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Essay Writing

for ECPE and

C2 EFL exams

Fullspate - 2014

Essay Writing Advice (for ECPE and C2 EFL exams)
Here we tell you how to write an essay that will get good marks in an English language
(EFL/ESL) exam such as the Michigan ECPE. The advice would be the same for the essays
that candidates have to write in other EFL/ESL exams such as the IELTS, TOEFL and
Cambridge CPE exams.

First, let's have a look at some actual ECPE exam writing tasks so that we can see the
different types of essay that we might have to write.

Topic 1: In most families there is one family member who doesn't follow society's rules and
often embarrasses the rest of the family by doing or saying something unusual or funny.
Describe one of your relatives who is like this. Include several examples of this person's

Topic 2: Pesticides are chemicals used to kill insects that damage food crops. Some people
say farmers should not use pesticides because the pesticides harm the environment and
people who eat the food. Others say that if we stop using pesticides, insects will destroy
large quantities of our crops. Do you think farmers should stop using pesticides? Explain
the reasons for your opinion.

Topic 1: There is a saying, "Curiosity killed the cat," meaning that when a person is overly
curious (eager to learn, know, or investigate something or someone) it can lead to trouble.
Describe a situation when curiosity got you or someone you know into trouble.

Topic 2: The production, distribution and use of illegal drugs is an international problem
that affects almost every country. What actions should be taken to reduce the production,
distribution or use of illegal drugs around the world? Discuss.

Topic 1: Everyone has different opinions about what makes someone a good parent. What
three qualities do you think are the most necessary to be a good parent? Why are these
qualities important? Discuss, giving examples.

Topic 2: Unemployment is a problem facing many countries today. Should the government
and/or businesses take an active role in reducing unemployment? Discuss, providing


Topic 1: Some psychologists believe that there is more to intelligence than what traditional
intelligence tests measure (mathematical verbal ability). They say there are many kinds of
intelligence and many ways to be smart. Besides mathematical and linguistic intelligence,
in what other ways do you think people are smart? Be specific in your discussion and
provide concrete examples.

Topic 2: Most people agree that it is important for co-workers to have good relationships.
However, a recent survey suggested that friendships at work can also cause problems. In
what ways can friendships at work be harmful. Discuss, giving specific examples.

2004 (Only one topic provided in the sample from ELI-UM)

The United States government recently passed a law that would punish schools whose
students do poorly on national exams. Some people think that schools should not take all
the blame. In your opinion, what factors influence students' performance? Discuss, giving
specific examples to support your point of view.

2010 Topic 1. Some people believe that body language shows more about peoples true
feelings than spoken language. Body language includes peoples facial expressions,
hand gestures, and posture. Do you believe we can tell more from body language than from
what people say? Be specific and give concrete examples in your response.

Topic 2. Every generation of people is different from the previous one. What is one
important way in which your generation is different from your parents generation?
How will this difference affect your country or culture? Give specific details and reasons to
support your viewpoint.
Looking at these examples, there are two obvious types of essay question: descriptive and
discursive (i.e. presenting arguments and opinions). Some students who have experience
of creative writing in their own language may find it easy to write the descriptive essay,
but in our experience the majority of students feel more comfortable with the discursive
essay, partly because it is usually possible to use a formula and a number of set phrases.
Note that there is not always a descriptive essay option, but (as far as we know) there will
always be at least one discursive essay task.

On the rest of this page we will concentrate on the discursive essay.

Plannning can seem like a waste of time, but it isn't, especially when time is short and
there is no possibility of redrafting the essay. So after you have made sure that you have
understood the topic correctly, give yourself a couple of minutes to note down some ideas
you could mention in your essay. If you can quickly think of five or six, pause to decide

which two or three you want to develop in your essay. Choose ideas that you know you
have the vocabulary to discuss. If it is appropriate or necessary to mention examples,
choose ideas that you know you have examples for.

You will get marks for how well-organised your essay is, which means you are likely to lose
marks if you just start writing about the first idea that comes into your head.

Formula for a discursive essay

Every discursive essay needs an introduction and a main body. Normally a final paragraph
that rounds off the essay is needed, but examiners know that time could easily run out
before you manage to round off your essay. Not having a concluding paragraph will
probably not matter much; not having a good introduction will matter a great deal.

Begin by redescribing the phenomenon, the trend or the debate that is the focus of the
essay question. In a short ECPE essay this might only need one or two sentences.

In the past, it seemed obvious to many that the only reliable test of intelligence was one
which assessed a person's ability to reason, especially the ability to see patterns in words,
numbers and symbols. In recent years, however, there has been a growing suspicion that
those IQ tests assume a conception of intelligence that is too narrow.
End your introduction either by:

1 briefly stating the point of view you are going to defend.

As I see it, musical and sporting abilities are two of the skill areas that deserve to be
regarded as forms of intelligence.
2 stating what you are going to do in the rest of the essay.

In this essay I will look at two skill areas that deserve to be regarded as forms of

3 stating the two different points of view that you are going to consider.

Although the vast majority of farmers look upon pesticides as invaluable, some consumers
and pressure groups have spoken out against them.
4 stating the question you are going to answer.

This raises the question of whether the benefits of pesticides outweigh their drawbacks.

If the essay question specifically asks about your opinion, it might be better to briefly state
this at the end of the introduction, without giving any details or arguments (but it is not
absolutely necessary, especially if you don't have a firm opinion).

If you want to look at different points of view before you weigh them up and give your
final assessment, it might be better to use techniques three and four above.

Main body
This needs two paragraphs, each of which should develop one point.

Depending on the essay task, you might need to describe examples (as in the question
about intelligence), discuss different points of view, describe causes, make suggestions,
and give reasons for your point of view. Below are examples of paragraphs that do each of
these things.

Describing examples
The exceptional bodily control seen in some athletes and dancers could definitely be viewed
as a form of intelligence. The ability of a ballerina, for instance, to maintain perfect
balance and turn her movements into a work of art can only be developed with years of
strenuous training. In a sense, ballet has its own language, and it seems reasonable to
compare the skill of using this language with the skill of using the verbal language that has
been traditionally tested when measuring a person's IQ. Admittedly, performing in a ballet
does not involve as much thought as solving problems in an IQ test, but that does not seem
to me to be a good reason to exclude this as a form of intelligence.

Another area in which people can show how smart they are is music. ...

Discussing different points of view

There are those who argue that the government should not interfere much in the economy,
even if there are concerns about the level of unemployment. It is said that the rate of
unemployment will fall naturally if there is economic growth, and the best way to guarantee
economic growth is to allow the market to develop without government interference. Those
with this point of view accept that the government has a responsibility, but they insist that it
should not go beyond providing a minimal unemployment benefit to those who are
temporarily out of work.

On the other hand, it is often argued that...

Describing causes and making suggestions

One of the reasons why some children fail at school is poverty. Students will only make
good progress if they do their homework well, but a child from a large and poverty-stricken
family who does not have a quiet room at home in which to study will not be able to do her
homework well. Furthermore, in poor families the parents sometimes have a very low level
of education and may even have a negative opinion about the importance of education. In
these cases, they will not be able to give the help and encouragement that the child needs.

As regards the steps that need to be taken to remedy this situation, the first priority should
be to...

Giving reasons for your point of view

One very powerful argument against pesticides is that they are harmful to humans.
Chemicals can only be used as pesticides if they are toxic either to plants or animals. These
are poisons, and it is hardly surprising that chemicals that are poisonous to some forms of
plant life, for instance, also have detrimental effects on human health. Eating rice that has
been sprayed during storage and transport to prevent it being eaten by insects may not
make us ill immediately, but by continually eating sprayed fruit and vegetables it is almost
certain that we increase our risks of suffering from cancer.

Another reason for banning pesticides concerns the effect they have on the environment. ...

Final paragraph
Use this paragraph to re-emphasize the main point or points you want to make, or to
weigh up the opinions presented earlier in the essay. Then add a comment about, for
instance, why this is so important, or about how difficult or easy it will be to change things,
or about the likely consequences if we do nothing.

In conclusion, for the sake of both the environment and human health drastic reductions in
our use of pesticides must be made. Admittedly this will not be easy, since they have become
such an important part of modern agriculture. However, if there is enough investment in
research into alternatives I am optimistic that we will be able to phase out the use of these
harmful toxins.
Try to avoid simply repeating what you have already said. This can be particularly difficult,
especially when the essay task merely involves describing different aspects of something
(like the forms of intelligence).

To sum up, it is clear that the ability to do the old-fashioned IQ tests is not the only form of
intelligence. Not only are music and movement areas where we can see how smart people

are, but there are also many others. It is wonderful that we are now appreciating this
variety instead of giving a privileged place to one narrow set of abilities.

Formal or informal English?

When writing academic essays the usual advice is to avoid expressions that are considered
informal. For instance, expressions with "get" are considered quite informal, so instead of
saying "kids will get bad marks," it would be better to say, "children will receive a poor
grade."One good reason for following this advice is that most of the language you have
been learning on your proficiency course is formal, and so by choosing a formal register (as
we call it) you give yourself more opportunities to show what you have learnt on the

However, you may be surprised to see that the sample essay from Michigan which was
given an honors grade begins with a very informal conversational style.

OK, so your son got a low score in his IQ tests. Don't be discouraged since this does not
mean he is not "intelligent". It simply means they may not have tested his main intelligence.
More and more reassuring news is coming from new research. These new studies indicate
that there is more to intelligence than the traditional mathematical and linguistic

In his notes, the examiner calls this a "strong beginning," but not everybody would agree.
(By the way, the rest of that essay didn't use a conversational style.) Our advice is to use
more formal and sophisticated language wherever you can because this will give better
proof that you have become a proficient user of the kind of academic English that makes
up most of the ECPE exam.

Dos and Donts

Do make sure you have understood the task correctly.
Do ask if you are not sure about the task.
Do spend a couple of minutes thinking of ideas, choosing the best ones and the order you
will discuss them in.
Do try to have a good introduction. This creates the first impression on the examiner, and
first impressions are very important.
Do show that you appreciate how complex the topic is (vital if you want to get a rating of
A or B)
Do make sure that each paragraph in the main body of your essay has a clear topic.
Do develop your ideas by giving arguments for the opinions you mention, and/or giving
examples, or drawing a contrast, or by acknowledging the opposite point of view (if you
have not planned to do that in the following paragraph).

Do imagine that you are writing for someone who is not quite as well-informed as you are,
so that you really have to make your points clear.
Do try to use a good range of vocabulary. Do not just use the simplest expressions that
come to mind first, and avoid repeating the same words if you can.
Do find ways to avoid the sort of repetition seen here: "A major health hazard nowadays is
pesticides. Pesticides are widely used in modern agriculture."
Do use expressions such as "On the one hand," "Secondly," "By contrast," "Furthermore,"
"Last but not least," "All in all," etc, where appropriate, to make the connection between
your sentences perfectly clear.
Do vary the length of your sentences. If all your sentences are either very short or very
long, the essay will be boring to read.
Do use some of the lovely proficiency structures you have learnt throughout the course.
Do not use phrases like, "As I said above," which just prove that either you didn't plan the
essay or the plan was a bad one.
Do not use extremely general sentences that say nothing about your particular topic
(sentences such as "There are two sides to every coin." "Everything has its drawbacks."
"Nothing is perfect." etc).
Do try to write sufficiently neatly so that your essay is easy to read. As long as you
manage this, it does not matter if certain words and phrases are crossed out.
Do keep one eye on the clock and leave yourself a minute or so to check your work. We
all make mistakes, and if you can correct some of yours, you will save valuable marks.

Useful Phrases for Proficiency Essays
Introducing the phenomenon to be discussed
More and more families are choosing to have only one child.

The trend nowadays is towards having smaller families.

Over the past ten years or so the media have frequently carried reports of ...............

Recent research indicates that the number of teenagers who smoke is increasing.

Hardly a week goes by without another report of ................. appearing in the media.

This raises the issue of whether .................

Although most people would generally agree that ............... few would deny that ................

Stating your opinion

As I see it,

It seems to me that ............ I would also say that ....

I am convinced that ...............

I am inclined to believe that ..................

There is no doubt in my mind that ..................

One of the drawbacks of ....... is ..........

However, one of the benefits is that ............

Changing topic
As regards the causes for this, ..............

Concerning the causes for this, .........

As for the causes, ...........

Presenting arguments

One justification often given for ........... is that.................

Advocates/Proponents would claim that ..................

Those who object to ................. often argue that ...................

Another objection is that ......

However, it should not be forgotten that ..............

........... are opposed to ................ on the grounds that .................

From the point of view of .................

According to ....................

Describing causes
One factor which has led to ............ is ..............

One of the factors which has brought this about is .........

The problem often stems from ....................

The situation has been exacerbated by ................

.............. has only made the situation worse.

One consequence of ................ is ................

Proposing steps and measures

As regards the most appropriate response to this situation, one suggestion would be to

The first step to be taken would be to ........

To alleviate the situation people should ...........

In addition they ought to ...............

To begin to tackle this situation society/individuals/the government need/s to ..........

.............. would certainly ameliorate the situation.

This can only be dealt with if ............

To overcome this problem, ..............

Were the government to ..............., the situation would doubtless improve.

Individuals can do a great deal to ............

The burden of responsiblity lies in the hands of ........

It is vitally important that .........

Legislation should be introduced to control .................

It would be a grave error if we .................

All in all it seems to me that ...........

The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that .......................

All things considered, .............

On balance, I tend to believe that ............

The world would surely be a better place to live in if ..............

If people stopped, we would have/ we could look forward to a ...............

The prospects for the future will be bleak/grim unless ...................

You should have a few pages safe somewhere where you can keep a record of other useful
essay phrases that you come across in your reading. Note them down and practise using
them in your own writing.

Look out for more advanced expressions that you can use in place of phrases that weren't
even impressive at the B2 level - phrases like "solve the problem". Here are a few
alternative problem and solution phrases to get you going.:

a crisis in education which must be addressed

something that must be tackled / be dealt with
a challenge which must be met
something must be done to restore law and order in the inner cities

Useful Advanced Essay Structures
To be sure of writing an essay that is good enought to pass a C2 exam like the ECPE you
need to use some of those lovely structures you have been learning in the grammar
sections of your proficiency courses. Here are some examples of the kinds of structures
you should be using in your exams. Use a sprinkling of...

Participle phrases and gerunds up front:

"Burning plastics produces dioxins."

"Reducing the retirement age would create significant difficulties for

pension funds."

"Having been bullied at school, I know how psychologically damaging this can

"Having been released from prison, many people subsequently reoffend."

Conditionals with inversions instead of "If.."

"Were the government to ......... , we would .............."

"Had television not been invented, economic growth would have been

"Had the police implemented the law more strictly, fewer people would
now be disabled."

Cleft sentences
"What ecologists object to is ............"

"What many people would like to see is ......................"

"It is the ................. that I object to."

"Not only are landfill sites unsightly but they are also a source of

"Rarely do we see our political leaders riding bikes."

"It is often forgotten that ..................."

"............. is considered to be ............."

"...... has been attributed to ......."

".......has been linked with ........"

"The conlusion to be drawn is that ............."

The advanced use of 'so'

This is so grave an issue that ........

Sample Advanced Essays

Here are a few essays chosen from the thousands published on the web. They were
originally written by American high school students, but they have been edited to shorten
them and improve them slightly. The idea is that they are good enough to stand as models
of the kind of academic essay writing that is appropriate for both the Michigan ECPE exam
and other proficiency-level EFL,ESL English language exams.

Combating the Cult of Thinness

Why would a frightening percentage of American women gladly trade five years off their
lives for 10 pounds off their bodies, or prefer to be perceived as thin rather than as kind or
intelligent? This obsession with thinness needs to be understood if we are to avoid the
consequences, which are often tragic. Beyond this, there are further steps that ought to be
taken so that women can have a healthier and more positive sense of themselves.

It is no wonder that American women are obsessed with thinness. From a very young age, it
is emphasized to women how important it is to be pretty, and to be pretty by societys
standards means being thin. This blatant message is seen everywhere. Not only do images
in magazimes, TV commercials and billboard posters put an exaggerated emphasis on
women's bodies, they also hold up an ideal of thinness that is almost impossible to attain.
Computer-enhanced photography employs techniques such as airbrushing blemishes and
slenderizing the bodies of models. This adds to the creation of an ideal model that women
strive to mimic.

American societys prescription of what it means to be feminine needs a rewrite.
Current definitions of femininity are dictated by a social system that gains control over
women by defining them primarily in terms of their bodies. In order to see change, women
must challenge the industries that feed upon body insecurity. They need to change the
messages that women absorb daily. One method would be to stop purchasing the very
fashion magazines that have been allowed to define femininity. Large-scale boycotts of
these fashion magazines can lead to major change of the feminine ideal.

Another method that can be used to alleviate the emphasis placed on the ideal figure is
through education. Women need to realize that the images seen in advertisements and on
television sitcoms are not the norm. The average American woman is 54 , a size 12,
and 155 pounds. Women with these proportions hardly ever appear in clothing or cosmetic
advertisements. Education is needed to stress the new message that women of all shapes
and sizes can be beautiful.

Since many American women will go to extraordinary lengths to be thin, the only solution
for this growing problem is to attempt to understand why it has become such an obsession.
It is clear that media, television, and acquaintances all stress the importance of being thin
and beautiful to impressionable young women. If we as a society could only change the
emphasis to be on the mind rather than on the body, women would benefit with increased
self-esteem, healthier lifestyles, and increased confidence.

Genetic Engineering
Genetic engineering has been one of the most controversial ethical issues since 1997, when
the world first heard of Dolly, the first successfully cloned sheep. The news sparked a
heated debate not only about genetic engineering generally, but also about whether it
would be acceptable to apply some of the same techniques to humans. Although there is
support for this among geneticists, there are some powerful moral reasons for opposing
genetic engineering in humans.

There is something very objectionable about the idea of parents choosing the genetic make-
up of their offspring. Imagine a couple agreeing to make their child tall, peaking
somewhere near five feet eleven if female or six feet three inches if male, because dad wants
an NFL quarterback and mom wants a super model. Both mom and dad have decided to
add the gene for smartness, to take out the obesity gene, the gene that controls the risk of
alcoholism, and the ones that predispose people to lung cancer and heart disease. A couple
like this would effectively be searching for their ideal child in a catalog, almost as if they
were deciding on a mail order purchase; and what would happen if the child, in spite of its
genetic advantages, turned out to be a bit of a flop? There seems to be a threat here to the
old idea that the parents' love for their child should be unconditional.

Another immoral consequence of genetic engineering in humans is extreme social
inequality. Because only the rich will be able to afford expensive genetic interventions, two
different classes will emerge in society, one with a vast genetic superiority over the other.
This will competely undermine the old ideal of our fundamental human equality and the
idea that each individual should have a chance of rising to the top of society. In a modern
society it would be unacceptable if someone was born into a social class that they could not
possibly rise out of.

For these and for other reasons it is clear that genetic engineering in humans would be
immoral. Although there might be a few cases where a very limited form of genetic
engineering might be justifiable on purely medical grounds, it is to be hoped that we will
never allow parents to start picking and choosing the genetic make-up of their loved ones.

Nation of Immigrants
America is sometimes referred to as a "nation of immigrants" because of our largely open-
door policy toward accepting foreigners pursuing their vision of the American Dream.
Recently, there has been a clamor to close that door, arguing that immigrants threaten
American life by taking jobs from American workers, by using much-needed social services,
and by eroding on the "American way of life." While these arguments may seem valid to
many, they are overwhelmingly false, and more than likely confused with the subject of
illegal immigration.

A common argument among those opposing further immigration is that foreigners take
U.S. jobs and cause unemployment among the displaced American workers. That view was
highlighted by a recent poll, according to which sixty-two percent of non-blacks and sixty-
three percent of blacks agreed that "new immigrants take jobs away from American
workers." However, the truth is that immigration does not exacerbate unemployment.
Immigrants do take jobs but by raising levels of consumption they help to boost the demand
for labor.

Another widely held belief among Americans against immigration is that foreigners "strain
social service budgets." According to the same poll, sixty-two percent of non-blacks and
fifty-nine percent of blacks agreed "immigrants use more than their fair share of
government services, such as welfare, medical care, and food stamps." In actuality, most
immigrants are young and healthy when they arrive, and therefore do not receive expensive
Social Security. What people need to realize is that immigrants contribute more in taxes
than they draw out in welfare services. By putting more into the system than they take out,
they are, in fact, raising the quality of life of those dependant of the social services.

Some of those who want to close our borders insist that this is necessary to preserve our
nation from foreign influences. This perception of the foreigner as a threat is a common

one. However, it needs to be remembered that immigrants bring with them valuable
technical knowledge and skills, as well as being fifty percent more likely to have post-
graduate qualifications than Americans. Our society is enhanced by their knowledge and

The issue of immigration must be dealt with rationally, not emotionally. Facts, figures, and
statistics must be studied by both sides in order to reach a decision most beneficial to our
nation. The labor situation is improved by the new jobs created by immigrants, the social
service funds bolstered by their tax payments, and the valuable technical skills and
knowledge brought with them. These benefits far outweigh any negative effects and prove
the value of immigrants as they pursue the American Dream in our "nation of immigrants".

ECPE benchmark essays from Michigan

A new grading scheme for ECPE essays came into force in 2009. Fullspate has taken the
official sample essays offered by Michigan and re-edited the PDF document so that the
sample essay for each level is immediately accompanied by the corresponding comment
from the examiners.


ELI-UM has prepared benchmark essays at each performance level. These essays were
written in response to the following ECPE writing prompt:

Some psychologists claim that people inherit most of their personality traits from
their parents. Do you think that this is true? Give specific examples from your own
experience to support your viewpoint.

The first sample essay appears on the following page, and the comments appear on the
page after that.


Essay 1
Rating: A

Is our genetic material a determing factor for our personality?

Although it is an ambiguous issue, we can meet many ordinary people, as
well as psychologists, who are in favor of this question. Of course, I
do not believe that there is a unique answer to such questions. However,
I have a rather different point of view. Here are some remarks.
Studying molecular biology and genetics at the moment, and having the
opportunity to come in contact with the wonders of nature in person,
I am aware that our appearance characteristics are inherited from
both our parents. But when it comes to our personality, I believe that
our genetic material has nothing to do with it. What we are is not
based on our genes by our education experiences and generally on our
way of life. I firmly believe that we are not just a mixture of genes,
molecules and chemical reactions. On the contrary, we are beings with
emotions, feelings and cognition.
When I was younger I was always being told that I resembled my
father. As a matter of fact, everything I did could be attributed
to a proportional trait of my father. You are persistent, nervous and
hard working just like him you could hear them say. But since then, a
lot of things have changed and all I seem to have inherited from him
is his eyes and lips! But this I mean that when children are young they
ressemble their parents characters because they admire them. But
growing up, they are affected by so many events and other individuals
that their personality may have so little in common with their parents.
To sum up, I believe that we are something more than a repository
of genetic material and molecules. Our personality is not inherited by
curved through the experiences we go through. That is why we should
not take everything for granted and never stop the efforts for self
growth and improvement.


Essay 1 Rating: A
This composition displays an impressive use of vocabulary and rhetoric. The
introduction explicitly acknowledges the different points of view possible and the
essay demonstrates a more complex perspective (that of nurture vs. nature). The
final sentence of the essay is a little clichd, and is not connected well to the
earlier parts of the essay but this is a minor flaw. The writer demonstrates the
ability to write a variety of syntactic structures (both simple and complex). Control
over the complex structures is very accurate. The writer uses complex
conjunctions and this indicates good rhetorical control and a broad vocabulary.
There is one relatively simple errorthe writer uses by instead of butbut this
is likely to be a fossilized error and it does not prevent this essay from being
graded with an A. There are no spelling and punctuation errors. In fact,
punctuation is used effectively on one occasion to signal humor.

Essay 2
Rating: B

Nowadays it is a highly controversial issue whether children inherit

their personality from their parents or they form it as they grow up.
To my way of thinking, children are affected not only by their parents
by also media, friends and society. This means that it is, clearly, our
responsibility to form our own, unique, personality.
It is an undoubtful fact that parents are very important as far as
their children rise is concerned. However, they cannot force their children
to follow their own example and be their clones. Of course children
take some haracteristics of the personality of their parents but
they do not become identical to them. For example, a friend of mine,
Sophia has very strict and over-protective parents. This is the way
that they grew up. On the contrary, Sophia is very lenient with her
children despite the fact that the way and the environment she was
raised was awful. That her parents personality was terrible helped her
to understand that we actually do not inherit our personality from
them but we are influenced by other factors.
Media and friends are two of the most important factors through
which we can form our personality. First of all, television can affect
us through films or advertisments that show the-supposed-best
personality. Television can contribute to the form of our character but
this is not direct It affects us with unconscious messages. Friends
are also very important and have a very big role in the form of our
character. We want to be identical to them due to the fact that
we are inclined to believe that they are perfect and they can lead us
throughout our life. This is absolutely wrong, because we forget that
each one of us is beautiful in his own special-way and we should not
copy others in order to cause interest
Taking these points into consideration I would say that although
having friends is a great advantage and watching television can be
very informative, we should bear in mind that we should not be
affected by no one. Our parents are in a great degree--responsible for
our personality but this is not always true. I wholeheartedly believe
that we have the biggest responsibility as far as our personality
is concerned. After all, the world would be boring if we were all the


Essay 2 Rating: B
This composition starts very well. The introduction gives a clear statement of
the writers point of view and the writer continues this theme in each paragraph.
As a result the text is very coherent. Explicit conjunctions are used but what is
more impressive is the use of a more implicit discourse technique of end focus.
In this technique, known information is repeated or referred to at the start of a
new sentence to connect what is known to what is new; for example, We actually
do not inherit our personality from them but we are influenced by other factors.
Media and friends are two of the most important factors.
The writer attempts both simple and complex syntax. It is important to note,
however, that the writer is not able to maintain grammatical accuracy in the more
complex sentences. These errors are intermittent but they are sufficient to
indicate that the writer does not have a firm grasp over grammar and syntax. Word
choices show breadth of vocabulary but these selections are not always
appropriate. In some cases the choice results in too strong a claim; for example,
the phrase highly controversial issue is too strong; people hold different
viewpoints but the discussion does not necessarily generate heated debate.
Despite the flaws in the essay, the writers meaning is usually clear. Spelling and
punctuation errors are infrequent and do not impede understanding. This is
consistent with a B band essay.

Essay 3
Rating: C

Recently many psychologists are inclined to believe that the peoples

personality is most affected by their parents. To what degree is
that true?
To begin with someone at an early age is a grat replica of his/
her parents and close relatives. The child may act in a similar way
as his/her parents. Everything done or said by a parent either good
or bad is deemed by the child as a proper example. To that extend
the persons personality can be influenced and copied too. A child is
not capable to distinguish what is wrong or right so he/she might
mimic her/his parents personality traits. For example when a boy
endures physical abuse by his father he may become as violent as
his father in the future.
Furthermore, a persons personality is also affected by his/her
friends especially when he/she has low self-esteem. When someone
regards him/herself invalid to do anything he/she may become
allienated or he/she behave as being one of his friends. For example
if we take two girls, one very popular among boys and another who
is consider invisible by them the invisible girl may start acting as the
other girl which will really seem fake as she is not herself, she will
just behave in a way to become acceptable and attractive to boys
neglecting her undiscovered assets.
To conclude it is my firm belief that not only parents play a
major role in personalitys modification but everyone including ourself.
It is up to us to what we will become. Apart from that one thing
that we should not change is our ideologies, they should remain
unbiased. Because then we will be mature and indepented enough to
go on with with our lives.


Essay 3 Rating: C
This composition is a C band essay. The essay discusses the influence of family
upbringing and of society. It is important to note that these both address one side
of the essay topicthe influence of external factors (rather than genetics). The
essay does not address inheritance (the nature argument); even though the
writer does discuss the influence of family, upbringing rather than the personality
characteristics that we are born with are discussed.
The writer makes ambitious vocabulary choices (e.g., undiscovered assets,
inclined to believe, deemed, alienated). However, these selections are not
always appropriate; they do not fit into the context, are not idiomatically correct,
or they result in too strong a claim. There are also numerous grammatical errors.
Additionally, the writer does not sustain the same register throughout the essay
and some informal language is used (fake).
C band essays such as this one show that the writer understands the genre of an
argument and attempts a rich explanation of the stated point of view. However,
the writer makes numerous errors in grammar and vocabulary. These errors do not
prevent the reader from understanding the essay but some effort is required.

Essay 4
Rating: D

Nowadays that our society has been increasing the range on violence
at an earlier age than in the old days. For this reason, it is more
likely to set the statement that children do not inherit most of their
personality traits from their parents.
Children are more likely to be more violent every time. Even though
psicologysts say that children inherit most of the personality traits
from their parents, we should also consider that children are not
only surrounded by their parents, parents might be the first company
they have had along the first years, by as the years go by they also
begin to form part of a big society. This society is not as we would
dream to be, so children also acquire different behaviours from their
surroundings. This lead us to think that their personality changes every
time they are in contact wit the society.
Even though most people think that psicologysts are right, and
children inherit the personality of their parents, we must take into
account that a family tree is not only conformed by parents. As
parents inherit some qualities and some characteristics from the
grandparents personalities, children as well may inherit some of these
characters from other members of their families and not only from
the parents.
As we can see parents are not the only ones that are responsible
for our personalities. We are the ones that develop our personality
through the years.


Essay 4 Rating: D
This composition is a D band essay. The introduction is abrupt and it is not clear
that the writer has understood the essay question. Though the writer does present
a point of view, the different perspectives possible are not acknowledged.
Additionally, the opening sentence is a broad and sweeping claim (Nowadays that
our society has been increasing the range on violence at an earlier age than in the
old days.) that is unsupported by evidence. It also seems irrelevant to the
This tendency to make sweeping claims unsupported by evidence recurs at other
points in the essay. Additionally, the paragraphs do not have a clear theme and the
essay seems circular. Grammatically, the essay is relatively sound. There are a
number of different errors but few are serious and some complex sentences are
attempted. However, the sentences are not always meaningful (e.g., Children are
more likely to be more violent every time). Also, the writer does not seem able to
express ideas concisely and precisely. Consequently, phrases are used where a
single word would do (e.g., as we would dream to be instead ofperfect). On
other occasions the phrases used are not idiomatically correct (e.g., as the years
go by instead of as time passes). There are a number of spelling and
punctuation errors. Overall, the essay can be understood but it requires conscious
reader effort.

Essay 5
Rating: E

Nowadays, as the psychologists claim that people

create their character or their personality from
the beggining of their lifes. The most responsible
persons for having a good personality are the
I actually agree with the psychologists, because
I believe that a persons character its up to its
family and specially from its parents.
As a child is growing up, parents are the
persons who can advice and help their child to
communicate with others. They also help him or her
to how behave good to other people, to the animals
and to the environment.
In addition, they learn their child when being
in childhood to be gently opptimistic, polite, and
friendly in their friendship, in their relationship,
family and work.
All the parents do not behave like this to their


Essay 5 Rating: E
This composition is an E band essay. The content is minimal, developing (in a
vague way) only the influence that parents have on their children through
upbringing. There are many indications that the prompt has not been fully
understood, including the thesis statement I actually agree with the
psychologists. This sentence claims that a childs character is molded by parents
and family. The claim is not unacceptable but it is not the view expressed in the
prompt. Therefore, the writer does not actually agree with the psychologists.
Grammatical and lexical errors frequently impede understanding; the reader has to
make considerable effort to retrieve meaning. The errors made also suggest that
the writer has gaps in grammatical and lexical knowledge. For instance, the writer
might know all the prepositions but might only know their main uses. The essay
ends abruptly. It is not clear whether the writer ran out of time to write further or
whether this was simply a poor attempt at a closing statement.

A new five-point rating scale was launched in May 2009. The descriptors for performance levels A, B, and C did not
change; level D was divided into a new D and an E level. The minimum passing level continues to be C. The writing
task has not changed. Table 11 presents the new five-point rating scale.

Table 11: Writing Section 5-Point Rating Scale

A Topic richly, fully, complexly Flexible use of a wide Broad range, Spelling and
Honors developed range of syntactic appropriately used punctuation errors are
Organization well-controlled, (sentence level) rare and insignificant
appropriate to the material structures; morphological
(word forms) control
Connection is smooth nearly always accurate

B Topic clearly and completely Both simple and complex Vocabulary use shows Spelling and
developed, with acknowledgment syntax adequately used; flexibility, is usually punctuation errors
of its complexity good morphological appropriate are infrequent and not
Organization is controlled and control Any inappropriate distracting
shows appropriateness to the vocabulary does not
material confuse meaning
Few problems with connection
C Topic clearly developed, but Both simple and complex Adequate vocabulary, Spelling and
not always completely or syntax present but may sometimes be punctuation errors
with acknowledgment of its For some, syntax is inappropriately used sometimes distracting
complexity cautious but accurate,
Organization generally controlled; while others are more
connection sometimes absent or fluent but less accurate
unsuccessful Inconsistent
morphological control

D Topic development usually clear Morphological errors are Vocabulary may be Spelling and
but simple and may be repetitive frequent limited in range, punctuation errors are
Attempts to address different Simple sentences tend and is sometimes frequently distracting
perspectives on the topic are to be accurate; more inappropriately used
often unsuccessful complex ones tend to be to the point that it
inaccurate causes confusion
Overreliance on prefabricated
language and/or language from
the prompt
Organization partially controlled
E Topic development may be Pervasive and basic errors Incorrect use of Basic vocabulary
unclear and/or limited by in sentence structure vocabulary causes words regularly
incompleteness or lack of focus and word order cause confusion misspelled
Might not be relevant to topic confusion Even basic words may Little or no control
Connection of ideas often absent Problems with subject- be misused over sentence
or unsuccessful verb agreement, tense May show interference boundaries
formation or word from other languages Spelling and
formation punctuation errors
Even basic sentences are regularly cause
filled with errors confusion

Writing Outline: For and Against Essays

Below is an example of an outline for a For and Against Essay.


Paraphrase! Restate the topic in your own words.

Acknowledge the complexity of the issue and state that you will look at both For
and Against arguments.

Body (Paragraph 1)

Introduce the major argument For: "On the one hand..."

Present the main points and elaborate.

Body (Paragraph 2)

Introduce the major argument Against: "On the other hand..."

Present the main points and elaborate.


State that after weighing both arguments you have finally developed your own
Close your essay with a dramatic, thought-provoking statement of your personal
thoughts on the issue.

The following is a Sample of a For and Against Essay.

Topic: Should Animals be used in testing new drugs and procedures? (Animal

Animal testing may be necessary, but we need to be merciful

Every year, millions of animals undergo painful suffering or death as a result of scientific
research into the effects of drugs, food additives, cosmetics and other chemical
products. While most people think animal testing is necessary, others are upset by what

they see as needless suffering. This essay looks at some of the positive and negative
aspects of animal testing.

Many medical treatments and procedures have been developed from experiments on
animals. Since animals share many features with humans, scientists use animals to
test the safety and effectiveness of newly developed drugs before pilot testing on small
groups of patients. Medical teams practice new operating techniques such as
transplants on animals. Without animal testing, many procedures or new drugs would
be extremely unsafe.

However, many people are concerned that animals are suffering unnecessarily and
cruelly. They do not believe that every new drug needs to be tested on animals,
especially with the huge database of knowledge and modern computer models. They
also are worried that many animal tests are ineffective, pointing out that many drugs
have had to be withdrawn from the market despite extensive testing. They particularly
feel that animal testing should not be used for non-essential products such as
cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and cleaning products. Furthermore, some campaigners
would like to see certain tests replaced and more humane methods used.

We need to make sure that the millions of animals who are used for testing new
products are treated with the minimum of suffering. Although some animal testing may
be unavoidable at present, treating our fellow creatures as mercifully as possible will
demonstrate our humanity.

Writing Outline: Advantages and Disadvantages

Below is an example of an outline for a For and Against Essay.


Paraphrase! Restate the topic in your own words.

Acknowledge that there are both advantages and disadvantages involved.

Body (Paragraph 1)

Introduce the major advantages: "On the positive side..."

Present the main points and elaborate.

Body (Paragraph 2)

Introduce the major disadvantages: "Despite these attractions, however, some

drawback do exist..."
Present the main points and elaborate.


Restate your opinion and refer to the main advantages and disadvantages
presented in the essay.

Here are some helpful linking words that may be used throughout this essay:

In other words,
This means that
It is also
Another advantage is that
On the other hand

In conclusion,
To sum up,

The University of Michigan Examination
for the Certificate of Proficiency in English

Official Past
Graded Essays

2000 - 2001
2001 - 2002
2002 - 2003

The Official Past Graded Essays benchmarked by the English Language Institute at the University of
Michigan can be used for analysis and writing skills development

The essays included in this packet are official past writing samples that have been graded by University
of Michigan ELI staff. Please note that they have not been edited and still contain the original student
errors. Included with the graded essays are the reviewers comments and the official ECPE writing section
scoring criteria.

The first four graded essays are followed by a number of questions and some suggestions for additional
activities. The questions and activities are original material created for use by EFL students in Greece.
They have been developed from the reviewers comments and are intended to help students begin to look
at writing more critically.

This collection of essays and activities can be used to heighten students and teachers awareness of the
characteristics of writing at the ECPE level, to focus students on the processes of editing and revision,
and to help them improve their own writing abilities through reading, analysis and discussion.

The questions and activities that accompany the graded essays in this packet were written by Anne Nebel
for the Hellenic American Union.

To the teacher:

The graded essays in this packet are useful in helping students to critically analyze writing at the ECPE level.
In answering the questions, students are compelled to look closely at the syntax, grammar, vocabulary,
organization and development of an essay, and frequently to make corrections and improvements. Focused
examination and expansion of these writing samples will help students improve their ability to analyze
and develop their own essays. In addition to the questions that follow each essay, you might also try the
following discussions/activities in your class.

1. Examine the scoring rubric together. Taking one section (rhetoric, grammar/syntax, etc.) and one level
(A, B, etc.) at a time review with the students what each descriptor means. For example:
a. One characteristic of rhetoric at Honors (A) level is that connection is smooth. What does
connection in writing mean? How do we connect writing? Why is it important? What
happens when an essay is not well connected? Look for examples in the essays.
b. One characteristic of grammar/syntax at B and C levels is that both simple and complex
syntax is present. What are some examples of simple syntax? What are some examples of
complex syntax? What effect does syntax (simple and complex) have on a piece of writing?
c. What does it mean to acknowledge the complexity of a topic? How does this affect the
successfulness of an essay?

2. Ask students to write an essay based on the prompt given in the graded essays or any other
prompt. Have each student examine another students essay and rate it according to the ECPE
scoring rubric. If this is too challenging, ask them to rate each essay in just one of the categories,
such as vocabulary or rhetoric. Tell them they must justify the score they give by underlining
examples in the essay. This can be reviewed in pairs, groups or as a whole class.

3. Ask students to take the C or D level essay and improve it in each (or just one) of the categories of
the ECPE scoring rubric. This can also be done in pairs. For example, students can identify
sentences with very simple syntax and develop them into more complex sentences to improve the
essay. They may also select vocabulary items to substitute with more appropriate choices.


ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK A (Honors level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: Well developed; topic is introduced smoothly using the writers own words (does not copy
or quote from the prompt). Uses complex syntax correctly and high level vocabulary appropriately.
Occasional spelling errors are not distracting. The unfinished sentence at the end is acceptable because
this is an impromptu writing task.

As years go by, it becomes more and more apparent

that success matters. People in developed countries are presently quite

preoccupied with their own success, as well as their childrens. Be it the

outcome of role models television, cinema or advertising, it has become

very important for one to be considered succesful in ones business or

career. Thus, the question arises: what is it that one needs in order to
Minor spelling errors
work ones way to the top of societys pyramid? are not distracting.

Some would argue that a person needs to aquire the appropriate

knowledge in order to succed. A solid education is a good starting

point, but in modern days is not always enough. Often people need to

pursue what is called life-long learning, meaning they must continue to

study and learn throughout their life in order to keep up with the state of

their art. In addition, one needs to have a certain talent, inclination and

love for what they practise and be prepared to work hard.

Be it as it may, people with the aforementioned prerequisites

have been known to do well in their careers and make it to the top.

Sometimes, they start from zero and have to show great persistence,

courage, inner strength and patience, in order for their goals

to finally be achieved. It can be said that this sort of success

is surely the sweetest, since it is well deserved.

Nevertheless, it is also a fact that strong connections and

good public relations can take a person a long way. This has

been known to happen in past times and in present times it has

only become more prevalent. Expressions such as nepotism,

cronyism and the like, are often used to describe the situation.

It has often been the case for people with less experience,

skill or knowledge to be chosen over others, who are actually

stronger candidates for a position but havent got very strong

connections. Knowing people who play an important part in politics or in

the business world can sometimes prove crucial in achieving

success. However, if one chooses this path, one must

compromise with knowing within oneself that it has cost

other people injustice. Achieving a goal in such a way

deprives one of most of the satisfaction and glory that

should normally accompany success.

To sum it all up, this is not a perfect world. There

Unfinished sentence at end is acceptable
in an impromptu situation
will always be an easy way and a hard way to

succed and there will always be people who chose . . .

Focus Questions:

Based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria for the ECPE, consider the
following questions about the essay.

1. Reread the prompt then look at the essay again and identify how the writer introduces
the topic in his or her own words.
2. Rewrite a similar introductory paragraph for this topic, based on the prompt, but using
your own words.
3. Underline examples of complex syntax in the essay. Discuss these forms and why
they are effective in their contexts.
4. Underline examples of high-level vocabulary. Discuss their meaning and effectiveness
in the essay.
5. The reviewer notes that this essay is well developed. In what ways is this true?
Discuss the organization and development of the ideas.
6. Why is the ending considered acceptable in this essay?
7. Circle any misspelled words and note any punctuation errors. Do you think these
errors distract at all from the reading?
8. What do you think are the strengths of this essay? Do you find any areas for

ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK B (High Pass level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: Elaborates on the topic. Has some awkward phrasing (problems with syntax). Very few
minor, localized grammatical errors. Uses advanced level vocabulary, but word choice is sometimes
imprecise. Though not serious enough to cause misunderstanding, it is jarring to the reader.

In my opinion, what makes a person successful, especially absolutely doesnt

make sense here
in his job and consequently in his life, is absotulety having knowledge

and sometimes expertise. Even if I had to work in public relations of a

restaurant or in a company, I would be suitable for this position

only if I had relevant knowledge or experience.

word order is not right
Furthermore, knowing also important people, who can evaluate lexical choice of fairly
would be better than
justly your qualifications and could help you in finding a job is justly

important too. And this because nowadays, there is Unfortunately, at

least in my country, Greece, a high rate of unemployment,

lexical choice of constantly
incessantly growing , and also there are not so many vacancies left. would be better than
incessantly and job
Therefore, a lot of people try, from a very young age, to study in openings better than
university, get a degree or a diploma in order to have a possibility

of working somewhere. So, the more important people you know, the
word order problems
better for you it is. But it is not of paramount importance, owing to

the fact that what counts in society is the person itself, not how much
Isolated subject-verb
people knows. agreement problem

Moreover, I support the view that it is too difficult for someone

to keep his position, especially in a private company, if he does not

have some basic qualifications or some kind of experience, or even for

instance, if he does not take pride in his work. This happens because he

will not be able to offer his services and consequently he might end up

becoming redundant in his job.

lexical choice of
In conclusion, I would say that having knowledge and experience is crucial would be better
than serious
a serious prerequisite to getting a serious position and absolutely

more important than just knowing some people. In the end, just think
Syntax problem:
sentence fragment at
about what a person is, if knowing important people but without having end. Isolated spot where
meaning is not quite
some kind of knowledge. clear, perhaps due to
limited time to finish?

Focus Questions:

Based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria for the ECPE, consider the
following questions about the essay.

1. How does the writer elaborate on the topic? Find specific examples in the essay of how
the topic develops. Discuss how successful the topic development is with your teacher
and make suggestions for improvement if necessary.
2. Find examples in the essay of word order that is awkward or incorrect and underline it,
then write the correct word order in the space above the line.
3. Circle examples of advanced-level vocabulary. Discuss their meaning and use in the
4. Discuss all grammatical errors that you find, including one sentence fragment, and
make the corrections. Review these with your teacher.
5. Are there any problems in punctuation in the essay? If so, identify them and discuss
what the problem is.
6. Rewrite this essay to improve it. Pay special attention to topic development and word

ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK C (Minimum Pass level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: Well organized, but incompletely developed: uses same examples and reasons for both
situations, and at the end, says they are equally valuable. Overall syntax is good; grammatical breakdowns
are localized and not very serious. Uses some formulaic phrases, which indicates limited ability to use
the language creatively.

Good introductory sentence.

Its a common belief that nowadays, knowing important people

or having knowledge and expertise can be a success to somebodys life. Awkward phrasing (about
which is more important
But it still remains a controversial issue about which of these two are would be better)

firmly believe is a
more important to people. formulaic phrase

To my way of thinking, I firmly believe that both of them are of

great importance to people On one hand, Knowing important people

is very beneficial to people. To begin with, that gives you the chance business level is unclear

to get a better job or a promotion in your business level. That means,

resualt is a minor spelling
that by doing that someone can earn more money and as a resualt have
Faulty word order
a better, more comfortable and without problems life. Apart from that,
one would be better than
someone is able to get the respect of the other people. This will make someone here

him much more popular, gregarious and moreover prestigious. So, as gregarious &
prestigious are improperly
a resualt, he can gain a more successful life with lots of benefits to be
lots is a minor
gained. punctuation error

On the other hand, having knowledge and expertise can also be

of a great help to people. To begin with, expertise and knowledge can

help people to get the respect they deserve from the others. That

can help someone to have friends and friendship is something really

valuable nowadays. In addition, expertise and knowledge will help Writer already used
friendship as an advantage
someone to get the job he wishes and have the life he prefers. And last of knowing important
people; using it again here
doesnt contrast the two.
but not least, knowledge and expertise will not only help someone

with his relationships with the others, but also with himself. He will beseiged by success is an
inappropriate lexical choice
feel pleased and a man who is besieged by success or even proud of
Sentence fragment
what he accomplished. The knowledge will give him the chance to

educate himself and add some new things to his life.

Should be and, not or
To sum up, I think that knowing important people or having

knowledge and expertise are important to peoples lives. Both of them

Minor error in choice of
are equal and so they can ensure a successful life to people. preposition: should be for

Focus Questions:

Based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria for the ECPE, consider the
following questions about the essay.

1. Discuss the errors you find in grammar and syntax with your teacher, then make the
2. The reviewer notes that the topic is incompletely developed because both sides of the
discussion rely on the same examples and reasons. Find the examples and reasons the
writer presents and compare them. What changes can you suggest to improve the topic
3. Find and circle several examples of vocabulary that is only adequate, and suggest a
better, more accurate word choice.
4. Find and circle several examples of words that are used somewhat inappropriately and
suggest a more appropriate word choice. Discuss why you think certain words fit better.
5. Are there any instances of spelling and punctuation mistakes that make this essay
difficult to read? Discuss how these mistakes complicate the meaning. Correct them in
the essay.
6. Rewrite this essay improving the development of the topic, the grammar and syntax,
and the choice of vocabulary.

ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK D (Fail level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: Limited language. Repetitive argument and incorrect structures. The three examples of
mechanic, winemaker, & painter are repetitious and make the essay seem padded. Problems with word
order. Meaning is unclear in several places. Passed the other sections of the exam.

Wrong word choice &

Nowadays a controversy is rasing about the success of people.
verb tense: should be has
There are people who believe that someone is successfull when he
minor spelling error
knows a lot of important people. But there are others who believe that

someone is successfull when he has knowledge and expertise. As far as strongly believe is
I am concerned I strongly believe that both knowing important people
Syntax problems in the
and having expertise is needed in order someone to be successfull. entire sentence. Wrong
word order, omits word (in
For example a car-mechanic in order to be successfull nowadays order for his job), lexical
problems (his job to be
he should know important people in order his job to be known and he known is unclear).

should have knowledge about cars and expertise in order to Vocabulary problem:
damaged would be better
repair the impaired cars correctly. than impaired.

Furthermore a winemaker in order to be successfull, he should

Uses same phrasing as in
know important people in order his products to be known and he should previous example, with
same syntax errors.
have knowledge about wines and expertise in order to make good

quality wine.

In addition a painter in order to be a successfull and widely

known artist he should know important people in order his paintings to Repeats argument and
incorrect structures for the
be bought by someone and he should have knowledge about the art of third time.

painting and he should have expertise in order to create masterpieces.

strongly believe is
To sum up I strongly believe that both knowing important

people and having expertise helps people to their jobs. As a result

Syntax problem: omits
wordto do their jobs.
they will become good and successfull proffecionals in the future.

proffecionals is a minor
spelling error

Focus Questions:

Based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria for the ECPE, consider the
following questions about the essay.

1. The writer often makes poor word choices and uses incorrect verb forms. Find
examples throughout this essay. In each instance, determine what is wrong and make
a suggestion for improvement.
2. There are several minor spelling errors in this essay. Identify and correct them. Do you
think they distract from reading the essay? Why or why not?
3. The writer uses some rather formulaic phrases as a crutch to hold up weak writing. Try
to find a few examples of these phrases in the essay.
4. Grammar and syntax still appear to be below proficiency level. Find examples of
problems with grammar and syntax in this essay, underline them, correct them and
review them.
5. A few incorrect structures and phrases are repeated in this essay. What does this
demonstrate? Find the repeated structures in the essay.
6. The writer repeats the same arguments in this essay. What does this indicate?
7. Rewrite this essay improving the syntax and grammar, as well as the vocabulary level

ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK C (Minimum Pass level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: First paragraphs is not clear and therefore not passing level. However, after this weak start,
the second paragraph is better. Ideas are developed well. Clear communication despite some awkward
phrasing, lexical choices, and other localized errors. First rater gave this a D, subsequent raters gave it

Nowadays we live in a society where everybody competes about

Meaning is unclear.

who is going to make ends meet and have a good quality of life. And

as jobs are quite limited at current years man has to work and fight hard Meaning of this sentence
is unclear.
in order to succeed. This fight depends of course on the each individual. the each should be
each and Some have
more ... others fewer
Other have more and other less qualifications for a particular job. So, would be better.

unfortunately many of these people (with less expertise) even though

they are not qualified enough, manage to find a job because of the

friends they have, who are at high positions and help them.

In my opinion this situation is not right at all! I think that it

spend or devote to
is much more important when someone has studied hard, has taken studying would be
a university degree and has acquired the proper qualifications for a
studing is a spelling
particular job. For instance, many young people devote their whole life error that changes the
meaning; secrafise is
studing medicine. It is known that man has to secrafise many years of unclear.

his life studing hard until he ultimately gets his university degree as
Incorrect lexical choice:
a doctor and have his own bureau. What is more most of them are bureau should be
office or practice.
experienced enough to help many people overcome their health

problems even in very serious cases. But for one person to be

successful having knowledge and expertise in a particular field is

nowadays not enough. As I mentioned before even a greater number of

people manage to get in higher positions, in successful and well-paid

jobs because of the people they know. In all cases with no exception

this particular friend as having the power and the ability to do, helps Syntax breakdown: friend
who has would be clearer.
them take such jobs. For example, in the latest years we see many Lexical choice: get rather
than take jobs
people who have not even gone to High School being millionares
millionares is a minor
because of their jobs who would be unable to have if it wasnt for their spelling error
becoming rather than
important friends. In this point I would like to mention as an example a being would be a better
word choice
manager of a particular Bank that I happen to know personally. He has
Incorrect verb formation
causes confusion
only gone to High School, but has not studied at all and of course his

university degree does not exist. Nevertheless, thanks to his father who
Very good use of friend as
was the former Bank Manager he took the job quite easily and now he is example

a famous person, with uncountable money that hardly tried to get in such
Unclear referent; the money
a high position. This in my opinion is quite unfair for the others who at didnt try to get the position.

least have tried a little bit harder than him. Of course there is nothing

we can do to change it, but to be more clever and try for our best.

On the whole however, I believe that neither having important

friends (only), nor having knowledge and expertise alone can help
Garbled syntax in final
anyone succeed The right combination of these two qualifications is

this, which is the perfect and help each individual reach his personal

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed, providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: Why is the first paragraph unclear?

ECPE 2002-03 BENCHMARK D (Fail level)

Topic: People often say success is dependent on who you know, not what you know. What do you
think makes a person more successfulknowing important people, or having knowledge and expertise?
Discuss, giving specific examples.

Comments: Reads well, uses complex structures, but communication breaks down abruptly in spots.
Meaning is unclear due to omitted words and word choice, and to incorrect use of verb forms. Does not
demonstrate control in parts that are not formulaic.

Basic grammatical error:

It is widely believed that if someone knows an important person having rather than
then he can have a great success without even have the appropriate

qualifications. To my opinion I think that this can only be judged on a Unclear because of missing
word or wrong word
basis. choice.

There are people who can for example run their own business

because they are helped by people who have money or fame. These
Meaning unclear because of
wrong word choice; should
people may not have enough knowledge, expertise and experience but be powerful

they can succeed because they know or they are friends with strong,
Formulaic phrase
famous people. However it goes without saying that they will

have only a transient success as I think that these who have no

Meaning unclear
qualifications and are only based on important people can never have

a real, not-transient success. They may become strong, rich or famous

Omits word (little while,
but just for a little. short time)

In the other hand there are people who have a lot of knowledge
Formulaic phrase using
wrong preposition
and expertise but unfortunately they cant succeed as they arent friends

with famous people. For instance, there are people who have
Wrong word choice that
graduated from college, theyve become experts on a subject, they are alters meaning. Should use
get rather than have.
very knowledgeable but they cant have a suitable job because

of their independence on rich or famous people. However this is also a Wrong word choice
that impedes meaning.
transient situation. I mean that if someone is seasoned on a subject and Independence is the
opposite of what writer
has made strenuous attempts to succeed then he will never loose. Its intends.

Meaning of seasoned
undeniable that some people may sell him short but by and by they will is unclear.

certainly recognise his true value and he will have a really and not at all Serious spelling error
because it creates a
phoney success. different word and obscures
As a conclusion, I think it is quite good to know rich or famous Formulaic phrase
Wrong word form
people but without the appropriate knowledge you can go nowhere
Awkward phrasing. In
and you can never fullfil all the goals you have set. I suppose that conclusion would be
having both of them is very convenient as you can succeed more easily!
Minor spelling error that
does not impede clear

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed, providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: Can you give examples of complex structures used in the essay?



1. Some psychologists believe that there is more to intelligence than traditional intelligence tests
measure (mathematical and verbal ability). They say there are many kinds of intelligence and
many ways to be smart. Besides mathematical and linguistic intelligence, in what other ways
do you think people are smart? Be specific in your discussion and provide concrete examples.
2. Most people agree that it is important for co-workers to have good relationships. However, a
recent study suggests that friendships at work can also cause problems. In what ways can
friendships at work be harmful? Discuss, giving specific examples.

Ok, so your son got a low score in his IQ tests. Dont be discouraged

since this does not mean he is not intelligent. It simple means they may Strong beginning;
good vocabulary
have not tested his main intelligence. More and more reasuring news are

coming from new research. These new studies indicate that there is more to it

than the traditional mathematical and linguistic intelligence.

Alan Coardner, in his study called Multiple Intelligences (MI),

states that a person may have Interpersonal Intelligence. This is the ability Good reference to
to communicate and handle relationships with other people. We see this

intelligence at work when we see teachers or politicians performing their


Definition of interpersonal intelligence is properly placed and formed.
The writer does not assume the reader is familiar with the concept. Good connection of points.

The writer here is clearly familiar with the topic. Familiarity with the topic does not always result
in good performance, but in this case the writers command of English result in a successful essay. The writer
is able to present some aspects of Gardners theory of multiple intelligences and provide examples. The writer
does not discuss any one of the intelligences in great detail, but by touching on several of them, he/she produces a
well developed essay. The points flow together nicely. Language is controlled with very few errors. The
introduction and the conclusion differ from the body stylistically, with the body being a bit more academic.
Even so, the writer maintains control of the discourse from beginning to end.

ECPE 2001-2002 BENCHMARK A (cont.)

A second example of MI is Intrapersonal Intelligence. This kind of

intelligence is your ability to know yourself in relation with everything around

you. Typical examples include philosophers, and thinkers.

In addition to interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences, I can

mention Musical Intelligence. This on measures a persons ability to play any

musical instrument, sing or compose music. Specific examples are found every
Good connection
time we see a singer, a piano player or a composer at work. and use of
Related to the previous one, I can mention Bodily Kinesthetic Idiomatic use of
Intelligence This kind of intelligence measures your ability to use your body

for such tasks as dancing, sports or any other in which you need precise body

movement. Talented people in this area include dancer Michael Jackson.

Fifth in this list is Environmental intelligence. This is evident when

the person is aware of the environment around him or her. The person is good

finding his or her way around in a new city, or understands the processes
Missing preposition
involved during an eclipse or simply enjoys observing natural phenomena.

So, if your child got a law math test or a law verbal aptitude test it

would be worth looking deeper and determine his main intelligence. I think the

time you spend identifying his or her main intelligence will result in incredible

benefits for his or her future life.

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed, providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: In what way(s) does the writer of the essay show that he/she is clearly familiar
with the topic?



1. Some psychologists believe that there is more to intelligence than traditional intelligence tests
measure (mathematical and verbal ability). They say there are many kinds of intelligence and
many ways to be smart. Besides mathematical and linguistic intelligence, in what other ways
do you think people are smart? Be specific in your discussion and provide concrete examples.
2. Most people agree that it is important for co-workers to have good relationships. However, a
recent study suggests that friendships at work can also cause problems. In what ways can
friendships at work be harmful? Discuss, giving specific examples.

Intelligence could be a gift, or one could actually be trained to be

smart. In either case, the only intelligence that is usually considered at schools
No scene setting. The
or any academic institution is the mathematic and verbal kind. Examiners
writer jumps right into the
hardly ever look for other kinds of intelligence such as body coordination and

social intelligence. These two ways of being smart are as important as the

verbal and mathematical and should be payed more attention to.

Body coordination is very important for activities like sports and

Merit is not necessary
playing an instrument. Since these activities play a major role in peoples

lives these days, this kind of intelligence should be given its due merit. For
Intended meaning is clear,
but this is the wrong word
example, I am a student who always ranked first in all my classes at school.
with I. Should be it came
When I came to learn playing the guitar, I found that I cant be among the top
Wrong tense? Should be
students. Also, I never could manage to master any of the sports activities at couldnt or another modal.

school. On the other hand, many of the sports champions at school never did
perform well academically. Does that mean they lack intelligence? Definitely


Another important intelligence is social skills. People with this type

Grammar and vocabulary look good. The writer has attempted to connect ideas without using
traditional connectors, and instead uses in either case and a summary phrase (these two ways of being
smart). Devices such as these are used by very capable writers.

ECPE 2001 2002 BENCHMARK B (cont.)

of intelligence have the ability to create an agreeable environment in a

OK, but a somewhat

unnatural word choice.
social gathering. They also know how to lighten the atmosphere and lead a

[ ]
discussion, though a productive path. There are many people, whom I wish
Awkward wording
I could be like in certain gatherings but I never could activate anything.
Intended meaning is not
Also, many smart students at school just prefer to be alone because they immediately clear.

dont have the needed intelligence when with people.

So there are many ways to be smart and I believe that the kinds of

intelligence mentioned above should be looked at more by society.

This is a very good composition. Topic development is clear and the writer uses some
examples to support points. Both simple and complex sentences have been attempted. Although
overall grammar and vocabulary are appropriate and on target, on the second page there are several
noticeable awkward expressions. Many B compositions are grammatically accurate throughout, but
contain awkward or unnatural sounding expressions. When these expressions are used, however,
they generally do not confound the intended meaning.

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed, providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: What examples does the writer of this essay use to support his/her points?



1. A noted historian recently warned that as use of the Internet increases, many libraries will
close. People who once used libraries are now turning to the Internet for information. Do you
agree that the Internet will replace the need for libraries? Why or why not? Support your point
of view using examples.
2. Some child psychologists believe that the peer groups children play with influence their
character and personality development more than the childrens parents do. The psychologists
say children are more interested in fitting in with their friends than behaving the way their
parents want them to. Do you agree or disagree with these psychologists? Explain your point
of view.

It is slowly becoming apparent that the coostitution of family is and

Grammatically OK, but
will be the cornerstone of a nations development. Actually it is the central what does this really mean?

core of it since all its members work and ccomminicate on the basis of love

and mutual respect.

Nowadays family seem to have gone through a lot of different stages. Wrong vocabulary choice.

Should be role to play?
For instance in each antiquinty member had a particular field to occupy with
Wrong vocabulary choice.
Should be focused on?
and all jobs were distributed by the eldests. Women were more attatched to
Wrong form. Should be
the upbring of their children where as, men were working to support their upbringing.

family The bonds between the members were strict and mutual respect was
Wrong vocabulary choice.
the essential part of their life. Children would listen to their parents advice Should be strong or tight.

and moreover would imitate their way of life. They would behave just like
Missing pronoun
were raised and furthermore they would be influenced only by them. Their
Modals should not be used.
interaction with other children would only be a matter of playing innocent Was is the correct choice of
verb here.
team games. Their entertainment would only be singing old songs banded
Correct word?
dawn by their ancestors and hymns among the family.

ECPE 2000 2001 BENCHMARK C (cont.)

Today the challenges are far more than attractive for a ten-year-old
Meaning is not clear.
child. Technological advances has culminated in their rounded education apart

from school, through computers and have vast knowledge on different fields.
Meaning is not clear.
Who has vast knowledge?
With a press of a button one can have immediate access all over the world
Meaning is not clear. What
and be at your hands easily without much effort. So interacting with children can be at your hands?

of the same age and exchanging views is totally unavoidable What I mean Good

is that children have more things to share than in the past and that in turn

culminates in getting influenced by them. Another factor is that they spend

more hours with them rather than with their parents since both are in charge
Awkward word order
of supporting financially their family. That has an adverse impact on the

psycology of children. They no more trust their parent nor do they listen to
Missing pronoun they
them. They think that have come to maturity and know exactly what they do.
Missing modal should
To sum up psycologists do have a point concerning childrens

behavior and attitude towards family and we as parents should seek some Wrong vocabulary choice.
Should be raising.
other form of upbringing our children and especially reappraise the values of
Meaning is not clear.
family and try to reform it according to the new pace of life keep the family

bonds tight and guard what is called family. Correct vocabulary


The writer has a lot to say, but does not always convey his/her intended meaning. Some
parts of the composition are nicely written, but some parts are difficult to follow because
of inappropriate word choice (this is most serious at the top of page 2). Missing words
also confound the writers intended meaning. Other problems include word order and
unclear reference.

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed, providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: Can you give the writers intended meaning in those parts which lack clarity of

ECPE 2001 - 2002 BENCHMARK D

1. Some psychologists believe that there is more to intelligence than traditional intelligence tests
measure (mathematical and verbal ability). They say there are many kinds of intelligence and
many ways to be smart. Besides mathematical and linguistic intelligence, in what other ways
do you think people are smart? Be specific in your discussion and provide concrete examples.
2. Most people agree that it is important for co-workers to have good relationships. However,
a recent study suggests that friendships at work can also cause problems. In what ways can
friendships at work be harmful? Discuss, giving specific examples.
Wrong word order

Nowadays, there are many tests to measure how smart can a person be. ] Agreement
They test our mathematical and verbal ability and gives us a score acording to
Wrong word?
our grades, these are called IQ tests.
Did the writer deliberately
But how smart can we be? People all over the world that never went to form the question this
way? Seems doubtful.
school there whole lives cant be smart? I dont think so, these people have a
Awkward phrasing and
different way to be smart. They are the so called street smart. word order
Nice example, but
Succesfull people that havent finished their high school are all over
sentence not well-formed.
Should be two sentences.
the world. Take Bill Gates for example, he never graduated but he was able to
create a powerfull industry of computer softwares. Among him are others who
That is incorrect. This is
also are very succesful without any mathematical or linguistic intelligence.
a basic structure that should

[ ]
Its wrong to think that people who didnt went to school are dumb.
be controlled by a
proficient writer.

Well, they arent going to solve huge problems like deseases or world hunger,

But the are able to make a living.

That is incorrect.
Of cource that people like Bill Gates were very lucky and thay also had

[ ]
Poor vocabulary choice.
some influence, and thats why people who arent able to aply for an IQ test Should be take.

are considered stupid.

ECPE 2001 - 2002 BENCHMARK D

There are many ways to be smart, and psychologists are

Testing that it is true

[testing and proving that this is true.]This ways to be smart vary does not work.

from scientists to artists, creative people dont have to necesserely

be genious. Should we call Van Gogh stupid? ] Connection not clear.
They should make a new test, a test that measured a smart
Wrong tense

Agreement. Should be

The writers general point that there are different ways to be smart can be grasped. However, effort is
needed to understand the essay in parts. The topic is not very well developed, but there is some topic
development. The Bill Gates example is a very nice example of specific detail, something that stronger
compositions often lack. The composition includes both simple and complex sentences, but errors are
very frequent. Language is not well controlled. There are problems with agreement, verb form, and
vocabulary choice.

Focus Questions:
Work in pairs to develop questions based on the reviewers comments and the scoring criteria
for the ECPE. Then try to answer the questions you have developed providing explanations
and justifications.

For example: Why isnt the topic very well developed?