Exam Tips: How to Write a Story For an English Language Test

Updated on October 8, 2016

Not all English as a second language exams have the option of writing a short story, but the Cambridge First Certificate exam does, and so do some others, so it is necessary to know how to write one. Students often choose to write a story in the second part of the writing section in Cambridge First Certificate thinking that it will be easier than the other options because it is less formal and more imaginative. Imagination is called for, it's true, but also good organization and careful attention to some specific rules and guidelines.

I will use the Cambridge First Certificate exam's rules as an example in this article, but the general principles outlined here would apply to the writing of stories in other exams as well.

General Instructions

First of all, stay within the word limit. If the instructions say to write the story in 120 to 180 words, then do so. If your story falls above or below the word count, add or trim as needed. Secondly, pay careful attention to the question. Often the Cambridge exam gives a sentence that must begin or end the story. Sometimes it says it must begin it and sometimes it says it must end it, and sometimes you have the choice. Whatever the instructions say, do it. In addition, you must not change the sentence in any way or add to it; it must go into your story exactly as it is given. This is a basic of successful exam writing: follow the instructions explicitly.

What to Write

What should you write about? That's up to you. You might like to write a true story, something that happened to you or someone you know; you might like to write a fantasy, like a ghost story; you might like to write about something exciting, like a rescue. That's the fun of story writing: the fact that you can choose any subject. But whatever you choose, recognize your limitations. Don't try to tackle novel-length subject matter. Don't try to summarize an entire movie you've seen. In this length of story you only have the space to write about one incident, one thing that happens. The rest of the story adds detail.

Point of View

A story can be told in either first person, that is, the point of view of the writer, or in third person, a more objective presentation of the events. If you are taking the Cambridge First Certificate exam, usually the exam question will determine the point of view. If the sentence you are given to open or close your story is in first person, then write your story in first person; if it is in third person, then the rest of the story should be as well. If you are given a title only, then you have a choice, but remember: whatever you choose, stay consistent. Always use the same point of view throughout the story.


Plan your story carefully. A good story doesn't just take off and go anywhere. When you are writing a story as short as this, good organization is essential. Your story should have about four or five paragraphs depending on the subject matter, but each paragraph should have its particular topic and advance the story in a specific way. The organization should be like this:

1. Introduction. The introduction informs the reader of the three Ws: who, when, where. Who is the main character or characters in the story? When does the story begin? Where does the story begin? Sometimes there is a hint of what and why as well. What are they doing when the story begins and why are they doing it? Try to mention something interesting that will hook the reader into wanting to continue reading.

2. Main part. This is the part where the action happens. In the second and third paragraph there is usually a buildup to the main event in the fourth and last paragraph in the main part. Remember, in each paragraph one specific thing should happen that advances the story along.

3. Conclusion. In the conclusion there is usually a summing up, or lesson learned, or the writer's feelings or impression of the events, if the story is told in the first person.

Verb Tenses

Stories can be fun to write but they are also challenging, and one of the most difficult grammar aspects is the correct use of verb tenses. Stories should be told mainly in simple past tense, with occasional use of past progressive or continuous, and past perfect. Don't mix present and past tenses, and don't make the common mistake of using past progressive for simple past. Watch your tenses!

Have Fun

In conclusion, stories are fun to write, so have fun. Use your imagination, but keep it under control by following these simple guidelines. Your imagination is a tool that must be used correctly, just like any other tool – and when you do wield it with skill and precision, you can use it not only to pass your writing test, but to create a thing of beauty.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      James stubber 5 weeks ago

      This is so bad, get good. I'm just kidding this is very useful

    • profile image

      Tom 5 weeks ago

      It wasn’t that helpful

    • profile image

      dineth 5 weeks ago

      do you have the Cambridge checkpoint story guide

    • profile image

      snehith 2 months ago

      thanks bro

    • profile image

      Afna Sudheer 2 months ago

      Useful tips

    • profile image

      lavneesh garg 2 months ago

      very very useful or helpful for me ,thanks

    • profile image

      Krithika Pravin 2 months ago

      Good Job...it's gonna help me a lot

    • profile image

      mrityunjay sharma 3 months ago

      very useful

    • profile image

      Amritha Pradeep 4 months ago


    • profile image

      Anushka 6 months ago

      Good knowledge

    • profile image

      kulsum 7 months ago

      very useful knowledge

    • profile image

      sanae 7 months ago

      How can i write a real story

    • profile image

      Kusum 8 months ago

      Nice it help me

    • profile image

      ayesha 13 months ago


    • profile image

      iro 14 months ago

      thank you very much i have learnt alot from this article

    • profile image

      saikyo 14 months ago

      very very useful..

    • profile image

      ayush 14 months ago

      lets see if the tips are usefull because tommorow is my english test

    • profile image

      Shivi Singhal 15 months ago

      Your guidelines really helped me a lot in writing my stories. THANKS TO YOU VERY MUCH!!!

    • profile image

      SAKSHI 15 months ago




    • profile image

      nbmhbjk 19 months ago

      i am very thankes for your voice

    • profile image

      Chador Wangchuk 23 months ago

      Thank you for the information. It was useful indeed. Short and effective story writing process. Saves time as well as fetches good marks. Thank you once again. :)

    • profile image

      SUMAIYA QURAISHI 2 years ago

      i love this website. thanks you sir. u are helping students a lot.

    • profile image

      SUMAIYA QURAISHI 2 years ago

      thanks a lot

    • profile image

      Your Name 2 years ago



    • profile image

      Rohini 2 years ago

      Helped a lot in exams!!!!

    • profile image

      Seema jadhav 2 years ago

      Very helpfull

    • Paul Perspicacity profile image

      Paul Perspicacity 5 years ago from California

      You can base the story on real life to give it authenticity, and then embellish it.

    • profile image

      adikuh 5 years ago

      yes i thing real life stories are good but they should be interesting and it might be good to have a twist that is not there in real life

    • Deep Metaphysical profile image

      Deep Biswas 5 years ago from India

      I think writing a story taken from every day life is not only more convenient, it is also more appreciated by examiners. Useful hub. Voted up.

    • Paul Perspicacity profile image

      Paul Perspicacity 5 years ago from California

      Thanks. I'm glad the article is helpful.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 5 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Good Tips!!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)