are marked on each sub-scale from 0 to 5.
When marking the tasks, examiners take into account length of responses and varieties of English:
Guidelines on length are provided for each task; responses which are too short may not have an adequate range of language and may not provide all the information that is required, while responses which are too long may contain irrelevant content and have a negative effect on the reader. These may affect candidates’ marks on the relevant sub-scales.
Candidates are expected to use a particular variety of English with some degree of consistency in areas such as spelling, and not for example switch from using a British spelling of a word to an American spelling of the same word.
Example proposal question
You go to a university that has a high amount of international students and you have realised that the website is not up to scratch. Write a proposal for the University Dean about how it could be improved.
Write your proposal in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.
Example proposal answer
This proposal is aimed at outlining the way in which the university website could be improved so that it is more user friendly for international students. It will suggest what improvements can be made and also set out how this would benefit the students themselves.
Problems with using the site
A recent study into how easy it is to get around the site has revealed that 70% of students whose second language is English find it difficult to find specific information about their courses. Because of the language barrier, they find it hard to make their search terms clear and this has become a cause for concern. Translating the site is not an option and this can be a big problem, especially at the beginning of the academic year.
Ways the site could address these issues
It has been well documented that the university website has neither a site map nor an introduction video to help novice students to find their way around it. It would make a huge difference if there were some simple instructions to indicate where to find information. It is a delicate balance as we, of course, want international students to learn English, but also want them to navigate the site with ease.
I would like to make the following recommendations:
- Invite students who are starting out at the university to a quick and informative seminar to demonstrate how to use the site.
- Provide language help and some useful resources (like www.intercambioidiomasonline.com) for language learning and assistance.
- Provide a survival pack for students to take with them and know how to combat technological issues.
If these recommendations are in place, young people are bound to feel more prepared for their experience and take full advantage of this unique experience.
It is highly recommendable to have a set template for each type of text before the day of the exam to make sure you meet the correct standard. Try learning some of these phrases to include in your template.
- One suggestion could be…
- It might be a good idea…
- it would be useful to…
- It would be a good idea to…
- Would not be better to…
- Taking all of the factors into account…
- What about… ?
- I should therefore recommend…
- How about… ?
- Should we not… ?
- Why not… ?
- the reason is…
- the reason I believe that is…
- the facts suggest…
- the evidence shows…
- taking into account what I have seen…
You can justify your opinion more effectively by being more specific. Try some intermediate (B2) phrases like these:
- The first reason I believe this is…
- The main reason I feel this way is…
- There are several reasons I believe this. The first is…
When you are not completely certain, you can try one of these more advanced (C1) English phrases:
- I do not have any special reason for believing this. It just seems right to me that…
- I could be wrong as I have no special reason for believing this. I just feel this is right as…
- I am not sure why I feel this way but I have reason to believe…
When you ARE certain, try one of these phrases:
- There is a lot of evidence to support my point of view. For example…
- There are many facts in favour of my opinion. One such fact is…
- From my own personal experience, I am lead to believe…
Providing key information:
- What you should do is…
- To address this issue…
- what should be the priority is…
- one key feature for the future is…
- in a nutshell
- as can be seen
- in the final analysis
- all things considered
- as shown above
- in the long run
- given these points
- as has been noted
- in a word
- for the most part
- after all
- in fact
- in summary
- in conclusion
- in short
- in brief
- in essence
- to summarize
- on balance
- by and large
- to sum up
- on the whole
- in any event
- taking all of this into account
- all in all
General advice for improving writing skills:
READ. To improve writing skills it is essential to read a lot, in general. Texts of all levels and also to do it frequently. CONSISTENCY IS KEY!
WRITE. You must write every day and all types of texts including; letters, notes, messages, emails, essays, reports. DON´T JUST DO EXAM EXAMPLES!
COPY. You should read example questions and answers to make sure that you know the level required to pass the exam. DON´T COPY ENTIRE TEXTS BUT TAKE PHRASES AND GRAMMATICAL FEATURES FROM THESE EXAMPLES AND USE THEM.
ORGANISATION. You need to learn the format of each writing task to make sure that texts look the way they should. IT IS THE FIRST THING THAT THEY EVALUATE!
EXPERIMENT. Class time and at home is the best time to experiment with language, You should practice new vocabulary and be adventurous with language. IN THE EXAM, ONLY USE WHAT YOU KNOW IS 100% CORRECT!
USE YOUR FAVOURITE PHRASES. You should have a bank of vocabulary and fixed expressions that you like to use frequently. YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR FAVOURITE EXPRESSIONS BY HEART AND BE VERY CONFIDENT IN HOW TO USE THEM IN VARIOUS CONTEXTS!
LISTENING LISTENING FOR CAE (C1) – exam technique
EXAMPLE QUESTION FOR YOU TO PRACTICE AT HOME
Write your proposal in the appropriate style. Use 220-260 words
Your university has a great need for an improvement in the ICT facilities starting next year. As far as everyone in your department is concerned, the computer suite is outdated and needs improving. You decide to write a proposal for the Dean of the university.
In your proposal, you should outline the problems with the current equipment, who needs to use it, what it should include and also how the investment in better computers would benefit all of the university´s students.