How to Write a Short Story for the B1 Preliminary Test (PET)


A short story is a piece of fiction that has a limited number of words and a few characters.

Parts of a short story
  • Title: It summarizes the whole story, or it is related to the main theme. The theme is the central idea or belief in a short story.
  • Exposition: It is the beginning of the story where you introduce the main characters. It also serves as the introduction to the next part.
  • Climax: It is the action part where the main characters try to solve the conflict or problem.
  • Resolution: In this part, the conflict is solved.

Let’s see a short story sample for the B1 Writing test

Useful vocabulary for a short story

Time expressions:

  • at that moment
  • as soon as
  • _____ minutes later
  • just in time
  • then
  • after that
  • meanwhile
  • while
  • one morning in + month
  • one afternoon in + month
  • one evening in + month

Adverbs and adverbials to spice up your story

  • suddenly
  • in the end
  • eventually
  • unexpectedly
  • right away
  • nearly
  • actually
  • in fact
  • apparently
  • gradually
  • basically
  • obviously
  • anyway
  • all of a sudden
  • without warning

Finishing your short story

  • in the end
  • eventually
  • finally
  • luckily
  • when it was all over

Verb tenses used for short stories

Short stories usually take place in the past, for that reason the most common narrative tenses you should use for your short story are:

Practice time

Write a short story beginning with one of the sentences below:

Plan the content:

  • It was midnight when the phone rang.
  • Alex had been working hard all day and was looking forward to going home.
  • We had been driving for hours when we saw the sign for a small hotel and decided to stop.

1 Write what happened simply, in about 50 words.

2 Think about how you could improve your story by adding more details. For example, adjectives and adverbs.

3 Think about what tenses you need for each part of the story. For example, how to set the scene, and what significant events happened before the story starts.

Write your story in about 100 – 120 words in the box below.


Determiners: both, either … or, neither … nor


1. We use both to refer to two things, people, or animals together.

  • We can use both + noun

I like both coffee and tea. (I like coffee and I like tea)

Both those women are my friends. (Those two women are my friends)

  • We can use both of + an object pronoun

We both dislike soccer. (subject pronoun + both) or

Both of us dislike soccer. (both + of + object pronoun)

2. We use either …. or … to talk about a choice between two options.

(+) verb + either … or …

Every year I travel either to New York or Paris on Christmas holidays.

3. We use neither … nor … to talk about two things that are not possible.

(-) verb + neither … nor …

Last year I couldn’t go neither to New York nor Paris on New Year due to the pandemics.

4. We can we use either … or …/ neither … or at the beginning of a sentence. In those cases we can use both singular verbs or plural verbs.

  • If both elements that go after either/neither and or/nor are singular, we use a singular verb.

Either my sister or my mom is going to cook dinner for Christmas.

Neither Alicia nor her daughter speaks English.

  • If the element that goes after or/nor is plural, we use a plural verb.

Either my manager or my colleagues are going to help me with the project.

Neither the teacher nor her students are going to go to the school party.

More examples:
Time to practice

Quantifiers: all, most, every, and each


1.We use all + noun or all of the + a plural or uncountable noun

all = in general

all (of) the = specific

All animals need food.

All of the animals in the safari are dangerous.

2. We use everybody or everything + singular verb

everybody = all people

everything = all things

Everybody is in the classroom.

Everything in this store is so expensive.

3. We use most to say the majority

most = general

most of = specific

Most Canadians speak English.

Some Canadians Speak English and French

Most of the students in this class are from Brazil.

4. We often use all of or most of + object pronoun

All of us are excited for the trip.

Most of them look sad.

5. Use every + singular countable noun to mean “all of a group”. It emphasizes on the complete group.

Every classroom in this school has a projector.

6. We use each to express the idea of ‘one by one’. It emphasizes individuality.

Each employee has a coffee maker in their offices.

More examples:
Time to practice


How to make a plan to improve your English


So your dream is to improve your English. But how many times have you failed?

You have spent a lot of time dreaming, thinking or talking about what you want. But you haven’t taken the necessary steps to achieve it.

It’s not because you are lazy or incapable. It’s because perhaps you are confused or you don’t know where to start. You don’t have a PLAN yet.

English learning plans, can serve as a roadmap or guide to making your dreams a reality.

An English learning plan can help you if:

  • You are confused
  • You feel that your learning progress is out of control
  • You feel your learning progress is stagnant
  • You struggle making the right decisions
  • You feel lost and lack direction
  • You have tried many things and nothing has helped
  • You are tired and want to give up

What is an English learning planing?

An English learning plan is both a roadmap and a reminder of your goals. It helps you realize your dreams and the things that you need to do to make them true.

An English learning plan can help you to become aware of your strengths and your weaknesses.

Your English learning plan doesn’t need to be super detailed. It should be flexible so you can adapt it according to the circumstances.

Don’t forget that LIFE IS UNPREDICTABLE. Things happen. Your plan needs to leave room for unexpected changes and crises.

Making English learning plans can help you achieve your goals easier than if you are confused and have no idea what to do.

5 benefits of having an English learning plan

1 An English learning plan helps you make your dreams a reality

An English learning plan gives you the confidence to take action and be proactive.

2 An English learning plan helps you prioritize

Making an English learning plan helps you identify what you want and focus on things that move you in the right direction

3 An English learning plan helps you make better decisions

When you know your goals it is easier to make the right decisions that help you accomplish your goals

4 An English learning plan keeps you motivated

When you write down your goals it’s easier to stay focused and motivated.

5 An English learning plan makes you recognize your strengths and weaknesses

An English learning plan is a tool that makes you think critically and reflect on your learning needs. It helps you identify the skills that you master and the skills you need to improve to achieve your goals.

How to make an English learning plan: step by step

1. The most important thing to making any plan is, to BE HONEST with yourself.

2. Take a moment to reflect on your habits, your learning story, your circumstances, your strengths, and your weaknesses.

3. No one but you can identify the things that are easy for you and the things that are challenging for you.

4. You are the only one that can identify the things/ habits/ beliefs that are preventing you from moving forward.

5. Finally, remember that becoming fluent in English is a goal that will require that you spend a lot of time and resources. If you are not willing to pay the price then it will always be a DREAM.

6. If you are not willing to organize your life, give up unhealthy habits or if you can’t change your lifestyle to accommodate time to practice, then it’s going to be very difficult to improve your English.

Now it’s time to make your own learning plan

Below you can see a template that will help you reflect and create your own English learning plan.


How to Write a Formal Email

for the B1 Cambridge test (PET) or the General Training IELTS test

Formal emails are the ones that people write to people they don’t know well. The language used in this type of emails is more formal and polite.

informal emailformal email
family members
people we know well
people we don’t know
bosses or managers
doctors, teachers and professors

Formal emails have a standard format, so they must include the following parts:

  1. Greetings

We say hi to the other person. Depending on the kind of relationship we have with the person we are writing to, we can use the following greetings:

  • Dear Mr./Mrs./ Ms. + Last name,

For example: Dear Mr. Smith,

  • Dear Sir/ Madam,

If you don’t know the name and last name of the recipient

  • To whom it may concern

This is a more generic formulaic expression.

2. Introduction

In this part we must indicate briefly and clearly the reason for writing. It should be consistent with the subject of the email. We can use the following introductory phrases:

  • I’m writing with regards to … (email subject)
  • I’m writing to … (ask, inform, request, send, confirm, etc)
  • I’m writing in reference to … (email subject, e.g. a job post, an advertisement, a website, etc)

3. Body

There are no formulaic expressions or conventional formulas for the body of the text because the information that we share in the body of the email varies according to what you need to communicate.

There is one general rule for this part: it should be divided into short paragraphs.

4. Closing paragraph

There are various ways to end your email. The most common formulaic expressions are the following:

  • I look forward to hearing from you soon / at your earliest convenient time.
  • Thank you in advance.
  • Thank you for your attention.
  • If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  • For further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  • Please let me know if you have any questions.

5. Goodbye

Here you can find a list with the most common phrases to end a formal email:

  • Sincerely,
  • Kind regards,
  • Best regards,
  • Yours faithfully, (only if you began your email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’)
  • Yours sincerely, (only if began your email with ‘Dear Mr./Mrs./ Ms. + Last name)
  • Regards,

6. Signature

We write our full name (name + last name)

Now that you know which parts should be included in a formal email, let’s see an example:

Ana has read an ad about some English courses in a school website.

  • She is 23 years old. She has graduated from college.
  • She wants to take an IELTS course in July.
  • She needs to get information about dates and prices.
  • She wants to stay with a host family.
  • She wants a room for her and her friend.
Language School

Come and study English at our school!
Summer and winter intensive courses
Highly experienced teachers
One month courses for all levels
Reasonable prices
Accommodation with host families
Pro tips for writing formal emails
  • Use the standard format that English speakers use to write formal emails.
  • Use formulaic expressions.
  • DO NOT use contractions (I’m, I’ve, I’d, don’t, can’t, won’t, etc.).
  • Use formal words and indirect questions (e.g. I was wondering if …/ I would be grateful if you …)
  • Don’t forget to START your email by saying why are you writing or what you are

Time to practice

The best way to improve your writing is to practice. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that practice makes progress.

Write an email to get more information about the following course:

Computer courses in Canada
One -or two-week courses in different parts of Canada (Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Halifax)
Professional instructors
Morning and afternoon classes
All levels, beginners to advanced
Small groups or private lessons

For more information email Robert Anderson at info@academy.com

Don’t forget to explain why you are writing and give some personal information

Ask your questions, and ask them to send you information


Clauses of Purpose


To, in order to , as to, for, and so that are words that help us talk about purposes or goals clearly and fluently.

Time to practice

The best way to improve your English is by practicing. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that practice makes progress.


Clauses of Contrast


Although, though, even though, in spite of, and despite are words that help us connect contrasting ideas clearly and fluently. We use them to introduce a clause in a sentence which is in contrast to another clause in the same sentence.

You already know how to use basic connectors such as so and but. In the example below, but is a contrast connector.

Now, it’s time to learn other connectors that help us communicate more complex ideas.

NOTE: A dependent clause is NOT a full sentence. It is a phrase (group of words) that is incomplete, in other words, it is an incomplete thought. We need to complete the idea by using a connector and an independent clause.

An independent clause is a phrase that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought.

Time to practice

The best way to improve your English is by practicing. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Remember that practice makes progress.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3


Reporting Verbs


Reporting verbs are verbs which are used to tell someone what another person said. They are used in reported speech.

Say and tell are the most common reporting verbs. However, there are other reporting verbs that we can use instead of say and tell to communicate our ideas more clearly.


He said that he would drive me to the airport (this sentence is correct but long)

We can say instead:

He offered to drive me to the airport (this sentence is shorter and absolutely clear)

Common reporting verbs patterns


recommend and suggest are special verbs that can be followed by a “that clause” when we want or need to mention who is the recommendation/ suggestion for.

recommend/ suggest + that + someone + base form


I suggested watching a horror movie. (suggest + gerund)

If you want to be more specific and want to add information about who is the recommendation for, you can use a “that clause” (noun clause)

I suggested that my friends watch a horror movie.

My friends suggested that I study for the English test tonight.

My teacher recommended that Maria practice speaking with me.

Practice time

Level of difficulty: ⭐

 Speaking Practice

Level of difficulty: ⭐⭐

Student A:

  1. Choose one box
  2. Read the sentence out loud.
  3. Tell your partner the hint.

Student B:

  1. Close your eyes
  2. Listen to your partner
  3. Complete the following sentence: My friend __________________


Student A: If you stay in a hostel it will be cheaper (Hint: explain)

Student B: My friend explained to me that staying in a hostel would be cheaper.


Past modal verbs


Modal verbs or modals are special words that give extra meaning to verbs. They go before the main verb.

Examples of modal verbs: can, will, should, must, may, might, have to, used to, etc.

Some past modals are used to express advisability, certainty, possibility/ impossibility in the past.

Practice time

Do you want to try a more challenging activity? Check this out! 👇
Speaking practice

What could have happened? Give some advice


used to/ get used to/ be used to


1 We use used to/ didn’t use to + base form to talk about past habits or repeated actions or situations that have changed.

  • Attention!!!!! used to DOES NOT exist in the simple present (I use to study at night XXXXX). For present habits, we use usually + simple present (I usually study at night)
  • For action verbs, we can replace used to with the word would.


When I was a child I used to play video games every day = When I was a child I would play video games every day.

2 We use get used to + gerund to talk about a new situation that is becoming familiar or less strange.

Example: I’m getting used to studying after work. It’s not easy because after work I’m very tired.

3 We use be used to + gerund to talk about a situation that is NOT new because it is familiar or less strange.

Example: I’m used to studying after work. I’ve been doing it for almost one year.

Grammar Practice

Level of difficulty: ⭐

Put the words in the correct order.

Level of difficulty: ⭐⭐

Choose the correct answer.

 Speaking Practice

✍️ Writing Practice

Pick a card. Write a comment (reply) below 👇 with your opinion.