Exam Writing Tips

Going beyond DSE English

The way I see it, developing an eye for good writing is a bit like wine-tasting. Taste this sample. What makes it work, and how does it compare with the samples you already know? Keep weighing and questioning, and over time, you’ll develop a sense of what’s good.

Below is a “wine-tasting” exercise, consisting of (1) a DSE candidate’s reply to an English writing question; the Hong Kong Examinations Authority has given it a “5” rating (the highest grade), but it’s actually inadequate in many ways, and (2) my rewrite of that response. 

While assessing (1) and (2), notice how at 281 words, my version is roughly half the length of the original, yet my rewrite is more effective. Try to identify the tricks I used.

The DSE writing question:

You work for the Park Hotel in Hong Kong. You would like to apply for a work transfer to the Shanghai branch of the hotel. Write a letter to Mr Wong, your manager. Highlight your work experience, why you would like to transfer and how your transfer will benefit the organisation.

A DSE exam script (538 words):

Dear Mr Wong,

I am writing to apply for a work transfer to the Shanghai branch of Park Hotel

As an experienced staff member of the hotel, I am devoted to working in Park Hotel for six years. After my graduation upon university, I have joined Park Hotel. I am very proud to be dedicating myself to the hotel here in Hong Kong. Throughout the six years, I have been in contact with great variety of working affairs and fortunately have been assigned to several positions. For instance, I used to be tackling with customers’ reviews and demands. I have helped solving different problems focusing on customer service, such as explaining to customers about how to use our cutting-edge technology, SmartApp, and making records about complaints or suggestions. Apart from having a plentiful experience of working in different positions, I am also well-prepared to serve foreign customers or customers from mainland China, for example, the well-known soccer supremos Lionel Messi and the great musician Lang Lang. Therefore, I am confident about my experience and ability.

Aside from my work experience, I would like to provide a complete explanation about why I would like to have a work transfer. I will appreciate your understanding very much.The major reason is that I would like to broaden my horizon by visiting different locations. As the Shanghai Park hotel settles in a world-renowned dynamic city, I am sure that I can acquire new experiences and knowledge there, and these elements can assemble a better and fully-prepared person, shaping myself into one who has adequate wisdom and charming qualities. I always hold a belief on “he that goes for know more,” therefore I have great passion in striving to be a better one, thus I have a strong desire to give a shoot on work transfer. Besides, the other reason involves my family. As my family has decided to reside in Shanghai, I need to apply for a work transfer in case I can take care of them. By now, the best option I have may goes to be applying for a work transfer to Shanghai.

Nevertheless, my transfer is definitely beneficial to the organization, and I promise I will work wholeheartedly to serve every customer and the organisation. 

As the Shanghai Park Hotel has just finished its construction by last month, there may be a lack of manpower, especially for experienced staff member. Hereby I can promise that my arrival to the Shanghai Park Hotel will presumably contribute to its maintenance and high-quality service. I am experienced enough to deal with any kind of emergency and unexpected situations. Also, I can provide personal advice and tailor-made training to the new staff members, in order to nourish their ability and adaptability of serving a vast number of customers. What’s more, it is believed that I am able to act as a bridge among Shanghai Park Hotel and Hong Kong Park Hotel, by exchanging information and making further communication on administrative affairs. Therefore, the organisation can be benefited through my transfer eventually.

In a nutshell, I am really enthusiastic about having a work transfer to the Shanghai branch of the hotel. I deeply believe I can create satisfactory contributions to the organisation.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Wong

My rewrite (281 words)

Dear Mr Wong

When I finally tracked down in the private collection of a local tea expert the exact grade of vintage pu-er (普洱) a mainland customer had requested, the sense of triumph that gripped me was memorable enough. But that feat was nothing compared to the time when an American patron brought to the hotel her own 1000 thread count Frette pillowcases to sleep on; since appearance-wise, they were indistinguishable from the hotel ones, Housekeeping laundered them along with the hotel linen and from then on there was no trace of their existence among the zillions of pillowcases we own. As soon as I realized our lapse, I asked Lane Crawford to deliver their Frette stock; at the last minute, I was able to get the pillowcases replaced behind the customer’s back. 

The past six years I spent with Park Hotel Hong Kong have been drama-filled times; if they have taught me one thing, it is that I’m energized by unexpected requests and emergency situations. The fact that I’m able to find a profession to my liking a mere six years after graduation has made me the envy of my peers.

And now, as the opening of Park Hotel Shanghai is almost upon us, I’m writing to request a job transfer to the financial capital of China, where my knowledge of the capricious ways of the rich can continue to be put to good use.

I want to relocate for family-related reasons too: my Shanghai-based parents are getting on in years, and I want to be around them more.

You will be gratified to learn that I recently obtained my Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 2 Award. My knowledge of wines, along with my growing proficiency in Chinese astrology, will enable me to chat with Park Hotel Shanghai’s local and  international clientele on a wider variety of topics.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Wong

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