Practising your writing skills

* IMPORTANT * Did you know that exam writers often get Paper 2 questions from other ab initio language papers?

This means that you are better off completing recent past papers from other languages than doing all the ones from Italian! Click HERE (or here )to find exam papers from other languages. Start with English ab initio. For other languages, copy paste the questions into an online translators. The translation won’t be perfect, but it will give you a fairly good idea of the question.

TIP n.1: memorise some writing tasks

There are a few writing tasks that you may be asked to do and that are quite challenging for an ab initio student. Consequently, you may wish to memorise such tasks for the exam. You will most likely have to adapt what you have memorised to fit with the specific question asked in the exam (changing content and/or text type), but at least you have a “skelleton” task to work from.

Here is a suggested list, each with a sample task for you to use as a model to create your own. Please note that more sample tasks can be found in our online units. Locate the “in class” task relating to writing skills and click on the “sample” links.

1. An Australian festivity  (descrivete una festa tipica del vostro paese)

2. Interviews(avete intervistato un attore/regista/autore/sportivo/cantante…)

3. Film Review  (scrivete una recensione per un film …)

4. Book Review (scrivete una recensione di un libro..)

5. ambiente poster

6. How you protect the environment  (che cosa fai per vivere in armonia con l’ambiente)

7. Job application  – sample 1 sample 2

8. Sample Sydney brochure

9.  Holiday Recount

10. relationships problem and advice – complex sample

11. Poster e manifesti samples (eg. school plays, charity events, feste in piazza)

12. Drugs & alcohol poster

13. Obesity/importance of diet & exercise task

14. Vantaggi e svantaggi dei mezzi pubblici

Some more writing resources and samples are available on this link.

TIP n.2: Recycle your speaking skills responses

When faced with a new writing task, think back at all the responses you learned for the Oral Exam and see if you can use any of them or bits of them in your writing task. Typical ones include holiday tasks, future plans, describing family, movie and book reviews.

TIP n.3: Go back to our early units and revisit the “in class” short writing tasks

Often the short writing task is something we’ve done at the beginning of the course, such as writing an invitation. However, students rarely go back to these early units and believe they have learned enough Italian to deal with these seemingly simplistic tasks and end up with a task full of mistakes. These tasks are in fact  deceiving – they look easy but are not.  The problem is that these short writing tasks require specific sentences and idiomatic phrases that need to be memorised.

Here are some of the typical short writing tasks that you MUST revisit and learn for the exam.

1. birthday, Christmas, Easter and Mothers Day cards

2. Invitations & organising a day out

3. Giving directions

TIP n.4: when brainstorming what to write, always start with the question “what do I KNOW how to say in Italian?” and never with “what do I WANT to say?”.

This will hopefully stop you from translating literally from English and thus making several linguistic errors. Keep in mind you are an ab initio student, you cannot say many things, only the things you have learned. When confronted with a new task, visualise all our units and picture yourself hand-picking tenses, phrases and vocab from the various units to put into the task.

A good tip to avoid literal translation is also to start with the VERB of your sentence. Before writing out the sentence, ask yourself “what am I trying to communicate?” and “what Italian verb tense is needed to communicate this?”. Eg. I am trying to give advice, so I will need either the imperative or “se io fossi in te + conditional”. Conjugate the verb and then write out the sentence.

And remember, simple but accurate is better than complex & inaccurate, so don’t try to over do it. The talent of  an ab initio student lies in finding simple ways to express complex notions. For example, if you are not comfortable with the “congiuntivo” verb (the subjunctive) and yet need to express opinion, the SIMPLE way is to use “Secondo me”.

Eg. Penso che gli Australiani facciano poco sport (COMPLEX); Secondo me gli Australiani fanno poco sport (SIMPLE)


TIP n.5: ! If you have having trouble coming up with content, try researching the task topic on

If you find yourself totally lost on a task when practising writing skills, it’s a good idea to type some key words from the task into the Italian google. Have a read of some of the links you find. This will help you in many ways:

1. you will get ideas about what to write

2. you will see relevant vocab and phrases for the topic

3. you will  further develop your text-handling skills

4. you will acquire new language

I encouraged my class of May2012 to do this. Their efforts have been collated on some of the google docs linked to this parent google doc. Scroll down past the sample task and you will find the useful links. Please also note that ONLY  sample tasks in BLUE font  have been marked in these documents.

TIP n.6: make sure you produce the right text-type – it’s worth 2 marks!!

Remember that for Paper 2 Section A and B you are required to write a various TEXT-TYPES and criterion C of the Marking Criteria is based on you presenting your writing in the correct text-type. In short, when they pick up your writing tasks the markers must immediately recognise the text-type before they even start reading it. What elements will make this happen?  Find out by reading the characteristics of each relevant text-type in this document, taken from the Esplora! Senior Teacher Resource Pack.

TIP n.7: get help from your Peer Tutor

Ask your Peer Tutor to help you with some sentences – simple and short messages on FB like “Is this how you say…” or “How do you say…?” will save you a lot of time and help you avoid literal translations from English.

Also ask them to mark your writing tasks for you and then in class show Prof both tasks  – original & marked. Having Peer Tutors mark your task gives Prof more time to provide you with specific feedback based on the marking criteria and to explain any grammatical issues that arise from their corrections. Also, the corrections they offer will be different to mine, giving you some fresh phrases and sentences to learn instead of the usual ones I suggest.

TIP n.8: use this brainstorming table to plan your task

Some students find this brainstorming table useful in following the tips above

Click on the brainstorming table below to download a copy to use or see an example of a completed table with writing task
Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 11.16.57 am

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