Here's a Cambridge English:First article written by a student named Kamel, followed by my thoughts. 


The Task:

You read this announcement in a magazine: what’s the best surprise you’ve ever had? Why was it a surprise? How did you feel when it happened? Send us your answers. We’ll publish the best ones.

Write your article in 140-190 words.


Kamel's Article:

The Best Surprise I’ve Ever Had

Three years ago, something great happened to me. That thing was the best surprise I’ve ever had, it was the moment my grandma finished her mastectomy surgery. During that day all of my family was anxious about the state of my many, I was full of doubt and sadness, and these bad thoughts I had in mind: “and if it doesn’t work? What would happen if she dies?” and made me in a state that cannot be described, and there is something very special to that memory. That morning I went to the perfumes shop just to buy for her the jasmine perfume that she loves too much, while I’m waiting in the waiting room I was wishing from all my heart that she stay alive, so I can give her the perfume.  Sudenly the doctor came out and announced to us that the surgery worked and she was completely cured. I was the happiest person on earth that moment. However she died 6 months after that but that moment is considered the best surprise in my whole life. 


My Feedback

Word Count: This is about 180 words, so that's fine.

Content: I think Kamel has met the requirements very well. He has written about a surprise and told us how he felt. He does answer the question of WHY it was a surprise (he mentions his fears and doubts) and I think you could make that a bit more explicit. For example, when the doctor comes out, Kamel could write that the Doctor's face was sad, so it was a big surprise. Or maybe he was in the waiting room wishing to give the perfume, but knowing that he wouldn't get the chance. Then it's REALLY clear that Kamel has completed the task.

Communicative achievement: Kamel's tone is perfect for the magazine. It's informal, easy to read, and would be just like everything else in the magazine.

Organisation: First, I'd like to see the text split into paragraphs. Now it's just a blob of text. One thought = one paragraph.

Generally it's clear where and when Kamel is during the story. 3 years ago... that day... That morning... But then it gets confusing: 'while I'm waiting (present continuous) I was wishing (past continuous) so I can give her the perfume (present simple).' Bit of a mess!

Still, it was clear to me what he meant, and the 'suddenly' bit was really effective. (Though he spelled it wrong...)

The last sentence is a problem for two reasons. I don't like the 'however' - probably I'd expect an 'although'. And 'that moment is the best surprise' seems to mean when she died... Not what Kamel wants to say! With a little tweak the sentence would be completely clear.

Language: I actually really like this article - it's quick and easy to read, which means there aren't too many mistakes and I found it engaging (interesting). There are some good words used well - like surgery, anxious, cured. And I liked the questions in the middle - that helps us to feel what Kamel is feeling and changes the rhythm of the sentences in a nice way.

This bit is interesting: 'my family was anxious about the state of my many'. In Kamel's language, 'many' is a nice way of saying 'grandmother'. Now, if it was a Chinese student writing 'Ayi' or a a Swiss person saying 'Grosi' that would be okay - though ideally you'd stick to English and write 'granny'. The problem for Kamel is that 'many' is already an English word, so it's very confusing to see it in this sentence. At the very least he should capitalise Many and even then I'd use quote marks to show that it's a foreign word:

 
My family was anxious about the state of my ‘Many’.
 

Here's a version with some minor mistakes corrected and some of my complaints addressed. If you're feeling advanced, study what I do with his commas.


Andrew's Version:

The Best Surprise I’ve Ever Had

Three years ago, something great happened to me. That thing was the best surprise I’ve ever had: it was the moment my grandma survived her mastectomy.

During that day, my whole family was anxious about the state of my granny. I was full of doubt and sadness, and these bad thoughts kept coming to my mind: “And if it doesn’t work? What would happen if she dies?” This left me in a state that cannot be described, and there is something very special about that memory.

That morning I had gone to the perfume shop to buy the jasmine perfume that she loved so much. While I was in the waiting room I was wishing with all my heart that she would stay alive so I could give her the perfume, though I was sure I would never have the chance.

Suddenly, the doctor came out and announced that the surgery worked and my gran was completely cured. I was the happiest person on earth at that moment. She died 6 months later, but the smell of jasmine always makes me think of the day she surprised us by surviving her surgery.


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