My name’s Peter Travis from Flo-Joe and welcome to the very first of this new series of shows helping you with the CPE, Cambridge English Proficiency, Writing paper. In these short shows we’re looking at the common mistakes we see in students’ written work – these are mistakes we’ve seen in writing that’s been sent to Flo-Joe by students who’ve signed up for our Writing Critique and Correction service. You can find out more about our CPE Writing Critique and Correction service here:
In this show we’ll look at a very common issue – copying vocabulary from the task. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when attempting the Part 1 Essay question. If you remember, the question consists of two short passages that you need to summarise and comment on. The texts are full of great vocabulary and it’s very tempting to recycle some of that language in your answer. The problem is, you won’t gain any marks for doing this.
However, there are ways you can make use of the language in the text that will gain you marks in the exam which involve paraphrasing – expressing the same idea using different vocabulary. We’ll look at two methods of paraphrasing today: using different forms of the same word or coming up with an appropriate synonym.
A useful tip when attempting the Essay task is to underline the key areas of the texts that you think will need summarising or commenting on. Pay attention to the vocabulary you think you’ll need to focus on and decide if you could re-write the piece using a different form of the word or words.
Let’s look at some real-life examples. On the left you’ll see an extract from an Essay task looking at the problem of traffic congestion, and on the right a short extract from a student’s answer.
As you can see, the student has repeated the words ‘vehicle exclusion zones’ and then later ‘makes public transport more efficient’.
Now this is certainly not a terrible mistake. In fact, note how she used two different ways of referring to the texts:
it points out that
It makes particular mention of
This is great use of paraphrasing! She could have gone even further and paraphrased the expressions highlighted. So instead of ‘vehicle exclusion zones’, she could have written ‘areas where motorists are prohibited from driving’. And in place of ‘makes public transport more efficient’, we could write ‘improves the efficiency of public transport’. In both examples this requires thinking of another form of the key word and making any changes to the surrounding sentence to make it work grammatically. Hopefully you can see how these changes have made the sentence the student’s own and how this would definitely impress the examiner.
Let’s try improving the student’s work further still using either or both of these techniques. How might you use synonyms or different word forms to rewrite the following so we don’t repeat ‘rising fuel costs’ and ‘still enjoy driving’?
Pause the video now and think of what you might write instead.
Obviously there are various possible answers to these but here are a few suggestions.
Instead of ‘Despite rising fuel costs’, we could use synonyms to write ‘In spite of increasing expenditure on fuel’ and instead of ‘enjoy driving’, we could write ‘find driving pleasurable’.
Let’s try another. What could we write to avoid repeating ‘also gives us the chance to express ourselves’? Again, pause the video while you consider an alternative.
Well, we could re-write the sentence to say ‘The writer also states that the car is a means of self-expression’. Here we’ve come up with an alternative form of the words ‘express ourselves’ as in ‘self expression’.
So, how can you take steps to increase your vocabulary, including a knowledge of synonyms and word forms? Well, you could start by visiting the Flo-Joe website each day to practise word formation. We publish a new quiz each day, Monday to Friday.
And of course, you should read as often and as widely as possible in English whether that be novels, magazines, newspapers, that kind of thing.
That’s the end of this quick video. If you’re preparing for the CPE exam and need help with your writing, find out more about our CPE Writing Critique and Correction service. Whether you’re about to take the exam and need a quick snapshot of where you are, or would like longer term support during your preparation, visit the Flo-Joe website for further information.