The Cambridge B2 First (FCE) email/letter isn’t as easy as you think! Follow these steps to learn how to write an email/letter for the B2 First exam.
What is the Cambridge B2 First Email/Letter?
- Part 2 of the writing test – choose between 3 options. Be careful! The email/letter isn’t on every Cambridge B2 exam. (The 4 options are report, review, email/letter, and article. The exam will only include three of the four options.)
- 140-190 word limit
- You have about 40 minutes to plan and write your email/letter
- You must reply to an email/letter you have received
- The topic requires general knowledge only
- The email is formal, neutral, or informal based on the reader and type of email/letter
What’s the difference between the letter and the email?
For the B2 First writing exam, the structure of the email and letter are going to be very similar. However, you need to be careful about which TYPE of email or letter you have to write.
For example, a letter of application is going to be more formal and polite because it is written for a manager. You might want to include some modal verbs to sound more polite. You’ll also want to use formal vocabulary for the greeting, closing, and signing-off.
In contrast, an email to a friend should sound friendly and can include contracted forms like “I’m” and “won’t.” You can use phrasal verbs to sound more natural. The greeting, closing, and signing-off should be informal.
The main idea is: WHO are you writing to and about WHAT?
Step One: Look at the Task (1 minute)
To start, read the task carefully. You will need to write a reply to the message.
Read the task question carefully and HIGHLIGHT:
- Who you are writing to
- What kind of email/letter is required
- Any questions you must answer or information you must give
Tip: If you don’t understand the message, DON’T PANIC. Try your best to write an email/letter. You will still get points for grammar, vocabulary, and structure.
Step Two: Write a plan (5 minutes)
A plan helps you organize your thoughts and helps you write a better B2 First email/letter
First, writing out a basic outline:
Next, write a few words for each section of the outline. DO NOT write whole sentences. This takes too much time. Try to focus on keywords and short phrases.
In addition, you can prepare a list of linking words and related vocabulary. Getting these words written down before you start helps you remember to use them.
Example B2 First email/letter Outline
- Greeting – Hello David,
- Opening – Nice to hear from you
- Body – Places to visit/history: boating on the lakes, capitol building, brewery
Best way to travel: bike
- Closing – Invite David’s friends for dinner
- Signing-off – Cheers,
Tip: Time yourself – see how long it takes for you to write a plan. Try to reduce that amount of time as much as possible.
Step 3: Write your email/letter (32 minutes)
On the official test, you must write with a pen. No erasable pens or pencils are allowed. I suggest writing your plan and email/letter with a pen every time you practice.
Let’s take a look at each part of the B2 email/letter.
The greeting is addressed to the person you are writing to. Write to the person in the task. Do not invent a name.
Informal greeting – Hello/Hi (person’s first name),
Neutral greeting – Dear (person’s name),
Formal greeting – Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms (person’s last name), Dear Sir/Madam,
TIP: Mr is for a man, Mrs is for a married woman, and Ms is for a woman who isn’t married or it isn’t clear.
The opening of the B2 email/letter is 1-2 sentences. You can thank the person for their email/letter, ask a question and/or write a sentence about WHY you are writing to them.
Example opening for an informal email
Thanks for your email! I hope that you and your family are doing well. I am happy to recommend some places for your friends to visit.
Example opening for a formal letter of application
I am writing to apply for the position of lifeguard that I saw posted in the swim center last week.
Body of the B2 First email/letter
The body is where you will answer questions and give necessary information to the reader. Try to write 2-3 paragraphs, changing the paragraph each time you have a new topic.
Use linking words to connect sentences and paragraphs.
The closing is a sentence or two to finish off the letter.
Example closing for an informal email
Let me know if you think of any other questions. Let’s meet up soon!
Example closing for a formal letter of application
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing from you soon about the position.
Write a signing-off and comma. Then, sign your name below.
Informal – Love, See ya, Cheers, Take care,
Neutral – Regards, Warm regards,
Formal – Sincerely, Yours sincerely, Yours faithfully,
Step Four: Review your writing (2 minutes)
Take two minutes after writing to check for spelling and grammatical errors. Also, make sure that you’ve answered all the questions / given all the necessary information.
How can I get a higher mark on the B2 First email/letter?
Now that you know how to write an email/letter for the Cambridge B2 First exam, let’s look at how to get the best mark possible.
Increase your mark on your B2 First email/letter
- Include 5-8 linking words – these words introduce paragraphs and connect ideas
- Use a variety of grammatical structures – you should have both simple and complex forms. Try to use perfect and future forms, conditionals, comparatives, relative clauses and passive
- Make the essay interesting to read – the examiners read hundreds of essays so make yours easy to read and engaging
- Use the correct amount of words (140-190) – it’s ok to be a few words over the limit, but not too many
The best way to improve your writing skills … is to write! Try to write a few pieces of writing each week and ask your teacher for feedback. I have had students who entered my class with very poor writing skills and with practice, they were able to pass the exam after only 10 weeks!
If you want feedback on your writing from me, you can schedule a 30 or 60-minute private lesson via Zoom. Email me at ESLTeacher365@gmail.com to schedule a lesson. I love helping students improve their writing!
If you want more practice for the B2 First, try these lessons:
B2 First Key Word Transformations Practice
10 (FCE) B2 First Writing Exam Tips