Cambridge Sample Question (Paper 2) and Lesson on Letter Writing

Sample First Language English Paper 2
Question 1

This question tests reading assessment objectives R1 to R3 (15 marks)
            R1 demonstrate understanding of explicit meanings
            R2 demonstrate understanding of implicit meanings and attitudes
            R3 analyse, evaluate and develop facts, ideas and opinions

and writing assessment objectives W1 to W4 (5 marks)
            W1 articulate experience and express what is thought, felt and imagined
            W2 sequence facts, ideas and opinions
            W3 use a range of appropriate vocabulary
            W4 use register appropriate to audience and context

You are Maria from Passage A. The day after the rafting trip you write a letter to a friend back home. Write the letter. In your letter you should comment on:
•your impressions of the hotel and its staff
•your thoughts and feelings about your husband’s attitude and behaviour on the holiday
            •your plans for the remaining days of your holiday.
Base your letter on what you have read in Passage A, but be careful to use your own words.

Address each of the three bullets. Begin your letter,
‘Dear friend , This place is everything I imagined…’.

Write about 250 to 350 words. Up to 15 marks are available for the content of your answer, and up to 5 marks for the quality of your writing.

The examiners assess you on FOUR elements:
1. Content - Did you do the task you were asked to do?
(Address the bullet points based on the passage.)
2. Communicative achievement - Did you use the right tone and level of formality?
3. Organisation - Is there a logical flow using connectors in paragraphs?
4. Language - Did you show high-level of vocabulary?

How to write a LETTER

Your writing will be more interesting and you'll get a better grade if you can use a wide variety of language. Use high-level vocabulary when you know it and try to use a variety of

Your mark will be higher if you will use some appropriate phrasal verbs, idioms, and collocations.

Rules for Writing Formal Letters in English

Formal letter formats 
When writing a formal letter, you must ensure that you would follow the standard rules on how to write it as well as to the type of content or information that may be included in it.

Block format is generally perceived as the most formal. 

1) Your Address
2) The Address of the person you are writing toDate:
Write the month as a word.

Salutation or Greeting:

1) Dear Sir or Madam,
If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use this. It is always advisable to try to find out a name.
2) Dear Mr. Jenkins,
If you know the name, use the title (Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms., Dr., etc.) and the surname only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs. or Miss, you can use Ms., which is for married and single women.

Ending a letter:
1) Yours faithfully,If you do not know the name of the person, end the letter this way.
2) Yours sincerely,
If you know the name of the person, end the letter this way.
3) Your signature,
Sign your name, then print it underneath the signature. If you think the person you are writing to might not know whether you are male or female, put your title in brackets after your name.

Content of a Formal Letter
First paragraph
Make the purpose of your letter clear through simple and targeted language, keeping the opening paragraph brief. You can start with, “I am writing in reference to…” and from there, communicate only what you need to say.

The subsequent paragraphs should include information that gives your reader a full understanding of your objective(s) but avoid meandering sentences and needlessly long words. Keep it concise to sustain their attention.

The middle paragraph should contain the relevant information (remember the three bullet points in the question paper) behind the writing of the letter. Most letters in English are not very long, so keep the information to the essentials and concentrate on organising it in a clear and logical manner rather than expanding too much.

Last Paragraph
The last paragraph of a formal letter should state what action you expect the recipient to take.

Informal letter
An informal letter is usually between people who know each other fairly well. In addition to giving news, they are often used to request information, congratulate people, give advice and ask questions.
There are a lot of similarities between informal letters and conversation. Informal letters ask a lot of questions, show interest and enthusiasm, and imagine a lot of shared information.

How to write informal letters or emails 

For informal letters, use semi-block format:

Informal letters are sent with the purpose of communicating or imparting an information which is personal.

You may also use it…
            -to invite people in informal events like birthday celebrations
            and private get together
            -to share expressions of sorrow through writing
            -to inform a person of what an individual feel towards him/her
            -to congratulate a person for his/her successes or for another
            milestone that has been reached and achieved
            -to express gratitude and thanksgiving for an act that has been done by a friend or a relative

Salutation or GreetingStart with Dear followed by the first name of the person to whom you are writing.

Dear Ben,  
(Don't forget to use only the first name of the person you are writing to and not Dear Mr. John, which is never used, or Dear Mr. John Brown, which sounds too formal.)

Body Openings
When writing an informal letter, you are usually replying to another letter. You would normally start with a greeting, then acknowledge the letter to which you are replying. Acknowledge some key information given in the original letter. You can also
make a comment on your own reply.

ClosingThe end of your letter is as important as the beginning. There are some standard of finishing an informal letter or email.

Other things to consider
Range: It is important that you use grammatical expressions and vocabulary appropriate to the level of the exam.

Even in informal writing, there is a good range of language you can use (conditional sentences, a range of perfect and continuous tenses, indirect questions...)

Informal language, including phrasal verbs, informal vocabulary ("I guess you loved the pics"), contractions, question tags.

Simpler sentence structure: I’ll be late for the party. It’s because of my French exam.

Connectors: All good writing makes good use of connectors. However, many of the connectors you have learnt for other styles of writing are inappropriate in an informal letter or email. For informal writing, you need to use some of the connectors that are more specific to spoken language. 

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