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Approaching Directed Writing Questions : A detailed guide

A directed writing task is a type of written examination where the examiner gives you instructions about the type of text to produce, the style or material to incorporate, and occasionally the perspective or point of view to adopt.

As a student, your skills in reading non-fiction texts, such as newspaper articles, personal travel accounts or promotional brochures, can enhance your abilities to tackle directed writing tasks. In this article, we will discuss in detail how to answer directed writing questions.


What is Directed Writing?

Directed writing refers to a writing task guided by specific instructions about the type of text to produce, its content, style, or perspective.

Answering directed writing questions for A-level, O-level, and IGCSE exams can be a significant challenge for many students. These questions test a range of skills including comprehension, interpretation, creativity, and a student's ability to adhere to specific guidelines. One of the main difficulties lies in the fact that they require a nuanced understanding of the given text and the ability to manipulate its themes, ideas, and information to create a new piece of writing with its own voice and perspective.

Examples of directed writing questions

  • You recently watched a new television news programme. Write a review of the news programme, which will be published in your school magazine.

  • “Was it worth it?” Write an article for a magazine to describe a time when you had to do something difficult. In your article you should: • explain why you had to do it • describe the difficulties you had to face • explain whether you thought it was worthwhile.

  • In class, you have been discussing recycling. Write an article for your school magazine, describing the benefits of recycling and ways to encourage young people to recycle more.

Letters and email
  • You have just read a newspaper article which said that teenagers spend far too much time on social media these days. You decide to write an email to the editor in response to this article, giving your opinion.

  • You have seen an announcement in a local newspaper asking people to send in letters describing their favourite building in the town. The letters will be published in a special edition of the newspaper next month. You decide to write a letter about a building you particularly like.


  • A student who recently ran a marathon for the first time is going to give a talk at your school about the experience. Write the script of the talk. In your writing, focus on the sense of achievement and on the challenges and rewards that this type of physical activity can bring.

  • Your uncle and aunt own a shop which is busy and successful. You sometimes help in the shop during your holidays. Your English teacher asks you to make a speech to your class about the shop and your experience of working there. Write your speech. You must include the following: • what kind of shop it is and what you do there • why the shop is so busy and successful • why working in the shop is a useful experience for you.

Part 1: Answering Directed Writing Questions

1. Understand the Task:

The first step to responding to a directed writing task is understanding the instructions. Identify whether the task is asking you to maintain a similar voice and style or take on a new role or perspective. Pay attention to the text length, the role of the writer, the style of the text, the content/context, and the purpose of the text.

2. Adapting Style and Context:

If the task requires you to retain the style and language of the original text, you must carefully analyze the original passage's tone, diction, syntax, and other stylistic elements. Then, apply these features to a new context, as directed by the question.

3. Shifting Perspective:

If the task involves rewriting a passage from a different perspective, carefully consider the new viewpoint. Examine the original text and extract key information or material that you can adapt to the new perspective.

4. Crafting the Response:

Once you understand the task's requirements, you can start crafting your response. It's crucial to stay within the word limit while ensuring that you meet all the question's requirements.

5. Review Your Work:

After drafting your response, read through your work to ensure it aligns with the task's instructions. Check that the language and style closely match the original text (if required), and that the perspective or context has been appropriately adapted.

Example: Task 1: You have just read a newspaper article which said that teenagers spend far too much time on social media these days. You decide to write an email to the editor in response to this article, giving your opinion. Task 2: You have seen an announcement in a local newspaper asking people to send in letters describing their favourite building in the town. The letters will be published in a special edition of the newspaper next month. You decide to write a letter about a building you particularly like.

1. Understand the Task:

Task 1: The task asks me to write an email to a newspaper editor, expressing my opinion on an article about teenagers spending excessive time on social media.

Task 2: I need to write a letter to a local newspaper describing my favourite building in the town.

2. Adapting Style and Context:

Task 1: The context of the original text (the article) is serious and concerned. It may be based on research or opinion. However, I am required to articulate my thoughts on the matter, not mimic the original style.

Task 2: The task asks me to share my personal sentiment and visual appreciation of a building, which is subjective and descriptive.

3. Shifting Perspective:

Task 1: The perspective shifts from the article author's viewpoint (asserting that teenagers spend too much time on social media) to my perspective.

Task 2: The perspective is my own, as a town resident sharing my feelings about a particular building.

4. Crafting the Response:

Task 1:

Subject: An Alternative Viewpoint on Teenagers' Use of Social Media Dear Editor, I hope this email finds you well. I recently read the article on teenagers' excessive use of social media in your esteemed newspaper. While I respect the author's viewpoint, I humbly beg to differ. Undeniably, an excessive anything can be harmful, and the same applies to social media. However, I believe it's necessary to consider that, when used responsibly, social media can be a tool for growth and learning for teenagers. It can aid in their personal development, understanding of diverse cultures, and enhance their communication skills. The key, as with all tools, lies in proper usage, parental supervision, and teaching responsible digital behavior rather than outright demonization. Thank you for your consideration. Best, [Your Name]

Task 2:

Subject: The Majestic Town Hall - A Town's Crown Jewel Dear Editor, I am writing to you about our town's gem, the Town Hall. As a long-term resident of our town, the magnificent architecture and rich history of the Town Hall have always fascinated me. The Romanesque architecture, reminiscent of the medieval era, the tall spires, and the intricate stonework make it a sight to behold. Walking into the building is like stepping back in time - a grandeur reminiscent of our town's glorious past. In my view, the Town Hall is more than a building. It's a symbol of our collective identity and the keeper of our shared history. Thank you for allowing us to share our love for our town's architectural heritage. Yours sincerely, [Your Name]

5. Review Your Work:

On reviewing the responses, they are in line with the task's instructions. The email to the editor is formally composed, respectful, and communicates a clear opinion. The letter to the newspaper describes my favourite building in the town, using evocative language to convey my feelings about it.

Part 2: Answering 'Writing for a Specified Audience' Questions

This type of directed writing task will instruct you on the voice or perspective you need to adopt, the type and purpose of the text you should write, and in some cases, the audience you're writing for. The task may also provide guidance on the mood or tone you're expected to create.

1. Identify Key Aspects:

Begin by reading the task and identifying the text type, purpose, writer/role, content, tone, and length. The task may also imply a particular audience based on the text type.

2. Consider the Audience:

You should write in a language appropriate for the specified form, purpose, and intended audience. For example, a magazine feature for older readers might use different language compared to one for teenagers.

3. Create the Response:

Use what you know about the identified key aspects to craft a response that meets the task's requirements. Draw on your understanding AND THEN, you can begin to develop a structure for your writing. Here are a few tips on how to do this:

4. Brainstorming:

Write down all the ideas that come to your mind when you read the task. Include ideas related to the key details you need to focus on from the task prompt.

5. Organising ideas:

Once you have your ideas, start organising them. This could be in a mind map, bullet points, or another format that works best for you. This step helps ensure your writing will have a clear and logical flow.

6. Outlining:

After organising your ideas, create a more detailed outline. This outline should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should cover one main idea related to the task. The introduction should briefly introduce the topic and the conclusion should summarise your main points.

7. Detailed outlining:

In this step, further break down the body paragraphs into smaller parts. Each body paragraph should include an idea or argument, evidence or examples supporting the idea, and a brief explanation or analysis.

After going through these steps, you are now ready to start writing your response. Keep in mind the specific requirements of the task while writing. Make sure your writing is clear, concise, and follows a logical flow.

8. Writing the Response

When it's time to write your response, follow the structure you created during the planning phase. However, remember that writing is a dynamic process, so be prepared to adjust your outline as needed during the writing phase.

Here are some steps to guide you:


Start with a strong introduction to grab the reader's attention. Make sure to clearly state your understanding of the task and your plan for the response.

Body Paragraphs:

Write clear and concise body paragraphs. Each paragraph should start with a clear topic sentence that introduces the main idea of the paragraph. Then, provide evidence or examples that support the main idea, followed by an explanation or analysis.


Summarise your main points and provide a concise conclusion. This should not introduce any new ideas but should wrap up your response.

9. Review and Revise:

After writing your response, take some time to review and revise it. Look for any spelling or grammar errors and correct them. Ensure that your response is well-organised and that your ideas are clearly expressed.

Remember, practice makes perfect. The more you practice writing directed writing responses, the more comfortable you will become with the process.


Task 1: A student who recently ran a marathon for the first time is going to give a talk at your school about the experience. Write the script of the talk. In your writing, focus on the sense of achievement and on the challenges and rewards that this type of physical activity can bring.

1. Identify Key Aspects: The text type is a speech; the purpose is to share a personal experience; the audience is school students; the tone should be engaging and inspirational. The content should focus on the achievement, challenges, and rewards of running a marathon.

2. Consider the Audience: The language should be accessible and motivating to school students.

3. Create the Response: The speech should capture the personal experience of running a marathon, challenges faced, and rewards reaped.

4. Brainstorming: Start by noting down all the ideas about running a marathon: the training process, challenges during the race, feelings of accomplishment after finishing, health benefits, etc.

5. Organising ideas: Organise these ideas into categories: before the marathon, during the marathon, and after the marathon.

6. Outlining: The introduction could provide context (why you decided to run a marathon), the body paragraphs could detail the training, race day, and aftermath, and the conclusion could reflect on the whole experience.

7. Detailed outlining: Each body paragraph could include personal anecdotes, feelings, and reflections related to the different stages of the marathon experience.

8. Writing the Response: The speech should start by setting the scene, then move through the timeline of the marathon experience, and finally conclude with a reflection on the process and an encouragement for others to try running a marathon.

9. Review and Revise: Check for clear expression of ideas, logical flow, and language suitable for a school speech. Correct any grammar or spelling errors.

[Introduction] Hello everyone, my name is [Your Name] and today, I would like to share with you an extraordinary journey I recently embarked on. Just a few months ago, I ran a marathon for the first time in my life. That's 26.2 miles, or if you prefer metrics, that's 42.195 kilometers. [Before the Marathon] The idea of running a marathon sprouted from a seed of curiosity. I wondered, could I push my body and mind to its limits and still come out victorious? With this question in mind, I started training. Those early mornings, running while the world was still asleep, gradually building up my stamina, were filled with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Yet, as each day passed, I felt stronger, more prepared. [During the Marathon] On the day of the marathon, I was brimming with nervous energy. As I took my place at the starting line among hundreds of others, I could see the same mix of excitement and fear mirrored in their eyes. As the race began, I felt a surge of adrenaline. The first few miles were exhilarating. But as I neared the halfway mark, I began to feel the strain. Each step became heavier, the finish line seemed farther away than ever. It was a battle, not just physical, but mental. [After the Marathon] Crossing the finish line was a moment of pure elation. Every mile, every challenge faced along the way, was worth that moment of victory. Not only did I gain a sense of achievement and physical fitness, but I also learned a great deal about perseverance and mental fortitude. [Conclusion] Looking back at this journey, the marathon was not just about running. It was about challenging myself, pushing my boundaries, and coming out stronger. I am here today to tell you that each one of us is capable of such an extraordinary feat. It's not about the speed or even finishing the race; it's about embarking on the journey and the self-discovery that comes with it. Thank you, everyone, for allowing me to share my story. If I could run a marathon, so could you. And I promise you, it will be an experience of a lifetime.

This speech takes the listener through the journey of running a marathon from the decision to train, the challenges faced during the race, to the sense of achievement felt after finishing. The language is clear and accessible for a school audience, and the speech is structured to be engaging and inspiring. Remember to adjust it according to your personal experience and style if you've run a marathon or planning to do so.

Task 2: In class, you have been discussing recycling. Write an article for your school magazine, describing the benefits of recycling and ways to encourage young people to recycle more.

1. Identify Key Aspects: The text type is an article for a school magazine; the purpose is to inform and persuade; the audience is school students; the tone should be informative and engaging. The content should focus on the benefits of recycling and how to encourage more recycling among young people.

2. Consider the Audience: The language should be clear, straightforward, and persuasive, with facts and figures to engage school students.

3. Create the Response: The article should first explain the importance of recycling and its benefits, then suggest practical ways students can recycle more.

4. Brainstorming: Note down all the ideas about the benefits of recycling: environmental impact, conservation of resources, etc. Also note down ways to encourage recycling: school campaigns, personal habits, etc.

5. Organising ideas: Organise the benefits of recycling and the methods to encourage recycling into separate sections.

6. Outlining: The introduction could grab the reader's attention with a shocking fact about waste, the body paragraphs could cover the benefits of recycling and methods to encourage it, and the conclusion could call students to action.

7. Detailed outlining: Each body paragraph could start with a statement about a benefit or a method to encourage recycling, followed by evidence, examples, or explanations.

8. Writing the Response: Start with an eye-catching introduction about the waste problem, follow with informative and persuasive body paragraphs about recycling, and end with a strong call to action.

9. Review and Revise: Check for clarity, persuasiveness, and a clear call to action. Correct any grammar or spelling errors.

[Introduction] Did you know that every year, the world produces over 2 billion tonnes of waste? That's like filling up 800,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. As alarming as this sounds, we have the power to change it. How? The answer is recycling. [Benefits of Recycling] Recycling is a superhero in disguise, with powers that stretch from our homes to the vast corners of the Earth. Firstly, it conserves our natural resources. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees and over 20,000 liters of water. Secondly, it reduces the amount of waste that ends up in our landfills and oceans. Finally, it lowers greenhouse gas emissions, as making products from recycled materials requires less energy compared to producing them from new materials. By recycling, we're not just saving our resources; we're also helping to combat climate change and protect our planet's biodiversity. [Encouraging Recycling] The big question now is: how can we, as students, recycle more? Here are a few suggestions. Make Recycling a Habit: Place recycling bins in convenient places at home and school to make recycling easier. Learn What Can Be Recycled: Not all waste is recyclable. Learning what you can and cannot recycle can greatly improve the effectiveness of your recycling efforts. Participate in School Recycling Campaigns: Get involved in recycling initiatives at school. If there isn't one, consider starting it. Spread the Word: Share the benefits of recycling with your friends and family. The more people know about the importance of recycling, the more they are likely to recycle. [Conclusion] Recycling is more than just a chore; it's a critical step towards saving our planet. So let's take up the challenge, embrace recycling, and turn our trash into treasure. After all, it's not just about preserving the world for future generations; it's about preserving the world for us, here and now.

This article provides a strong and engaging case for recycling, outlining its benefits and offering practical ways for students to recycle more. It has been written in a clear and persuasive language, appropriate for a school magazine. The piece is wrapped up with a powerful call to action, motivating students to contribute to a more sustainable world. Remember to adjust it according to your specific school environment and student body.

Text Types and Purposes

Throughout your studies, you've likely become familiar with various types of writing and the purposes they serve, particularly in an examination setting. Here are some key text types and their general purposes:

- Descriptive Writing:

Utilized in texts such as travel articles or accounts. The main purpose is to describe, providing vivid and detailed descriptions of people, places, objects, or events to engage the reader's attention and imagination.

Title: "An Affair with France: A Journey Through the Heart of a Cultural Paradise" Brimming with enchanting scenery, iconic landmarks, and a unique je ne sais quoi that tugs at the heartstrings of every visitor, France unfurls itself like a dreamer's paradise. From the bustling cities to the serene countryside, this vibrant tapestry of culture and history awaits your exploration. As your plane begins its descent into Paris, the City of Light gleams like a vast constellation spread across the earth. The Eiffel Tower, an elegant testament to human ingenuity, pierces the heavens, offering a breathtaking panorama of the city. Glistening under the sun, the Seine River snakes its way through Paris, bearing witness to countless lovers stealing kisses on its verdant banks. The city's spirited life reveals itself in the bustling open-air markets of Le Marais, a historic district that is a charming blend of old and new. Amidst the laughter of children, the haggling of customers, and the enticing aroma of freshly baked baguettes, you can find elderly vendors showcasing aged cheeses, a mosaic of fruits that burst with vibrant colours, and the seductive scent of lavender and rosemary wafting from the florists' stalls. Take a moment to sit in one of the many cafés lining the cobblestone streets. As you sip a cup of velvety café au lait, watch the world go by – artists sketching, lovers walking hand-in-hand, old men playing chess – each one a thread woven into the fabric of the city's charm. As you journey south to Provence, the landscape transforms. No longer are you surrounded by the grandeur of man-made marvels. Instead, you are cradled by nature's magnificence – rolling vineyards bathed in golden light, lavender fields undulating like a purple sea under the Provençal sun, and olive groves that stretch to the horizon. The air here is different too, filled with the song of cicadas and the scent of rosemary and thyme. Small villages dot the landscape, their stone houses huddled together as if sharing secrets. The locals, often seen tending their gardens or engaged in friendly banter, greet you with a warmth that makes you feel as though you've returned home after a long journey. A dinner in Provence is a celebration of life itself, where the wine flows freely, and meals are punctuated with stories, laughter, and the clinking of glasses. Visiting France is like stepping into a painting. Whether you find yourself getting lost in the maze-like streets of Montmartre, discovering quiet corners of history in the Loire Valley, or being lulled by the lapping waves on the sun-kissed beaches of the French Riviera, each moment is a brushstroke of an unforgettable masterpiece. In France, every town, every village, every winding path has a story to tell. As you walk on the cobblestones, breathe in the air, and immerse yourself in the intoxicating rhythm of the country, you become a part of these tales. France, in its resplendent glory, is not just a place on a map, but an experience that leaves an indelible imprint on your soul. So come, lose yourself, and find your heart in this beautiful corner of the world.

- Personal Writing:

Featured in texts such as autobiographies, diaries, and letters. The goal here is often to express personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

**Day 1: Arrival in Antarctica** Wow, I can hardly believe I'm actually here! Stepping off the plane onto the frozen landscape of Antarctica was an experience beyond words. The air is so crisp and clear, it almost takes my breath away. I'm enveloped in an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility, punctuated only by the crunch of snow under my boots and the distant echo of penguins. As we were transported to our base camp, the vast white expanse of the Antarctic unfolded before us. The landscape is almost otherworldly – a pristine wilderness untouched by human interference. The enormous icebergs glistening in the sunlight, the crystal clear ice underfoot, and the infinite stretch of white meeting the stark blue sky at the horizon – it's an ethereal beauty that's impossible to capture fully in photographs or words. The excitement amongst our group is palpable. We're a mixed bunch – scientists, nature photographers, and wanderers like myself, all drawn by the allure of the unknown. Everyone's got a sparkle in their eyes, an eager anticipation for the days ahead. And despite the biting cold, there's a warmth in the camaraderie that's already beginning to form. The wildlife is another source of marvel. We've already caught sight of a rookery of penguins in the distance, their distinctive squawks cutting through the silence. We've also spotted seals lounging on ice floes. It's a wildlife lover's paradise, and I can't wait to get a closer look in the days to come. The sun hangs low in the sky, a blazing ball of fiery orange. Here in the land of the midnight sun, days and nights blur into one. It's a strange feeling, but there's something incredibly freeing about it. Time seems to stand still, and it feels like we're at the edge of the world. As I snuggle into my sleeping bag, the adrenaline of the day gives way to a profound sense of awe. Here I am, in the last great wilderness on Earth, about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. It's a humbling and exhilarating thought. Tomorrow, we're set to explore a nearby glacier, and I'm filled with a sense of anticipation. But for now, as the soft glow of the sun illuminates my tent, I'm content to just soak in the surreal beauty of this frozen wonderland. Antarctica, I'm ready for you. Until tomorrow, [Your Name]

- Persuasive, Discursive or Argumentative Writing:

Seen in texts such as news or magazine features, speeches, promotional brochures or leaflets, and reviews. These writings are designed to persuade the reader to accept a particular viewpoint or to discuss a topic from multiple perspectives.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Esteemed Members of the Community, It is an honour to stand before you today, on this auspicious occasion, as we officially open the doors to our brand new community centre. This is not just the inauguration of a building, but a celebration of unity, a testament to our shared aspirations, and a beacon for our future. This community centre represents more than just bricks and mortar. It stands as a symbol of our shared values and mutual respect, a common space where we can meet, learn, and grow together. It represents the heart of our community, a place where every one of us, regardless of age or background, can come together to share, to learn, to support, and to celebrate. Community centres, like the one we are inaugurating today, are the lifeblood of vibrant, thriving neighbourhoods. They are a place where friendships are formed and strengthened, where skills are learned and shared, where support and companionship are readily available. They are places where our young ones can play and learn, where our elders can meet and share their wisdom, where all of us can come together to make our community stronger and more resilient. Moreover, this new community centre offers opportunities. Opportunities for our children and young people to engage in activities that expand their horizons, for our adults to learn new skills or hone existing ones, for our seniors to participate and contribute their valuable experience and wisdom. It's a platform for creativity, for innovation, and for collaboration. So, let us not just see this as an opening of a building, but as the opening of countless opportunities for growth, learning, and enrichment. Let's make the most of this wonderful facility. Let's fill it with laughter and learning, with friendship and community spirit. Let's make it a place where all are welcome, and where everyone feels at home. In conclusion, I hope that this community centre will serve as a beacon of unity and progress, a catalyst for positive change, and a testament to the power of community spirit. Here’s to a brighter, stronger, and more connected future for us all. Thank you.

The purposes these text forms suggest are numerous, but they generally aim to inform, explain, describe, reflect on experiences, discuss or explore, comment, review, persuade, argue a case, or promote an idea.

Understanding these types of writing and their conventions is crucial because your directed writing task may require you to use one or more of these types. You might be asked to write a descriptive account of a journey, a persuasive speech on a given topic, or a personal reflection on an experience.

Remember, these text types are not always mutually exclusive. For instance, a travel article can be both descriptive (painting a vivid picture of a location) and persuasive (convincing readers to visit the location). An autobiographical account can contain descriptive elements (detailing personal experiences) and reflective elements (musing on what these experiences mean).

When approaching directed writing tasks, being familiar with these text types and their conventions will allow you to adeptly switch between styles and effectively respond to the task. It also equips you with a versatile toolkit of writing techniques and strategies, enhancing your overall writing skills. So, when you see your next directed writing task, review the main writing types and purposes, consider their conventions and key features, and apply them appropriately to the set tasks.



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