“That’s when he walked out the door” – Cambridge First Story Writing

by David Sweetnam on June 6, 2012

FCE story writing

See the lovers in the faded photograph
She’s making funny faces.
He’s trying not to laugh
Do you remember the way we used to be
When love lifted us up, made us feel so free?

– from ‘Have a little faith in us’ by John Farnham

FCE Story Writing

If you’re taking the Cambridge English: First exam (also known as the First Certicate in English), you may need to write a story in the Writing paper. Here’s an example question below, with a sample answer and some tips:

You have been asked to submit a story for your college magazine (180 words). The story should end with the following sentence:

“That’s when he walked out the door.”

The winning entry will be published in the next month’s edition of ‘The College Chronicle.’

… … …

Antonio and I

It’s amazing how small steps in time can lead to decisions that affect your whole life. I’m reminded of this whenever I look back at my university trip to England one summer.

I’d only just met Antonio, but I felt so alive with him. We were out on the lake that day, making funny faces at each other. I’d challenged him to a race from one side of the lake to the other. And I won! He wasn’t so happy, but he couldn’t help but laugh when I showed him my muscles afterwards.

“C’mon, knock it off!” he shouted, with a small smile, before pretending to tip my canoe over. Unfortunately I reacted so quickly that I actually stood up and fell into the water!

Back at our hostel, my ex-boyfriend – who was in my class – came into my room. I froze. It had taken me a very long time to get over him, and now there he was, standing right in front of me.

“Jude, what is it?”

He had what looked like a ring in his hand. He tried to say something but he also froze.

That’s when he walked out the door.

Word Bank

to make funny faces – to put a silly expression on your face. Usually you do this when you’re playing around with someone else.
he couldn’t help but laugh – he couldn’t stop himself from laughing, he couldn’t control himself and so he laughed.
knock it off! – phrase for telling someone to stop doing something
pretend – in this context he acted like he was going to tip the canoe over, but it was just acting for a short moment (he wasn’t going to do it in reality)
I froze – I stood still, I couldn’t move
it had taken me some time to get over him – it took me some time to recover from when our relationship ended

Tips and feedback

This is very well written and could in fact be CAE level. So please don’t be worried if you feel your writing is not yet like the example above – this is just an example.

This story shows some features of a story that will get a good mark. These features include:

  • a very good range of grammar (ie a variety of different grammatical constructions)
  • a very good range of vocabulary (including some phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions)
  • the story has good organisation of ideas and use of paragraphs
  • some dialogue is included to make the story more interesting
  • the story was slightly over the word limit, but not in a way to take away from the overall mark (be careful not to go too much over the limit of 180 words for the FCE exam)
  • most importantly, this example answers the question using the right genre of writing  (‘Task Achievement‘)

How can you write better?

  • practise!  If you write just one story a term or semester, then you won’t make as much progress compared to doing 2-3 stories each month. So make it a goal to write more regularly.
  • make it interesting! Who are the characters? What will happen to them? Will there be any hurdle or problem for them to solve? How will it end?
  • take note of your teacher’s feedback. Your teacher will give you feedback on what mistakes you’re making, and give you some suggestions on how you can improve your story writing. Try to consider their feedback when you write a new story – while also taking note of the good things you’re doing too!
  • plan your story and check your writing at the end. Planning will help you a story which is easier to read, and get you thinking about how the story will develop. Check your writing at the end for any missing prepositions, articles, spelling, and any other mistakes you sometimes make etc.

Read more!

FCE story writing – “Even the most beautiful places can be irresistible, but only from a distance.”
“She smiled and walked away” – FCE story writing

Photo credits

Image: Mahalie

Licence: CC by 2.0

David Sweetnam
Hi, I'm a teacher of English from Australia. I write articles and publish materials on learning English. If you're looking for a trainer in Brno or Prague, please feel free to contact me.
David Sweetnam
David Sweetnam

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