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How to write an essay? | C2 Proficient (CPE)

Level: C2
Article navigation:
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Structure
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Writing Guide
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Sample Answers
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Writing Topics
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Tips
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Marking Criteria
C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Useful Phrases & Expressions

An essay is the first part of the writing and it is obligatory. The question always has a discursive focus. Discursive writing is a style used in academic writing and it requires the high level of language competence.

You are required to base your essay on input material which will take the form of two texts, each approximately 100 words long. The texts will be based on a variety of authentic, contemporary sources

How many words?

You need to answer the question with between 240-280 words.

C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Structure

Make a plain reference to the topic of the two texts.
1 st body paragraph
Topic sentence + Paraphrase point 1 + Paraphrase point 2
2 nd body paragraph
Topic sentence + Paraphrase point 3 + Paraphrase point 4
3 rd body paragraph
Your opinion
Closing remark – No new ideas.
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C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Writing Guide

Step 1: Read the topic and write down two key points of each extract.

Examinations are not fair.
Making judgments about the ability of students based on examinations that take place just once or perhaps twice a year is simply not fair. So many students fail to show their true ability due to anxiety, stress and a number of other factors. Many students who do well in exams do so simply by cramming facts into their heads the week before the exam, to be forgotten by the following weekend. Surely assessment of the work done in class and at home throughout the school year would be a fairer system?

Extract 1. Key points:
1) Unfair to judge a year’s performance just once or twice a year.
2) This unfair system forces students to temporary parrot-fashion learning

Classroom assessment is idealistic.
It’s all very well to talk about teachers judging their students work in the classroom, and students working alone at home on their projects, but everyone knows that continuous assessment doesn’t work like that. Teachers are only human, and tend to be softer on their students than an examiner would be (or, in a worse scenario, harder on a student they don’t like). Parents or older siblings help students with the projects they have to do at home, even if it’s just coming up with ideas for them. Exams may not be fun, but at least we get to see what each individual student is capable of.

Extract 2. Key points:
3) Continuous assessment depends too much on the teacher who may be too lenient or too strict.
4) Parents and siblings may give an unfair advantage to students over others who don’t have help at home.

Step 2: Introduction: Make a plain reference to the topic of the two texts.

The two texts express contrasting views on the hotly debated issue of school exams.

Step 3: Body paragraph (1) = Topic sentence + Point 1 + Point 2

[Topic sentence] The first author considers the annual assessment of students’ performance as inadequate.  [Paraphrase the first (1) point] Knowing that your only chance to prove your competence relies on a couple of questions that need to be answered within a suffocating time limit cannot but fill you with anxiety. [Paraphrase the second (2) point] To make matters worse, even when the students manage to cope with the stress it is doubtful whether they gain any academic benefit. All they do is switch off their critical thinking and employ their parrot fashion learning. When the exams are over they ‘delete’ all this array of incongruent information. Therefore, they end up with lots of pains and no gains!

Step 4: Body paragraph (2) = Topic sentence + Point 3 + Point4

[Topic sentence] Conversely, the second text sees the exams as the only reliable means of school assessment. [Paraphrase the third (3) point:] If the students were continually evaluated throughout the year they would be at the mercy of the bias of their teachers. If the professors are positively predisposed they will inflate the marks and if they have any sort of conflict with their pupils they could use the marks as a form of punishment. [Paraphrase the fourth (4) point] Moreover, the project work that has often been hailed as the creative alternative of barren exams may prove to be a hoax. More often than not it is other family members that do the work and the students undeservingly reap the rewards.

Step 5: Body paragraph (3) = Your opinion

[Topic sentence] While I agree that the exams entail counterproductive stress that may spoil the true meaning of education, I cannot overlook the fact that they are an objective and trustworthy method of evaluation. If the written tests accounted for a proportion of the pupils’ overall mark and the rest was completed with projects and class participation we could successfully combine the profits of these too seemingly contrasting methods.

Step 6: Conclusion: Closing remark – No new ideas.

All in all, the examinations can contribute to an objective assessment of school performance as
long as they are combined with elements of continuous assessment.

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 TIP: Pay attention to style and register

One of the most common register mistakes made by inexperienced writers involves using too personal a manner in a piece of formal writing. A chatty style, characterized by the use of the words I and you, could be inappropriate and even offensive in a formal letter or a magazine article.

Me, myself, I

Everybody likes to talk about themselves, but when (for example) you’re writing about environmental issues, you should be talking about the environment and not about yourself.


The way word you is used in informal speech ‘You should have seen it!’ ‘if you know what I mean’ is not appropriate in formal writing. At best it sounds chatty and informal; at worst, disrespectful or even offensive. The word you points a finger at the reader. But the readers are not friends of yours, and you have no right to make assumptions about them.

C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Sample Answers


Read the two texts below. Write an essay summarising and evaluating the keypoints from both texts. Use your own words throughout as far as possible, and include your own ideas in your answers.

Teenagers as consumers
It is virtually impossible to escape the influence of the media these days, and particularly if you are a teenager with access not just to television and radio, but also the internet at all times of the day and night. Advertisers look upon teenagers as a blank canvas whose tastes and needs are there to be moulded by them through their advertisements. Advertisers and marketing people have become adept at reading the teenage mind, making young people believe that they need to own certain items in order to be accepted by their peer group, or simply to look cool.

Teenagers: a driving force
Advertising responds to young people’s delight in what is new by developing sophisticated and innovative, often humorous advertisements which can be seen on television and cinema screens and on billboards around our towns and cities. The tastes of this generation of young people have had an impact on advertisers worldwide. However, it is the energy of the young, above all, that has influenced the world of marketing and has kept it on its toes, pushing the creative boundaries to become almost an art form. That is the power of young people.

Model answer

These texts both deal with the relationship between teenagers and advertising.

The first one focuses on how advertisers exploit young people, taking advantage both of teenage preoccupation with the media and of their susceptibility to peer pressure combined with a wish to appear ‘cool’. The second text is less critical of the relationship between marketing and young people. It presents the young as having a very positive influence on the quality of modern adverts, helping to make them much wittier and more original than ever before. This text maintains that teenagers’ impact on advertising derives partly from their predilection for what is intriguingly new but also, more particularly, from their own creative energy. This energy has been channeled into advertising, raising it arguably to the level of an art form.

While I appreciate the arguments put forward in both texts, I tend to feel more in sympathy with the approach of the first one. I suspect that advertisers are quite cold-heartedly prepared to exploit the youth market, keen to capture the attention – and the cash – of the new generation and well aware of how young people are perhaps more easily influenced than their more cynical elders.

I would accept that advertising can be very creative and I personally often find an advert in a magazine or a TV commercial attractive to look at or enjoyably humorous. It does not seem unreasonable to suggest that many people with artistic talents are attracted into the advertising profession. However, I do not see that as having any direct connection with teenagers. Those who create the most original adverts are certainly likely to be young but in their twenties or early thirties rather than their teens. Moreover the appeal of the more sophisticated advert is surely just as powerful for the older generation as for teenagers.

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Read the two texts below. Write an essay summarizing and evaluating the key points from both texts. Use your own words throughout as far as possible, and include your own ideas in your answers.

Killing for nothing
Under no circumstances should capital punishment be condoned. It is a barbaric form of punishment, which serves no useful purpose as it obviously does not act as a deterrent. In the USA, for example, the use of capital punishment increased greatly during the eighties and the nineties but with no corresponding effect on the crime rate. Another argument says that it effectively deals with people who are a danger to society. But in any case, they spend years, even decades, on death row while their appeals are used up, and might as well just be sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

Innocents die
The system by which people are convicted is simply not as foolproof as some people would have us believe, and the odds against an innocent person being killled are just too high. While the risk of this happening remains a very real possibility, the death sentence is unacceptable. In this age of DNA evidence, many people in
American prisons awaiting execution have been found to be innocent. The other problem is prejudice. Even if a person is found guilty and convicted of a crime, they are likely to get a worse sentence if they are from an ethnic
minority, and disproportionately large numbers of these people are executed every year in the States.

Model answer

Both extracts above take a negative stance on the hotly debated issue of death penalty.

The first author tries to dispel the myth of the death sentence “acting as a deterrent”. He claims that the long standing use of this harsh punishment in the USA has not proven its effectiveness in curbing crime rates. However, his argument is unconvincing because criminality could have been worse if death penalty was not in effect. Nevertheless, the writer correctly remarks that there is no need to take someone’s life in order to protect society since we can achieve the same result by simply giving them a life sentence.

The second extract persuasively strengthens the argument against this irreversible penalty by citing the numerous incidents of innocent people who have been wrongly convicted and sometimes even executed, only to find out that more recent genetic material proves that they were innocent. The author also claims that the welldocumented “prejudice against ethnic minorities” is a reason to abolish the death sentence. Even if we accept the latter argument as a fact, we can not so easily jump to the conclusion that the suspicion of some judges having preconceived ideas should strip our legal system of one of its most powerful weapons.

Personally, I feel that death penalty should remain in effect for extreme cases of serial killers or insane criminals who show no remorse for their actions. Since, nowadays, we have at our disposal the invaluable assistance of genetic evidence we can reach verdicts that are beyond any shadow of doubt while at the same time we retain a
strong disincentive in the ammunition of our legal system.

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C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Writing Topics

Write an essay summarising and evaluating the key points from both texts. Use your own words throughout as far as possible, and include your own ideas in your answers.

Shifting sands

Behavioural change Nowadays, in some cultures there may often be confusion between generations about what is acceptable behaviour in certain situations. Older people sometimes complain, for example, about the real or imagined rudeness of others, such as in the use of electronic devices in public places. However, the younger generation do not regard electronic communication as intrusive, but rather as fundamental to their way of life. Only increased mutual understanding is likely to resolve potential conflict or confusion in any society. In this case, as in all others, it pays to be aware of other people’s points of view.

Follow my leader?

Should we always aim to do what society expects of us? No, what society needs is individuality. Worrying about what other people think inhibits enthusiasm and creativity. Nothing new is ever achieved by conforming to expected social norms. This is not only true for society’s innovators: everybody needs a strong sense of their own worth as an individual. This is essential for psychological well-being and the ability to function effectively in one’s personal and professional life. Paying too much attention to society’s conventions can be counter-productive in these and other ways.

Write an essay summarising and evaluating the key points from both texts. Use your own words throughout as far as possible and include your own ideas in your answers.

The Financial Costs of Stress

Research carried out by the Health and Safety Council estimates that stress and mental illness continues to be neglected by many businesses, both small and large. And the economic impact of this is huge, costing employers around £26bn a year. Stress at work can lead to a lack of concentration, fatigue and low motivation, all of which will cost the company in terms of low productivity, customer satisfaction and the very reputation of the company itself. Employers are being urged to become more “emotionally intelligent” and to improve the way they deal with stress and mental illness.

Speak up about Stress

Many people find it difficult to talk about their feelings, particularly if we’re feeling weak or vulnerable. However, when suffering from stress it’s vital you seek help. It’s important to feel you can talk honestly with a close friend, a loved one, a work colleague or doctor about what’s going on. Stress is easily diagnosed and there is plenty you can do to successfully treat and manage stress. One of the most effective of these is to share your feelings with those you trust. Remember that accepting help and support is not a sign of weakness. Close relationships are vital to helping you get through this tough time.

C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Tips

  • Identify and underline the key points in both input texts. Make sure to include that when you write your essay.
  • Summarise the key points in your own words
  • Use an academic writing style (formal or neutral register).
  • You must organise your ideas well, using an introduction, paragraphing and appropriate linking devices.
  • You need to draw conclusions based on the information given throughout the whole of your answer

C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Marking Criteria


Language of evaluation, discussion, comparison (between the two texts) narrative (use of a personal anecdote) and speculation (possible results of various schemes). Vocabulary for describing working conditions (e.g. ‘part-time/full-time’, ‘job sharing scheme’, ‘flexible working conditions’, ‘homeworker/homeworking’ etc.) could be used. Does not have to be completely accurate but any errors should be minimal.


Should be fairly formal as that is consistent with the requirements of an academic essay. The reader would get a clear summary of the two texts along with the writer’s point of view.


The essay must be divided into clear paragraphs and these should be linked appropriately. The format should be that of a standard essay, i.e. without headings in the body of the essay


Should include a summary of the key points in each text. The essay should also include an evaluation of these key points including the writer’s own views on the subject.

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C2 Proficient (CPE) Essay: Useful Phrases & Expressions

We will finish it with some useful vocabulary mostly used to organize information. Although it is taking a shortcut, if you learn several expressions for each paragraph in each type of text that could be on your exam, you will certainly be able to create a very consistent and well-organized text.

Sentence openers

The first text suggests that…..
The second text raises the issue of …..
 The writer is of the opinion that….
 Additionally, it is ragued that…..
The two texts contrast differing views of…..
According to the first passage…….
Personaly, i …………….
The second text put forward……
I believe that………
In conclusuon , it is my opinion that……

Linking points and arguments

As opposed to
In the sense that…..
For this reason……..

Making generalisations

On the whole….
In general…..
For the most part….
As a rule……
It is often that….
It is usually the case that…..
People to regard…..
The reality is that…..

Being specific

With respect to…
In the case of…
As regards…
In terms of….
With the exception of…..
From the ….. point of view….
They are seen as…..
As far as ……are / is concerned……

Raising an argument

On the question of….
No one would dispute…….

Giving one side

One argument in favour of this is ….
In support of…..
It is true that……

Giving the other side

At the same time….
In actual fact…..
On the other hand….
In contrast to….
Set/ weighed against this is…..



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