CPE Writing Part 1: Formal Essay

This is a lesson plan to help prepare students for part 1 of the CPE writing exam, in which students are required to write a formal essay which summarises and evaluates two other texts.

Here is my step-by-step guide to approaching the task:

Download the class handout here:

CPE writing essay 2nd plan

Step 1 – Text analysis

  • Read both texts and decide if they are complimentary or contrasting.
  • Underline the two key content points in each text.

Step 2 – Paraphrasing and summarising

  • Brainstorm different ways to paraphrase and summarise the key points.
  • What impressive structures can you use? Inversions, passives, collocations, expressions.

Step 3 – Evaluate and react

  • Decide which points you agree and disagree with.
  • Brainstorm your own thoughts and experiences on the subject.

Summarise, evaluate, react.


Present the topic of discussion and ask questions the essay will answer.

Hardly a week goes by without another report of …………….. appearing in the media.

Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ……………

The trend nowadays is towards (gerund)

How has the public’s opinion on this issue shifted over the last few years?

Although most people would generally agree that …………… few would deny that …………….

This raises the issue of whether or not……………..

This issue strikes a chord with the vast majority of the general public.

What impact, if any, have these shifts/changes/developments had on the general public’s psyche?

How are we to gauge the effect of such shifts/changes/developments?

Finish your introduction with the following sentence:

Both (1) extracts (2) discuss the nature of these (3) notions, but from different (4) viewpoints.

synonyms for text – extract passage



viewpoints/perspectives/points of view

Paragraph 1 – Text 1

The first (1)text (2)argues that………


(2)suggests/puts forward the idea that/asserts

Try and sum up the first point neatly with an inversion:

Seldom does the airplane make the top 5, let alone the top spot when the lists of the so-called most influential inventions are drawn up.

Not since…. Only when….. Not until…. Not only…. But also, No sooner… than
Seldom/rarely…….. Barely/scarcely/hardly……… when

Paragraph structure:

Option 1
  • Introduce content point 1 (paraphrased)
  • Evaluate and react. (your opinion)
  • Introduce content point 2
  • Evaluate and react. (your opinion)

Option 2

  • Summarise both content points
  • Own evaluations and reaction.

Stating opinion

Stating your opinion

As I see it,

It seems to me that ………… I would also say that ….

I am convinced that ……………

I am inclined to believe that ………………

There is no doubt in my mind that ………………

One of the drawbacks of ……. is ……….

However, one of the benefits is that …………


-I would like to stress that the research is still at an early stage.

-It should be noted that there are a number of alternative methods available.

-It is worth bearing in mind that 90% of the scientists researching herbicides in the US are employed by chemical companies.


-lead to: The research could lead to a cure for many serious illnesses.

-result in: The fire resulted in damage to their property.

-be responsible for: He was responsible for the accident.

-bring about: The war brought about enormous social change.

-give rise to: Poor performance in exams can give rise to depression and even thoughts of suicide.

-trigger: to make something suddenly start to happen, especially a bad situation such as a crisis or a war, or a medical condition: Certain foods can trigger allergies.

-contribute to: Passive smoking could contribute to the development of respiratory diseases among nonsmokers.

-factor: Cost is often the deciding factor when choosing any product.

Describing causes

One factor which has led to ………… is …………..

One of the factors which has brought this about is ………

The problem often stems from ………………..

The situation has been exacerbated by …………….

………….. has only made the situation worse.

One consequence of ……………. is …………….


All in all it seems to me that ………..

The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that …………………..

All things considered, ………….

On balance, I tend to believe that …………

The world would surely be a better place to live in if …………..

If people stopped ….ing, we would have/ we could look forward to a ……………

The prospects for the future will be bleak/grim unless ……………….

There Was/There Were Picture Memory Game


This is a class for low levels to practice the structures “there was/were” and prepositions of place.

Quickly recap prepositions of place with a pen and paper: on, in, under, above, next to, in front of etc.

Now tell students you are going to show them a photo and they have to remember as much detail as they can. Show them the photo above for 1 minute, then hide the photo. Students must recall as many of the objects as they can, award 1 point for each correct sentence using there was/were.

There was a cat under the table.

There were two plants on the table-

There was a green and white folder on the chair.

There were two batteries behind the plants.

The show students more photos, you can either use my photos or take photos of your own messy flats and use those. Or you could tell students to take a photo of their own messy bedroom and bring it in for the next class to recap. Here are some more photos:

IMG_0568 IMG_0570 IMG_0571 IMG_0572

Inversions of Prohibition – Pictionary

This is an update of my modals of obligation/prohibition lesson plan. This is a fun way to practice the following inversions:

Under no circumstances must you talk in the exam.

On no account should you put your head out the window.

Part 1 – Introduce the structures

Write the following sentences on a piece of paper, cut them up and jumble the words, then give a copy to the students to rearrange in pairs or groups of 3.

You must not speak in the exam.

You must not smoke in school.

The winner is the team who makes the sentences first.

Now elicit what the two sentences express: Prohibition. Now explain that there are two inversion structures we can use to express prohibition in a more formal way.

Model the sentences on the board with the inversion structures, paying particular attention to the way in which the aux verb and subject are inverted and the “not” is removed.

Under no circumstance must/should you speak in the exam.

On no account must/should you smoke in school.

Part 2 – Pictionary

Now split the class into two groups. Tell each group that they need to come up with 10 prohibitions using the two structures as a group and write them on strips of paper, emcourage them to be imaginative and think of crazy prohibitions: Under no circumtances must you sing to the dolphins. To them to work quietly so that the other group doesn’t hear their sentences.

While they work monitor them and correct mistakes.

Now collect in the sentences making sure to keep the two group’s sentences seperate. Now the students play pictionary: 1 volunteer from the first group comes to the board and has 2 minutes to draw as many of the prohibitions written by the other group for their own group to guess. They musn’t speak or write letters. Award 1 point for each sentences they guess correctly.

Let both teams have 2 turns each, the winning team is the one with the most points.

Inversionana Jones (sorry)

This is a lesson plan based around clips from the Indiana Jones films to teach inversion structures. Specifically the following ones:

No sooner had I sat down than the phone rang.

Scarcely/hardly/barely do you enter the restaurant when you smell the delicious food.

Part 1 – Introducing the structures

Print out this handout and cut it up into separate words, keeping the “No sooner, hardly, barely, scarcely, than and when cards for yourself.” I laminated the words for future use and printed the “No sooner, hardly etc.” parts on orange paper.

Give out the cards to students in group and have them order them into correct sentences. Either do this on a central table where everyone can see, on the floor or have the students come and blu-tac the sentences on the board.

As soon as I had sat down the phone started ringing.

As soon as you enter the restaurant you can smell the delicious food.

As soon as we had stepped off the plane, it started raining.

Tell students that we can use inversion to express the same thing as these sentences in 4 different ways. Now use the “No sooner/hardly/barely etc.” cards to transform the sentences. Be sure to draw their attention to the way in which you invert the auxiliary verb or add it if it’s not in the original sentence. Note: if this is a revision class have the students do it themselves.

No sooner had I sat down, than the phone started ringing.

Barely do you enter the restaurant, when you can smell the delicious food.

Scarcely had we stepped off the plane, when it started raining.

Draw student’s attention to the use of “than” with no sooner and “when” with the others. Have them copy the following formula:

Inversion Phrase + aux verb + subject + verb

Hardly had I sat down

Part 2 – Indiana Jones Clips

Now you can show them the Indiana Jones clips, tell them to watch the action and look out for actions which can be described using the structures:

No sooner had he swapped the sandbag for the statue, than the temple began to collapse. Encourage students to look for more.

Barely had the Nazis got on the boat when Indy escaped on his motorbike. Encourage students to look for more.

Scarcely had the Nazi drunk from the fake Holy Grail, when he grew old and disintegrated. Encourage students to look for more.

There are hundreds of other video clips that can be used to teach these structures, let me know which other ones you find.

Follow up

Set a composition in which students need to describe an exciting activity they’ve done, encourage them to use the structures to make a narrative more exciting.

CPE resources I have found

I’ve recently taken on a CPE exam group who are taking the exam in December and I’ve been scouring the internet for suitable materials to boost their vocabulary before the big day. Here are the fruits of my labour:

CAE First Class – Ice Breakers

Here are some ice breaking activities for a first class with a CAE group.The idea is to get students talking and also to recycle and refresh some grammar and vocabulary that they should have covered in the FCE.

You’ll need this prezi:


Part 1

For the first activity you need to come up with 10 sentences using adjective + preposition combinations. My example is the first slide of the prezi:

1. I’m petrified of heights.
2. I’m brilliant at football.
3. I’m interested in studying German.
4. I’m proud of English cuisine.
5. I’m dreadful at cooking.
6. I’m pessimistic about my football team’s chances.
7. I’m famous for making a delicious Spanish omelet.
8. I’m fond of basketball and rugby.
9. I’m dissatisfied with my team’s 1-1 draw at the weekend.
10. I’m allergic to walnuts.

Dictate the 10 sentences, have your students write them down, then project them or write them on the board. Tell students that five of the sentences are true and five are false. Put the student in pairs and have them discuss the sentences, they can ask you questions to try and catch you in a lie. After about 5 minutes tell students to come to a decision about which are true/false and explain their reasons: “We don’t reckon you’re interested in studying German because….” the team with the most correct answers wins. Use the opportunity to share some information about yourself with your students.

Now tell students that you want them to do the same. Show the second slide of the prezi with other adjective preposition combinations:

accustomed to
addicted to
annoyed with/at sb
annoyed about st
anxious about
ashamed of
awful/dreadful/rubbish at
brilliant/amazing/excellent at
capable of
crazy about
content with
curious about
dissatisfied with
delighted about
experienced in
fed up with
envious of
furious about
fond of
puzzled by
suspicious of

terrified/petrified of
upset about
worried about

Students can use any of these or the ones you used in your 10. Clear up any of the vocabulary and then give students 5 minutes to come up with their 10.

Students read out their 10 sentences to their partner and discuss them trying to guess which are true and which are false. Focus should be on repetition of the adjective + prep but also allow them to chat freely to get to know each other. Change partners and repeat as many times as you like.

Go round the class and have students share any surprising things they discovered, or any of their false sentences that fooled their classmates.

The next slide can be used at the end of the class as a recap of the prepositions from your original ten sentences.

1. I’m petrified __ heights.
2. I’m brilliant __ football.
3. I’m interested __ studying German.
4. I’m proud __ English cuisine.
5. I’m dreadful __ cooking.
6. I’m pessimistic __ my football team’s chances.
7. I’m famous __ making a delicious Spanish omelet.
8. I’m fond __ basketball and rugby.
9. I’m dissatisfied __ my team’s 1-1 draw at the weekend.
10. I’m allergic __ walnuts.

Part 2

This is my take on another classic ice breaker. Project the next slide onto the board:

1. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why? (I’d choose….)
2. Make 2 wishes, 1 present wish and 1 past.
I wish I had brown hair.
I wish I was shorter.
I wish I had studied Spanish at school.
I wish I hadn’t stayed up so late last night.
Explain your wishes
3. Where would you rather go on holiday, the beach or the mountains? Why? (I’d rather go to…)
4. What’s your earliest memory?
5. If you could relive one day in your life which day would you choose and why? (I’d…..)
6. If the weather had been better at the weekend, what would you have done? (I would have…)

Again you might need to tailor the questions a bit. Put students in pairs and have them ask and answer all 6 questions, but first tell them that they have to remember all of the information that their partner tells them. The idea is to get students using the complete grammatical structures so remind them that they have to ask each other the complete questions (not just say “what about number 2″) and give complete answers (I have included the sentence stems). Tell students that they have 10 minutes to ask and answer all of the questions to every person in the class and that they need to remember all the information.

When the 10 minutes is up, split the class into two teams. Ask for a volunteer from team 1 to come to the front of the class and sit in the hot seat, team 2 then have to remember all of that volunteer’s answers to the 6 questions, they receive 1 point for each answer they remember correctly. Remind them to use the complete grammatical structures, this way they are recycled multiple times. Then team 1 has to remember a member of team 2’s answers. Repeat until everyone has been in the hot seat.

By the end of the class you will have hopefully learned all your student’s names, a bit about them and refreshed some grammar and vocabulary.

CPE use of English quizlet sets

Here are some great quizlet sets I found for CPE revision and cramming: