Key structures for writing exams

This cheat sheet has been designed to provide English learners with key phrases to include in their writing. The phrases are a mixture of formal, semi-formal and informal expressions that can be included in messages, emails, letters, articles, reviews, reports, proposals and essays. What you need to do is study the format of each type of text in your exams section and understand the requirements of each individual question. The best thing to do is focus on key words like advice, apology, request to know what needs to be included in your answer.

 

Giving advice:

  • You should…
  • You ought to…
  • My advice to you is…
  • You had better (bare infinitive)
  • If I were you, I would…
  • It would be a good idea (infinitive)
  • In your shoes, I would….
  • In your place, I would…

 

Praising:

  • Well done for…
  • I congratulate you for…
  • Good job on…
  • You have done well (infinitive)
  • It was a great achievement (infinitive)

 

Criticising:

  • You appear to have committed an error
  • You should not have (participle)
  • I have found a fault with
  • It was a mistake for you (infinitive)
  • I am afraid that you have made an error when you

 

Apologising:

  • Sorry about…
  • I am sorry for (gerund)
  • Please forgive for (gerund)
  • It was a mistake (infinitive)
  • It was stupid of me (infinitive)
  • It was silly of me (infinitive)

 

Asking for help:

  • Would you mind (gerund)?
  • Could you help me with…?
  • Is it ok if…?
  • Would you be able to…?
  • Can you (verb)?

 

Making recommendations and suggestions:

  • It would be a good idea to…
  • Would it not be better to…?
  • Why do we not…?
  • What about… ?
  • How about… ?
  • Should we not… ?
  • Let us consider…
  • Why not… ?

 

Linking:

“Linking” refers to the way the writer relates their ideas together. It is essential to be able to form an argument and have a balanced piece of writing.

  • As I have said before…
  • With respect to the point on…
  • Regarding…
  • Like I have said…
  • With regards to…
  • In relation to…
  • Taking into account…

 

Involving the reader:

  • Have you ever thought about…?
  • How would you feel if …?
  • What would you think of…?
  • Are you one of those people who …?
  • If the answer is …, you should….
  • What do you reckon to …?
  • What would live be like if…
  • Just think for a moment…
  • Just imagine…

 

Requesting information:

  • Can you tell me…?
  • Could you give me an indication of…?
  • I would be grateful if you could…?
  • Would it be ok if you…?
  • Is there any chance (that) you could…?
  • What are the possibilities of you being able (infinitive)?

 

Expressing enthusiasm

  • It is so exciting (that)…
  • It is really great (that)…
  • Wow, it is awesome (that)…
  • I am delighted (that)…
  • It is thrilling (that)…
  • I am over the moon about (gerund)
  • It is awesome (that)…

 

Expressing surprise

  • It is really surprising (that)…
  • I was taken aback when…
  • Believe it or not,…
  • Funnily enough,…
  • Surprisingly….
  • Astonishingly,…
  • You will never guess what…
  • You will never believe what…

 

Changing the subject

  • By the way…
  • Anyway, as I was saying…
  • That reminds me…
  • Changing the subject,…
  • Let’s move on, shall we?
  • Let’s change the topic, shall we?

 

Presenting ideas

  • When it comes to…
  • Regarding…
  • With respect to…
  • It is a question/matter of…
  • Not only…., but also…
  • According to…
  • Research seems to suggest that

 

Agreeing

  • I agree with (someone)
  • I get what you mean…
  • I understand your point of view…
  • I share your opinion
  • We see eye to eye
  • I couldn’t agree more
  • I see your point
  • You took the words out of my mouth
  • You have hit the nail on the head

 

Disagreeing

  • I disagree with
  • No way!
  • Are you serious?
  • You must be joking/kidding!
  • There is no way (on earth)…
  • That can’t be right!

 

Partially agree

  • You might have a point, but
  • I partly agree, however,
  • Though that may be true, haven’t you considered…?

 

Settling

  • Let’s agree to disagree
  • Let’s move on, shall we?

 

Opening (essays)

  • It is said/believed/known that
  • …. is a widely debated topic,…
  • In this day and age
  • Nowadays, people tend to believe
  • It goes without saying…
  • Though this is often debated, …. is rarely understood

 

Concluding

  • On balance
  • In a nutshell
  • To sum up
  • All in all
  • Bearing all of this in mind
  • All things considered
  • To summarize
  • In conclusion
  • Taking all the points into consideration, …

 

Key phrases to explain your opinion

  • In my opinion, …
  • As far as I am concerned, …
  • Speaking personally, …
  • From my point of view, …
  • I hold the view that …
  • I would say that …
  • It seems to me that …
  • I am of the opinion that …
  • My impression is that …
  • I am under the impression that …
  • It is my impression that …
  • I have the feeling that …
  • I have no doubt that …
  • I am sure / I am certain that …
  • I think / consider / find / feel / believe / suppose / presume / assume/reckon that …
  • I hold the opinion that …
  • I dare say that …
  • I guess that …
  • I bet that ….
  • I gather that …
  • It goes without saying that …
  • In my point of view
  • From where I am standing
  • I hold a strong opinion on/about
  • I have reason to believe
  • It is a matter of opinion, but…
  • I have the suspicion that
  • I share your opinion on
  • It seems obvious to me that

  

To express general opinions, a great thing to do is to use “the impersonal passive”:

  • It is thought that
  • It is generally believed that
  • It is said that
  • It is widely known that
  • It is often stated that

 

You can also make reference to the general public:

  • Most people think that
  • The majority of people believe
  • People say that
  • Everyone thinks that
  • Everybody believes that

 

Key phrases to justify your opinion

These phrases are flexible and can be adapted to the context.

 

To begin, you can use these basic (B1) phrases to justify an opinion in English:

  • because… 
  • 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…
  • The final point might be…
  • There are several reasons I believe this. The first is…
  • Because of/due to/on account of/owing to…
  • So/therefore/thus/hence…

 

When you are not completely certain, you can try one of these more advanced (C1) English phrases:

  • I don’t 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’m 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…

 

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