English Essays- Exam Writing

English Essays- Exam Writing

English Essays- Exam Writing. It’s exam season and what I see most of my students struggle with is writing. Maybe email writing is a bit easier, but the dreaded essay is something that lowers most students’ scores. Let’s look at this basic model for writing essays that will guarentee a higher mark.


Essays - Introductions

What to do and not do in an introduction:

  • Present an interesting question to your audience
  • Restate the question in your own words.
  • Do NOT repeat more than 3 of the words from the topic.
  • Do NOT present ideas that will NOT be addressed in the essay.
  • Do NOT present your reasoning just yet.

Paragraph 2

  • If you are in favor of the topic, than use this paragraph to express your first main idea about why you are in agreement with the topic.
  • For an ‘on balance’ essay, also use this paragraph to present your ideas in favor of the topic.
  • For an ‘against’ essay, use the paragraph to present your first idea why you are not in agreement.
  • Write a main idea and two supporting ideas.
  • Supporting ideas can be reasons, evidence and examples.
  • Ask yourself: Does my main idea support the topic of the essay? Do my supporting ideas support my main idea?
Essays- paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

Essays - Paragraph 3
  • If you are writing in favor of the topic, use this paragraph to present your second main idea with supporting ideas about why you agree with the topic.
  • For an ‘on balance’ essay, present the negative side of the issue.
  • If you are writing an against essay, present your second reason with supporting ideas about why you don’t agree with the topic.
  • Use appropriate connectors to transition between paragraphs.


What to do and what not to do in the conclusion

  • Clearly state your position
  • Be short and to the point
  • Do NOT present a new idea that was not previously mentioned.

Writing Rules

Now that you have seen our post about English Essays- Exam Writing, have a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: Exam Writing Criteria
Writing Rules: By vs Until

Cursos Inglés

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English: By vs till / until

English: By vs till / until

English: By vs till / until. It can be quite confusing when we are writing work emails to know if we should use by or until. It’s true that until can often be translated as ‘hasta‘ in Spanish, but not always.



  • When ‘by’ is used to indicate time, it means:
    • something can be done between now and the time indicated.
    • not after the time indicated.
    • includes the day or time mentioned.


  • I’ll call you back by 3:00.
    • (I’ll call you between now and 3:00)
  • Please respond by Friday at the latest.
    • (Respond between now and Friday)
  • By what time do you need the payment?
  • What time do you need the payment by?
    • (When is the latest time for me to pay this?)


Meaning (positive)

  • When till or until are used to indicate time, it means:
    • the duration of a situation
    • when the event ends
  • till and until have the same meaning.
  • till is more informal and not used in formal writing.


  • I will be in the office until 6 o’clock to answer any of your questions.
    • (I will not be here to answer you at 6 or later).
  • We have until next month to pay the bill.
    • (we can pay it any time this month)
  • How much time do we have until they call?
    • (How much time do we have to prepare before the phone rings)

Meaning (negative)

  • In a positive statement, until means when something ends. However, in a negative statement, it usually means when something will begin.

Examples (negative)

  • We can not get any information from them until we provide all the necesarry documents.
    • (First the documents need to be turned in, then we will get the information)
  • The results will not be listed until everyone has voted.
    • (First all the votes take place. Then we get the results)

Common Mistakes

It is quite common for Spanish speakers to mix up by and until as they both are indicating a time when something ends. Take a look at some of these common errors.

  • INCORRECT: You have by Tuesday to respond.
  • CORRECT: You have until Tuesday to respond.


Fill in the blank space with by or until. Check your answers at the bottom of the post.

  1. Please, respond to this email ____ Thursday.
  2. I have to leave today ____ noon. I have a doctor appointment.
  3. I am requesting time off, from June 10th ____ the 16th.
  4. ____ Friday at the latest.
  5. ____ June, we will not have any results for you.
  6. The summer discount is available ____ September.
  7. ____ 5 o’clock the office is closed and everyone has gone home.
  8. ____ 5 o’clock the office is open and full of people.
  9. You should have the asnwer ____ Monday at the latest.
  10. ____ we find a solution, we are unable to check out databases.

English Writing

Now that you have seen English: By vs till / until, take a look at our other English Writing posts:
English Writing: Notifying errors
English Writing: Making requests in English

Cursos inglés

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  1. by
  2. until
  3. until
  4. by
  5. until
  6. until
  7. by
  8. until
  9. by
  10. until
English Writing: notifying errors

English Writing: notifying errors

English Writing: notifying errors. Communicating an error or mistake can be a delicate matter, especially in emails. So, make sure that your language is clear, not aggressive and is focused on the solution.


Here are some of the basic rules for making complaints or for telling someone they have made a mistake.

  • Don’t use language that accuses someone. Don’t be aggressive. Identify the mistake
  • Stay polite by using indirect language.
  • Mistake is a broad term that can be applied to anything. Learn the correct terminology for each situation and your message will be clearer, hence you will have better results.
  • By doing the first three rules, you have a better opportunity for maintaining a good working relationship with your colleagues



  • Try to avoid saying ‘you’
  • Use ‘we’ to share responsibility
    • We should review the numbers again.
  • Replace pronouns with There is, there seems to be, It looks like…
    • There’s seems to be a problem.
    • There is a inconsistancy here.
    • It looks like the price was overvalued.


  • Avoid negatives
  • Rephrase things in a positive way
    • I think we need to rethink the figures.
    • Maybe we need to look at the prices again.


  • Discrepancy – when two numbers are different but should be the same.
  • Mix up – a mistake that causes confusion
  • Oversight – a mistake because someone didn’t see something.


It’s also important to be clear about what the exact error is. Here are some examples:

  • There was a discrepancy in the numbers. I noted that we have 4,300 pieces in the wearhouse and your document states that there is 4,200.
  • There’s seems to have been a mix-up. We were charged $2,000 this month, but that was last month’s order size. This month we only ordered half, so the price should be $1,000.
  • I’m sure it was just as oversight, but I believe the building has been undervalued by 10,000€. Can you please look into it for me?


Always remember to close your email in a polite manner. Some examples are as follows:

  • Hope to hear from you soon,
  • Let me know if I can do anything,
  • Give me a call if you have any questions.
  • Thanks for giving this an extra look.


Now that you have read English Writing: notifying errors, have a look at our other Writing posts:
Writing: making requests in English
Writing: C1 Advanced Writing

Making requests in English

Making requests in English

Making requests in English. It’s true that us Americans are very direct giving answers and advice, however, when we need to request something, we usually take the indirect, more polite route. In Spanish, you would call this ‘haciendo pelota’ (kissing ass in English) but I promise it’s just built into us since childhood.


A simple request means you ask someone to do something they are expected to complete. The reader needs to comply with the request.

  • Can you call Carol and cancel tomorrow’s meeting please?
  • Would you mind picking Lucia up from school today?

Sometimes a simple request is more like a reminder.

  • Could you please send me that report I asked for?
  • So, can you drop by after work?


You have decided to use these phrases as they are the most appropriate for the situation. Now, let’s use them properly.


Remember that ‘could’ is more polite than ‘can’. This is the only difference between the two words.

  • Can + subject + please + infinitive without to + object
    • Can we please call him?
  • Can + subject + infinitive without to + object + please
    • Can John look for the cat please?
  • Could + subject + please + infintive without to + object
    • Could you pease tell me you name?
  • Could + subject + infinitive without to + object + please
    • Could she stop singing please. I can’t concentrate.


To learn more about the different uses of the phrase ‘Would you mind?, click here.

  • Would + subject + mind + gerund (+object)
    • Would you mind going? I’m very busy.
    • Would he mind finishing up early tonight?


When we ask people for favors or big requests, remember to use more polite language or they are less likely to say yes.

Asking for favors and big requests means that the reader does not need to comply with your request.

  • I was wondering if I could take the day off tomorrow.
  • Do you think Clare might be able to cover me?
  • I was hoping she could give three classes.


As was the case previously, it is important to know how to properly use these expressions.

Was/were wondering if…

Here we are using an indirect question to request something. To learn more about indirect questions, click here.

  • Subject + was/were wondering + if + request (could + infinitive without to + object)
    • I was wondering if you could help me with this project.
    • I was wondering if Joe could take my place.
    • Paul was wondering if Ann could purchase the materials.
    • We were wondering if your team could give us a hand.

Do you think …

Here there are two versions. ‘Do you think you could‘, which is less polite than ‘Do you think you might be able to‘. However, both are good options. Since you are asking someone directly, we always start with ‘Do YOU think…’. If you ask ‘Does Carol think … ‘, we are asking someone for their opinion and it is no longer a request.

  • Do you think + person + could + infintive without to (+ object)
    • Do you think you could come over?
    • Do you think that Jennifer could finish my part?
  • Do you think + person + might be able to + infinitive without to (+object)
    • Do you think I might be able to take Monday off?
    • Do you think Martin might be able to do it?

I was hoping…

Here we can make a request for ourselves or for someone else. Since this is not a direct question, it may be unclear sometimes that this is a request, but it is!

  • Subject + was hoping (+that) + person + could + infintive without to (+object)
    • I was hoping I could leave early today.
    • Emma was hoping that you could send her the homework.

Writing Rules

Now that you have seen Making requests in English, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: C1 Advanced Writing
Writing Rules: Formal and informal emails

Cursos inglés

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C1 Advanced Writing

C1 Advanced Writing

C1 Advanced Writing

C1 Advanced Writing. In part 2 of the CAE C1 Advanced Cambridge exam, you have the option of choing between writing a report, a letter or email, a review or a proposal. It can be confusing, knowing what to put and where. Here I have reduced the information into categories to help you remember.


  • In reports, remember to add:
    • a title and sub-headings for each paragraph
    • formal or neutral style as reports tend to be for work
    • a beginning that clearly states the reason for writing the report.
    • Finish off the report with a conclusion or a recommendation that specifically addresses the reson for writing the report.


  • In reports, be sure to include:
    • a title and subheadings for each paragraph
    • a formal or neutral style
    • a clear argument that has reasons and examples backing it up. Remember RED.
    • persuasive language which is key to writing the proposal.
C1 Writing Proposals


  • for letter and emails, be sure to include:
    • the receiver’s name in the correct style (use Mr, Ms, Miss or Mrs + full name for formal letters. Use person’s first name for informal ones.
    • a formal, neutral or informal style depending on who you are writing to.
    • correct openings and closings (Dear, Good Morning, Sincerely, Thanks, etc)


  • For reviews, remember to add:
    • an interesting title
    • formal or neutral style
    • an interesting fact, a question or an antecdote to begin the review in order to capture the reader’s attention
    • your opinion and back it up with clear examples.
    • some factual informal
    • persuasive language if want the reader to do read, listen, shop, etc to what you are writing about.
C1 Writing Reviews


I can’t stress enough how important it is to go back and re-read your writing. The most common errors to check for are:

  • Subject-verb agreement (singular or plural)
  • articles (a, the, some)
  • prepositions 
  • use of correct tenses
  • word order 
  • spelling mistakes
  • over-all flow and organization of your writing.


Now that you have read C1 Advanced Writing, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: Formal and Informal
Writing Rules: Giving Advice

English writing: Formal and informal

English writing: Formal and informal

English writing: Formal and informal

English writing: Formal and informal. Truth be told, we are not as formal as you think, especially Americans. Not only that, but if you are still using very formal language with me after we have known each other for some time, I may feel offended. Formal language can be seen as cold and distant. So, I’m not saying forget everything your teachers have taught you, if you need to write a cover letter, a formal complaint or a first email to a new client, formal language is the way to go. But, once you have a relationship, lighten up.


  • Formal: In relation to our previous email…
    • In relation to our previous email, we are willing to reduce the shipping charges.
  • Informal: Just to follow up on our chat…
    • Just to follow up on chat, we are happy to reduce the shipping charge.
  • Formal: I’m writing to inform you…
    • I’m writing to inform you that you have been accepted into the University of Chicago.
  • Informal: Just to let you know…
    • Just to let you know – I got in! I’m going to UofC!
  • Formal: We are delighted to inform you that.
    • We are delighted to inform you that your request has been accepted.
  • Informal: Guess what…
    • Guess what! We just got your package today.


  • Formal: Please find attached
    • Please find attached the documents you requested.
  • Informal: I’m attaching / I’ve attached
    • I’m attaching the documents to asked for.
    • I’ve attached the documents here.


  • Formal: Please take into account…
    • Please take into account that the meeting starts at 10 am.
  • Informal: Don’t forget to…
    • Don’t forget to join the meeting at 10.


  • Formal: I look forward to seeing you on Monday.
  • Informal: See you on Monday. Hope to see you on Monday.

English Writing

Now that you have seen English writing: Formal and informal, have a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: Gerunds that follow to
Writing Rules: Giving advice

Giving advice in English

Giving advice in English

Giving advice in English

Giving advice in English. There are only a few occasions when you should be using ‘have to’ with someone.

  1. You are a parent and you are telling your children what to do (and this concept is debatable)
    • You have to clean your room before you leave this house.
  2. You are telling your friend in an exaggerated way what they need to do because it was fun, exciting, entertaining, etc.
    • You HAVE TO see the last season of Stranger Things!
  3. You are seriously concerned about someone.
    • We have to go to the emergency room now!

If you are not in one of these three situations, then stop telling people in English what they ‘have to do’. This is a strong statement for us and is usually used for children. So, when speaking or writing to adults, employees, etc, I soften my advice by using some of the following phrases. Why? Because they are adults and can make the best decisions for themselves. And yes! This included employees.


  • A polite way of giving advice to someone
  • 1 Form: Person + recommend/suggest + gerund
    • They recommend printing the file instead of sending it by email.
    • She suggests charging them before sending anything out.
  • 2 Form: Person + recommend/suggest + noun
    • My doctor doesn’t recommend those pills for pain.
    • Lucia suggests the white one because it is lighter.


  • A more polite way to give advice.
  • 1. Form: Person + would recommend/suggest + gerund
    • I would suggest calling the store first to see if it’s still open before you take a ride over there.
    • I wouldn’t recommend eating there. It hasn’t got very good reviews.
  • 2. Form: Person + would recommend/suggest + noun
    • I wouldn’t recommend the beef to anyone. It was not their best dish.
    • I think a doctor would suggest time off for that type of injury.
  • Use the adverbs highly or stongly to give strength to your statement.
    • I would highly recommend checking with your doctor before trying that medication.
    • She would strongly recommend Paul’s garage for any problems you may have with your car.


  • A way of giving advice based on what you would do if you were in their situation.
  • Form: If I were you + I + would + infintive (without to)
    • If I were you, I would finish send the email out before the end of the day.
    • If I were you, I would talk to my boss before jumpling to any conclusions.


  • An inoffensive way of asking what someone has already done.
  • Form: Have you tried + gerund
    • Have you tried turning it on and off again?
    • Have you tried calling their main line and asking to speak to him directly?

Writing rules

Now that you have seen Giving advice in English, take a look at out other Writing Rules posts.
Writing Rules: I’m writing
Writing Rules: Gerunds that follow to

Cursos inglés

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English emails: I'm writing

English Emails: I’m writing

English emails: I’m writing. When writing emails in Spanish, it’s quite common to use Present Simple: I write… However, in English we use Present Continuous to write about something that is happening in the moment. I’m writing this blog post right now, so I use Present Continuous.


Starting emails

Since I am writing an email in the moment, we use Present Continuous. To start the email, say:

  • I’m writing you in reference to the conference that is taking place next month.
  • I’m writing you in response to your questions about the fair.


We can also use the present continuous to talk about an attachment to an email:

  • I’m attaching the documents you requested earlier today.
  • As requested, I’m attaching a copy of the budget.

Talking about yourself

Remember, we use Present Continuous to talk about things we are doing in the moment, so if you are talking about something happening now in your life, use present continuous:

  • I’m working a lot right now since I just started a new job.
  • I’m living in a nice apartment about 15 minutes from the center.

Writing Rules

Now that you have learned about English Emails: I’m writing, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing rules: Gerunds that follow to
Writing rules: B2 Writing tips: RED

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English: gerunds that follow to

English: Gerunds that follow to

English: gerunds that follow to

English: gerunds that follow to. Gerunds and Infinitives are always difficult to remember (click here for more on gerunds vs infintives). They are also a large part of the B2 and C1 exams for Cambridge, Oxford, EILTS, EOI and so on. And let’s not forget that we use gerunds and infinitives all the time in geral conversation. So, yes, they are important. But, let’s not forget that sometimes gerunds follow ‘to’ (when functioning as a preposition). Here are just a few of the most common examples.


  • Mostly used at the end of an email but is also in spoken English
    • Looking forward to meeting you (Notice that we do not use the subject here. This is less formal)
    • We are looking forward to working with you. (This is more formal because we use the subject ‘we’)


English: gerunds that follow to
  • Be used to (estar acostumbrada a). To show that you doing something regularly. It also means that you enjoy it.
    • She’s used to waking up early because he does it every day
  • Get used to (acostubrandose). To show you are trying to make something a habit and enjoy it
    • I’m getting used to living in a small town, but it is still difficult sometimes.
  • Click here for more about these two phrases


  • Committed to and dedicated to both mean that you are willing to give your time and energy to something
    • We have politicians that are very dedicated to cleaning up the city.
    • I am fully committed to doing a good job on the exam.


  • Confessed to means that you have admitted that you have done something wrong.
    • Joe confessed to taking the computer home with him.
  • Get around to doing something means that you have done soemthing you have been wanting to do for a long time.
    • I never got around to learning French.

Writing rules

Now that you have seen English: gerunds that follow to, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: RED
Writing Rules: Mr., Miss, Mrs, Ms

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B2 Writing tips: RED

B2 Writing Tips: RED

B2 Writing tips: RED. Most people do not do well on the writing part of the exam. This is simply because we do not add enough RED: reasons, examples and details. The great thing about using reasons, examples and details is that you are also more likely to use connectors such as: and, but, so, because, etc.


Writing rules: Reasons
  • In both the writing and the speaking section of the exam, you should always give reasons.
  • Never answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’
  • Always say why you can or can’t do something.
    • I wish I could go but I don’t have any money on me. Maybe another time.
    • I would love to go. I’ve been wanting to go there for over a year now.


  • Elaborate.
  • Give examples of what you want to do or where you want to go
    • I feel uncomfortable speaking English. Mainly it’s because I get nervous but I also am embarrassed about my accent.
    • I don’t think we should go to the meeting. They said it was only for serior staff members and we should have received an invitation.
Writing rules: examples


  • Don’t be vague. Offer more details.
    • My flight lands at 10PM in Bilbao. It’s a direct flight from Madrid. The flight number is ES1234.
    • My house is next to the big park on the north side of the city. It’s in front of the Children’s Public School on 5th street.

Writing Rules

Now that you have seen B2 Writing tips: RED, take a look at our other Writing Rules posts:
Writing Rules: Mr., Mrs, Miss and Ms.

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Writing Rules: Mr Miss Mrs Ms

Writing Rules: Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms

Writing Rules: Mr Miss Mrs Ms

Writing Rules: Mr, Miss, Mrs, Ms. You may have heard of Mr., Miss and Mrs., but have you heard of Ms.?

History of Ms.

The idea of Ms was originally presented by publishers as early as the 1900s who wanted to avoid embarrassment by mistaking a woman’s status. It wasn’t until the 1960’s, however, that Sheila Michaels supported the idea of using Ms as a way for women to not have to be identified by their marital status. Read more about Sheila Michaels. Ms. was later used as the title of a famous feminist magazine in the US in 1971. Take a look at the online Ms Magazine here. However, Ms was not used in the New York Times until the 1980s. Today, the term is used quite frequently.


  • Used to formally present or address a man.
  • You can use Mr. with or without the man’s last name.
    • I would like to present Mr. Smith.
    • I met Mr. O’Donnell yesterday.
  • Used to formally address someone in a letter or email, especially if you do not know the person’s name.
    • Dear Mr. Potter,
    • Dear Mr. Harry Potter,


  • Miss has previously been used to refer to someone of a younger age.
  • Today we use Miss to refer to an unmarried woman, young or old.
  • As with Mr, use Miss with or without the first name.
    • Miss Philips will address the crowd at the concert this weekend.
    • Dear Miss Anita Jones,


  • Previously, Mrs. related to an older woman.
  • Today we use Mrs. to refer to a married woman.
  • As if the case with Mr and Miss, use Mrs. with or without the first name.
    • Mrs. Patel is presenting the awards tonight.
    • Dear Mrs. Lucy Johnson,


  • Use Ms. To address a woman when you do not know her marital status.
  • Women who may not want you to know their marital status may also use Ms.
  • It is quite common today for someone to use Ms.
    • Hello Ms. Hintz. I would like you to meet my partner Mr. Williams.
    • Dear Ms. Rita Brown,


It is quite important to know the difference between Miss, Mrs. and Ms.

  • Pronounce the ‘s’ in Miss like the ‘s’ in snake
  • Mrs is pronounced as if it was written misses,
    • the first S sounds like snake, but the second sounds more like a z in buzz
  • Pronounce the ‘s’ in Ms with a ‘z’ sound only.

Writing Rules

Now that you have seen Writing Rules: Mr Miss Mrs Ms, take a look at our other writing focused posts:
Emails: we can do better
Frequency adverbs in less than 5 minutes