How to Pass the Cambridge Business English Certificate (BEC) B1 Writing Exam
von Eric Fendley
I would imagine that if you have found this text on the internet, you are probably just about to sit the Cambridge Business English Certificate (BEC) and are looking for a few tips.
Well, I hope not to disappoint you and would like to offer some advice.
As you probably know, the BEC B1 Reading and Writing exam are completed in one sitting lasting 1.5 hours. I won’t dwell on the reading test too much here, only to say that you have 7 texts to work through and that time is of the essence, so keep an eye on the clock to make sure you don’t start with the writing tests too late.
I always suggest to my students that the cut-off time to finish the reading test and start with the writing test is 1 hour a d10 minutes, therefor leaving you 20 minutes for the writing test.
Writing Test Part 1
Part 1 of the writing test is the informal (internal) correspondence which will probably be an email or a memo. Speak to you teacher well in advance about how to write these, and practice as often as you can. You have to show that you can write informally and here are some things that you should consider:
- Use an informal salutation, e.g. Hi Suzy
- Use small talk like ‘How are you - hope all’s well’
- Use contractions, e.g. ‘don’t’ rather than ‘do not’
- Use lower synonyms, e.g. ‘I got’ rather than ‘I received’
- Use informal business-like phrases like ‘See you soon’
As I said, time is of the essence and you should not allow more that 10 minutes for part 1 because there are only 30-40 words that you have write.
Here is an example question:
You are the accounting manager in your company. You would like to visit a trade fair for accounting software but you must ask your boss, Mr Smith, for permission to go there.
Write an email to Mr Smith:
- Give a justification for going to the trade fair
- Ask for permission to attend
- Request a company car for the trip and explain why you need it
Write 30-40 words
Now, I am sure you agree that it would be better for the exam to write a minimum number of words because this will speed you up and minimize the potential for making mistakes, so here are tips for you to write a minimum of words:
Read the question carefully and note the minimum number of words, in this case 30 words.
Note: It is now your aim to write 30 words, not 40!
Read the tasks for you to write – I have coloured them red here
Note: you will write these first, writing as few words as you need to answer the task
- I want to go to the fair because we need new software.
- Can I go?
- Could I have a company car - my car is in the garage?
Once you have written the sentences answering the question now count the words you have written
Note: you will now only write the number of words so that you have a total of 30 words
I have written 27 words, so I only need to add 3 words
You now add the missing words (I will add ‘How are you?’), add an informal salutation and valediction and you are finished.
Hi Mr Smith
How are you?
I want to go to the fair because we need new software.
Can I go?
Could I have a company car - my car is in the garage?
I have answered the question writing simple sentences and satisfying the question – which means that I will pass part 1 J.
Writing Test Part 2
In part 2 you will have to write a formal correspondence in answer to another text. Here you should use a formal style of writing:
Use an formal salutation, e.g. Dear Mr Smith
Use a reference like ‘With regard to…’
Do not use contractions, e.g. ‘do not’ rather than ‘don’t’
Use higher synonyms, e.g. ‘I received’ rather than ‘I got’
Use formal business-like phrases like ‘I look forward to meeting you’
Again you should write the minimum number of words in order to save time, and therefore the tactics that I mentioned for Part 1 should be used here too.
Finally, write your notes on the scrap paper and transfer these to your answer sheet so that you hand in a nice piece of writing rather than something that is difficult for the examiner to read – you want to keep them happy J
Good luck and let me know if this helped!