First certificate b2 writing skills 2 with advice and exercises.

FCE First Certificate Course Lesson 11

Dialogue lesson 11

Dialogue 11: Writing a short story, a report or a review

Gauging that Emma probably doesn’t have enough knowledge about the six different writing formats, Gordon thinks it would be a good idea to hone in on these. He wants to see exactly what Emma already knows and then give her some good tips.

GORDON: Ok, Emma. So, as Terry said before there are six writing formats from which you will have to pick two to complete. The three formats which we are going to focus on for now are stories, reports and reviews. Tell me, are there any basic guidelines you’re already aware of when it comes to stories?

EMMA: Well, friends have told me that it is absolutely essential to plan what I am going to write. I’ve heard that for the story option, a lead-in sentence is provided which candidates then have to follow on from. So, obviously, it is important to not change this sentence.

GORDON: Yes, of course. And a plan is definitely necessary as it is for all writing exercises. Planning helps you to get your thoughts in order and gives you a structure to follow so your answer flows well. Also, I find that when students have a plan, it calms their nerves and they feel a lot more relaxed. Now, I’m going to tell you a little bit in detail about the structure and grammar points you should pay attention to. You should set your story out into four paragraphs. The first paragraph should obviously be your introduction, then have 2 for the body of the text, then finish with a climax or post climax reaction in the final paragraph.

EMMA: Should I avoid having more than 4 paragraphs?

GORDON: Not at all. If your story is quite meaty and you feel like there is a lot to tell, you can have more than 2 middle paragraphs, just make sure that you have at least 4. I would just advise 4 because it keeps you in line and stops you from babbling and going off on too much of a tangent.

EMMA: Ah I see what you mean, ok. As for grammar, should I have a checklist of grammar points to include?

GORDON: I’d say so, yes. For example, you should use as many different tenses as possible. You should use past continuous to give background information like “The sun was shining when…”. Also, you should try to use past perfect to describe actions which are a prelude to the story and then simple past for the other main events. Also, try to use a mixture of direct speech and indirect speech.

EMMA: Ok, is there any advice you can give me on vocabulary?

GORDON: Yes, I would recommend learning lots of phrases of time like “A few hours later” and “Eventually” as well as phrases for dramatic effect such as “All of a sudden”. Let’s move on to reports. Do you know anything about how to write these?

EMMA: To be honest, I haven’t got a clue!

GORDON: Ok no problem. As I stressed before, you need to plan. Regarding the structure, again you should have 4 paragraphs, all with headings. These headings should be Introduction and Conclusion for the first and last paragraphs, for the other two paragraphs, you should choose a heading which explains the content of the following paragraph, e.g ‘suggestions’ or ‘problems’. At the top of the report, you should write ‘To’, followed by the recipient’s name, a line below that you should write ‘From’ with your name and then below that, it is a great idea to point out the subject of the report.

EMMA: Ok, Do I need to put the date on?

GORDON: It’s not obligatory but you can if you wish. As for grammar and vocabulary, I would advise you to use formal language and avoid using contractions because you want to give off a sophisticated and formal tone in this writing format. Oh and one last thing, it’s always a good idea to make recommendations in the last paragraph. So, for this, it is good to have sentences in mind such as “I would recommend”, “I would suggest”, “You may wish to consider”. Finally, I can’t stress enough, go through your report at the end to check for mistakes. So, tell me Emma… how do you feel about reviews?

EMMA: I suppose it is essential to give my own opinion because I am giving a review of something from my own personal perspective. Should the tone of the text be sophisticated like a report?

GORDON: Actually, it should be the opposite. A review should be written in a chatty and friendly style to help to connect and identify with the reader. This can therefore be reflected in the grammar as well, it is perfectly acceptable to use contractions. Once again, have at least 4 paragraphs, plan and review. In the introductory paragraph, you should introduce whatever you are reviewing, then in the concluding paragraph, you should be very opinionated, using phrases which highlight either positive or negative perspectives. What type of vocabulary do you think you should learn?

EMMA: I imagine that it would be best to learn lots of vocabulary about things which are possible to be reviewed, such as films, books or even restaurants.

GORDON: Exactly right, Emma. Well done!

Vocabulary lesson 11





likely, presumably


to pick

to choose


when it comes to

referring to






of course, evidently, clearly


to flow

(words) to sound natural


to pay attention to

to concentrate


a climax

a culminating moment



(figurative) substantial


to advise

to counsel, to suggest


to babble

(adult) to talk incoherently


to go off on a tangent

(figurative) digression, off-topic


to stress something

to emphasise



intellectually complex



(person) talks a lot; (tone) conversational



(person) vocal; (speech, article) full of opinion


a perspective

a viewpoint


Exam tips 11


How to write a STORY:  writing a story requires a beginning, a rising action, a middle or climax, a falling action and an end. You must remember the following:

  • 4 paragraphs minimum (1 background information, 2 are the main parts of the story and the final 1 is the climax or key moment of the story).
  • Give your story a title.
  • Use the words given to you (you can’t change them at all): you can choose where to insert them (at the beginning or at eh end of your story for instance).
  • Don’t forget to use the past tenses to tell stories – in most cases (past continuous for description: The sun was shining…/past perfect for events prior to simple past: She had locked the door before she left.). You can use contractions (haven’t, doesn’t…).
  • Include some direct speech when possible (She asked: “Why aren’t they here yet?”).

Some more useful vocabulary:

Time phrases

meanwhile… shortly afterwards… before it all changed… not long afterwards… eventually… in the end… some time later… later that day… once upon a time…

Dramatic effect

all of a sudden… suddenly… out of the blue… out of nowhere… without warning… unexpectedly… just at that moment… quite unexpectedly… as if from nowhere…

Direct speech

“…” she said, “…” she whispered, “…” he promised, “…” he announced, “…” she thought, “…” she screamed, “…” he shouted, “…” he cried.

Ending/concluding stories

In the end… In retrospect… After all that had happened… When it was all over… Looking back now… After all…

Grammar and Vocabulary recommended Videos

Exercises FCE 11

Vocabulary Exercise

Comprehension Exercise

Grammar Exercise