For the writing part of the exam students are expected to have mastered the type of task that is referred to as “an email” or “a letter”.
These tasks have no greater difficulty beyond the ability to convey the message in a specific and appropriate toneand register. That is, depending on the target reader the student will adjust their language to meet the formality of the situation, which could range from responding to a pen-pal, friend or colleague, in which case they would most appropriately use an informal tone and register, to more formal scenarios such as contacting a potential employer, a college principal or a magazine editor.
Appart from taking into account the language of the text the student has to consider that a formal letter or email preferably presents a structured form with every paragraph developed around a certain topic or a group of related topics. For instance, if we are writing an email to a potential employer, most likely a type of cover letter to apply for a job, we may want to structure our text in the following paragraphs:
- Greetings addressed to the hiring manager/ team.
- Self-introduction and brief explanation of how we found out about the job posting and why we are interested in it.
- Summary of our work experience and related skills acquired in each past job that is relevant to the job we are applying for, including examples that showcase our work ethics.
- General information about further communication and availability. Here we can also add a brief conclusion to reiterate how interested we are in the job or any potentially important and relevant wrap-up statement that demonstrates that we are a good fit for the company and that we share the same mission.
- Closing or farewell statement.
In the case of a more informal text, targeted to a friend or colleague maybe, we can allow ourselves a bit more freedom and develop a piece were information flows without much regard for strict structuration of our ideas.
However, it will be much easier to read and write if the student has previously organized the information they want to add in the final piece. For this purpose, it is highly recommended, even mandatory in an exam situation, that the student structures briefly what they are going to write in the email or letter, be it formal or informal.
To exemplify this, imagine you are writing an email in response to the last one you received from your Chinese pen-pal, who has recently found a job as a “stocker” in a supermarket and wants to know how you are doing. Moreover, he has asked you about your opinion about the first draft of his novel, which he kindly sent to you a month ago and which you just finished reading a couple of days ago. A response could look like this: