CPE Writing: “The Importance of Silence”

Write an essay about the importance of silence. Include a relevant real-life example. This was the writing task I chose while taking C2 Proficiency a few months ago. Those who know the format of CPE (the former name of the test) are aware of the fact that it is made up of 4 papers, one of which is writing. It, in its turn, consists of 2 parts. The first one doesn’t give you any choice at all, but the second one requires you to pick a task. Why is silence important? This seemed to be an interesting question, which, unfortunately, I didn’t answer as well as I had to. So, now I’d like to take the chance and share my thoughts here, allowing you, my readers, to be my examiners. I hope the essay will inspire all of us to appreciate silent moments – the ones that are often drowned out by hustle and bustle of our everyday life – a little more. So, thank you for reading on…

“Silence is sometimes the best answer.” This message of Dalai Lama appears to be simple and unambiguous, but it bears a deep meaning, which is a little difficult for many modern people to grasp. They live their hectic lives in the world that seems to have become so fast-paced, so noisy… I am one of those people, but recently I had a wonderful opportunity to quietly commune with nature, pristine, beautiful, and amazingly thought-provoking, but only if you can listen – listen to silence. What I mean by this word is no kind of empty vacuum. In fact, I see it as not lack but abundance, because it is full of thoughts which are there, waiting to be heard.

So, there I was, marveling at the views of Kamikochi, a remote mountainous highland valley in Japan. The turquoise waters of the Asuza River were swiftly flowing the way they must have been for hundreds of years. The majestic Hida Mountains were lit by the warm and kind September sun, and so was my face. I felt its tender rays caress my skin, and I slowly closed my eyes for a minute or two. Amazingly, I heard numerous bird voices, lovely and clearly distinct from each other. I had never thought I’d be able to distinguish between different birdsongs. What a surprise! When I opened my eyes, the world around seemed to have become even more colorful. I paid attention to the butterflies fluttering among alpine flowers, and even to a Japanese macaque resting on a distant tree branch. Suddenly, I was able to look at my life from a new perspective. The problems that seemed grave and complicated didn’t feel so big anymore, and I knew I would find the solutions soon. The quiet moment literally filled me with calmness and proved to be a very enriching experience.

The benefits of silence may be even more far-reaching. The healing powers of prayer, deep contemplation and concentration would be impossible without people taking their time to quietly think about truly important things. Even in relationships, saying nothing at all sometimes speaks volumes, for if there is no awkward silence between two lovers, the significant other must really be the one. Silence is golden. Let’s listen to it more often because sometimes it is the best answer…

(written by Kate Boyko)

The writing part of CPE is 2 hours long. During this time examinees must write 2 works, writing drafts and copying them onto the answer sheet . 2 hours may seem like a long time, but it’s not. If you are planning to take CPE, please note that it will take you longer than 10 minutes to copy your essays onto the answer sheet, but you should still write the draft first. It means you have far less than 1 hour for each task. Unless you can rush the creative process very well, you can’t write an essay or an article that could make you really proud of yourself. But you can still write decent works. Just be organized, keep an eye on the clock, and don’t get carried away. The latter happened to me during the exam. I think the first essay was quite good, but the second one looked like stream of consciousness, which it was, because you have to write like that when you are running out of time. Again, remember you are going to write against the clock. But now that you have read my story, I hope it will not happen to you, and you’ll write the best exam works you can.

By the way, I was awarded grade B. I guess if I had written the second essay juts a little better, I would have got an A. It’s a little disappointing, but after all, it must be fair. A is the highest grade, but there is no perfection. There is always something we don’t know, and the more you learn, the more you understand how much there is still to be learned. So, even if you are not quite happy with your results, remember it’s just a test. What matters is how you use your knowledge, skills and energy in real life to help someone and make this world a better place. Never stop learning even if you get the highest grade! Great philosopher Socrates said, “I know that I know nothing.” It surely applies to all of us.

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