Are you preparing for the Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) writing exam? If so, you may be feeling a little nervous and concerned about what lies ahead. Let us help put that fear and anxiety to bed and get started on how your academic writing can leave a positive impression on the examiner.

By the end of this blog post, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, how to prepare and how you can use your knowledge of other parts of the exam to help you.

Although you’ll find the advanced writing skills you’ve mastered at C1 will stand you in good stead for C2 writing, there are clear differences in the exam format in CPE. As in Cambridge C1, there are two parts in the writing exam, and understanding what you need to do before you’ve even put a pen to paper is incredibly important. So, let’s go!


What’s in Part 1?


First, let’s look at the format of Part 1:


  • Task: essay.
  • Word count: 240–280 words.
  • Register: formal.
  • Overview: a summary of two texts and an evaluation of the ideas.
  • Suggested structure: introduction, paragraph 1, paragraph 2, conclusion.
  • Time: 1 hour 30 minutes for Part 1 and 2.

Before we look at an example task, let’s look at how your paper will be assessed. The examiner will mark your paper using four separate assessment scales:


  • Content – this demonstrates your ability to complete the task, including only relevant information.
  • Communicative achievement – this shows how well you’ve completed the task, having followed the conventions of the task, used the correct register and maintained the reader’s attention throughout.
  • Organisation – the overall structure of your essay, the paragraphs and the sentences.
  • Language – your ability to use a wide range of C2 grammar and vocabulary in a fluent and accurate way.

How can I write a fantastic essay?


Let’s look at an example task:

Example Task_C2 Proficiency Writing Test - Part 1 Essay | Oxford House Barcelona

The key things you’re being asked to do here are summarise, evaluate and include your own ideas, using your own words as far as possible. So, in short, you have to paraphrase. As a Cambridge exams expert, you’ll know that this is a skill you already use throughout the exam.

In Reading and Use of English Part 4, the techniques you are using to make the keyword transformations (active to passive, comparative structures, negative inversions, common word patterns, etc) will show you that you already know how you can say the same thing in other words.

Your ability to do word formation in Reading and Use of English Part 3 is useful here, as you look for verbs that you can change into nouns, and vice versa. This enables you to say reword sentences without losing the original meaning.

You are already adept at identifying the correct options in Reading and Use of English Part 5 and Listening Parts 1 and 3, although the words given are different to the information in the text or audio.

So, be aware of the skills you have already practised, and use them to your advantage!


How should I plan and structure my essay?


Before you even consider writing, read both texts thoroughly. Highlight the key points in each text and make notes about how you can express this in your own words. Look for contrasting opinions and think about how you can connect the ideas together. These contrasting ideas will usually form the basis of paragraphs 2 and 3.

Although there are multiple ways you can organise your essay, here is a tried and tested structure:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Idea 1 with support

Paragraph 3: Idea 2 with support

Paragraph 4: Conclusion


Use your introduction as a way to present the general theme. Don’t give anything away in terms of your own opinion, but instead give an overview of what you will discuss. Imagine this as a global comment, talking about how society as a whole may feel about the topic.

Idea 1

Start with a strong sentence. Make your intentions clear, then back up your idea with a supporting sentence and elaborate on it. Use linkers to show how this idea has different stances, paraphrased from the key points you highlighted in the texts.

Idea 2

Follow the same structure as Idea 1, but focus on a different element from the two texts. Introduce it clearly, then provide more support to the idea. Keep emotional distance from the topic – save your opinion for the conclusion!


Here is the opportunity for you to introduce your personal opinion. There shouldn’t be anything new included here other than how you personally feel about the topics discussed. Use your conclusion to refer back to the main point and round up how your opinion differs or is similar.

This is just one example of how you can structure your essay. However, we recommend trying different formats. The more you practise, the more feedback you’ll get from your teacher. Once you’ve settled on the structure that suits you, your planning will be a lot quicker and easier.


What can I do to prepare?


According to the Cambridge English website, ‘A C2 Proficiency qualification shows the world that you have mastered English to an exceptional level. It proves you can communicate with the fluency and sophistication of a highly competent English speaker.’

This means that being a proficient writer in your own language is not enough. So, what can you do to really convince the examiner that you truly are smarter than the average Joe?

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

✔ Read academic texts regularly.

✔ Pay attention to model essay answers and highlight things that stand out.

✔ Always try to upgrade your vocabulary. Challenge yourself to think of synonyms.

✔ Write frequently and study the feedback your teacher gives you.

✔ Study C2 grammar and include it in your writing.


What do I need to avoid?


Don’t overuse the same linkers. Practise using different ones and not only in essays. You can write something much shorter and ask your teacher to check for correct usage.


  • Don’t constantly repeat the same sentence length and punctuation. Long sentences may seem the most sophisticated, but you should consider adding shorter ones from time to time. This adds variety and a dramatic effect. Try it!
  • Don’t be discouraged by your mistakes – learn from them! If you struggle with a grammar point, master it. If you spell something incorrectly, write it again and again.
  • Don’t limit your English studying time. Do as much as possible in English – watch TV, read, listen to podcasts, or meet with English speaking friends. English time should not only be reserved for the classroom.

What websites can help me?


The Official Cambridge English page, where you can find a link to sample papers.

BBC Learning English has a range of activities geared towards advanced level learners.

Flo-joe has very useful writing practice exercises that allow you to see other students’ writing.

Writing apps and tools like Grammarly can improve your writing style with their feedback and suggestions.

Don’t forget about our fantastic C2 blogs too!

Passing Cambridge C2 Proficiency: Part 3 Reading and Use of English

Passing C2 Proficiency: A Guide to Reading Part 5

Passing C2 Proficiency: A Guide to Reading Part 6

Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Listening Test

Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Speaking Test


Looking for further support?


If you’re interested in preparing for the C2 Proficiency exam but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us here at Oxford House today! We offer specific courses that are designed especially to help you get ready for the exam. Let our fully qualified teachers use their exam experience to guide you through your learning journey. Sign up now and receive your free mock test!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

lie ahead (pv): be in the future.

stand you in good stead (id): be of great use to you.

adept at (adj): have a good ability to do something.

thoroughly (adv): completely.

tried and tested (adj): used many times before and proved to be successful.

back up (pv): give support to.

round up (pv): summarise.

settle on (pv): choose after careful consideration

average Joe (n): normal person.

discouraged (adj): having lost your enthusiasm or confidence.


pv = phrasal verb

id = idiom

adj = adjective

n = noun

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