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CAE Writing: The Marking Criteria Explained

To understand the marking criteria we must first take a look at the criteria that Cambridge publish.

We can see that Cambridge divide the marking criteria into 4 parts. In this blog, we will dive into each of these points and have a look at what you need to consider when planning your answer.


Content is about how well you have fulfilled the task so,

  • for part 1, read the instructions, the three points outlined in the notes and the three provided opinions carefully. Decide which two points you want to respond to in your answer. Your decision should be based on whether you can expand and develop these two points by providing relevant examples or subsidiary points

  • to make sure that the reader is fully informed, decide early on which of the two points you will say is most important, and note down one or two reasons for this choice. A good place to state this final decision will be in the last paragraph.

  • for part 2, underline the two or three points you need to respond to in each task. To make sure that the reader is fully informed, make notes for each of these points in your plan

Communicative Achievement

Communicative achievement is about

  • Achieving your communicative purpose (e.g. it is clear that you are making a complaint, suggesting alternatives, making a series of recommendations?)

  • holding the reader's attention (by using an appropriate register, tone and format, and communicating your ideas and arguments in a way that the reader can follow without difficulty).

So for both parts, choose a register and tone that is appropriate, e.g. impersonal language and an objective tone for factual tasks, informal language when writing to friends, polite language when you are trying to persuade someone in authority


Organisation is about the overall coherence in your writing, so

  • decide whether the task requires an introduction and a conclusion and/or headings.

  • organise your main points into separate sections or paragraphs, and make a note of subsidiary points below each main point.

  • note down some cohesive devices that you are confident in using (e.g. moreover, therefore, one example of this) that you can use to show the relationship between sentences, main points and ideas.

  • before writing your answer in full, review your plan and ask yourself whether someone reading your writing would get a sense of logical order.


Language is about your use of vocabulary and grammar, so

  • choose the two points in Part 1 and a task from Part 2 that will allow you to show off a range of vocabulary.

  • think about how you can vary the grammatical structures you use.

  • avoid repeating the same words and phrases by using synonyms and paraphrasing instead.

  • avoid making too many mistakes with basic English.


If you follow the points above you will give yourself the best chance to maximise your writing score.

If you need further help with your writing you can contact Exam English Prep for help and guidance by emailing

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