The Cambridge C1 Advanced is an excellent qualification to aim for if you’re thinking of studying or working abroad. It’s recognised by universities and governments all over the world and also helps you prove your language skills to future employers.

One of the most demanding parts of the exam is Part 1 of the Writing paper, which includes writing an essay. For many of you, this won’t come naturally… especially in another language.

So, to give you the best chance at success, we’ve created this in-depth guide full of Cambridge C1 Advanced Writing tips and useful language to get you producing excellent essays in no time.

So, pick up your pen, and let’s get started!

If you’d like to get more help with the C1 Advanced, consider our exam preparation class!


C1 Advanced Writing Requirements


The C1 Advanced Writing exam has two writing parts, which you must complete in 90 minutes. Both parts have a word limit of between 220-260 words. We recommend getting lots of writing practice under these conditions!

Part 1 is always a discursive essay. It requires you to think about arguments for and against a topic.

Part 2 is a situationally based writing task. This could be a letter, an email, a report, a proposal or a review and you have three options to choose from.

Today, we’ll be looking at how to do your best in part 1.


Before you begin


When you turn over the paper and begin Writing Part 1, take some time to read the task instructions. Identify all parts of the question, underlining which parts are obligatory and noting which parts are optional.

Let’s take a look at an example question!

How to write a C1 Advanced Essay - Example Question | Oxford House Barcelona

Remember, you don’t have to use the opinions expressed in the box, but they may help you to get the ball rolling. Also, you only have to talk about two of the options given, not all three.


Make a plan


Take ten minutes to lay out your ideas. Make a pros and cons list for each of the three options and then decide which two you feel most confident with. Here’s some things you might come up with, can you think of any more?

How to write a C1 Advanced Essay - Make a Plan | Oxford House Barcelona

Structure your essay


The essence of a good essay is a clear structure.


Here you want to introduce the topic in your own words. Your first line should also grab the reader’s attention, then you should paraphrase the question. Finally, try using a statistic or a rhetorical question. This will make them want to read on, right?

Paragraph 1

Discuss the first option you’ve chosen. Include a good topic sentence and remember to give reasons for your answer. Describe some of the advantages, and even some of the disadvantages too. This will give a well-balanced argument.

Paragraph 2

Here’s where you introduce the second option. Again, try to present both sides of the argument and give reasons for your ideas. Gradually work towards the conclusion.


State your final opinion. This should be a summary of the rest of the essay and point clearly to which option you think is the most important. Do not introduce any new arguments at this stage. The conclusion is where you tie-up any loose ends.




This is an advanced piece of writing, so make sure your choice of language reflects it. You will get marked for accuracy, however, occasional errors can still be present as long as they do not impede understanding. So don’t play it too safe. This is your opportunity to show what you can do, so take some risks and have fun with it!




In the writing paper you should use a range of vocabulary, including less common lexis. Brainstorm some vocabulary related to the topic. Take your time to think of nouns and compound nouns that you know at C1 level. Really let your vocabulary sparkle.

How to write a C1 Advanced Essay - Vocabulary | Oxford House Barcelona



No one likes a broken record. Find synonyms for simple words. You want to use a variety of language, and try not to repeat yourself too much. Check out these different ways of saying the same thing:

advantage = benefit, positive, upside

disadvantage = downside, drawback

effect = influence, impact, result, outcome

problem = issue, challenge, difficulty, obstacle, setback, complication

important = valuable, essential, beneficial

expensive = costly, dear, high-priced, extortionate

cheap = inexpensive, affordable, economical

big = great, large, sizeable, considerable, wide, vast

small = slight, tiny, little

Quick tip: Visit to study more synonyms!




Experiment with different grammatical forms. At this level you’re expected to have a good grasp on the grammar. You should use a range of simple and complex grammatical forms with control and flexibility. So challenge yourself with some of these…

Useful expressions


To make your essay flow it’s best to use some key phrases. These will link all your ideas together, and help it sound semi-formal. Take a look at the expressions below. Why not use some in your next essay?


It is often said that…

Many people feel that…

We live in an age when..

More and more…

Introducing & Addition:

Firstly, secondly, thirdly…

On the one hand…

In addition…

What is more…


For example…

For instance…

As a case in point…


In contrast…

On the other hand…




All things considered…

As far as I’m concerned…

In light of the above…


What the examiners are looking for


When writing your essay, bear in mind what you’ll be marked on:


Have you answered all parts of the question? Is everything relevant to the question?

Communicative Achievement

Is the style and tone appropriate? Remember it should be semi-formal and neutral.


Does it follow a logical order? Have you used paragraphs and linking devices?


Are you using a variety of grammar and vocabulary? Is it accurate?




Now your masterpiece has come together. Remember to take time to check your work. Here’s the official Writing Checklist from Cambridge Assessment English. And our list of the most common mistakes:

  • spelling
  • subject + verb agreement
  • singulars / plurals
  • articles
  • question formation
  • variety of tenses
  • dependent prepositions

Some final tips


Avoid contractions (I’m, they’re, we’re) as this is a formal writing.

Don’t use first person pronouns (I, my, our, us).

Practise under timed conditions.

Use model answers to practise fixed expressions.


Good luck!


Looking for more help with your Cambridge C1 Advanced exam? Here are our other guides from our blog:

C1 Advanced Reading and Use of English – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

And if you are not sure if you’re ready for the C1 Advanced, check out our article Am I ready for the C1 Advanced exam? to find out!

Glossary for Language Learners


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

Get the ball rolling (exp) : to start something.

Lay out (v): to explain something in detail.

Paraphrase (v): to say the same thing in a different way.

Tie-up any loose ends (exp): to resolve issues.

Play it safe (exp): to act cautiously.

A broken record (exp): when someone repeats themself.

Sparkle (v) : to shine.

Good grasp (exp): a good knowledge.

Bear in mind (exp) : to consider.

Masterpiece (n): an incredible work of art.


v = verb

exp = expression

n = noun

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