FCE Writing a review

As many of the students at 21st Twenty First English Language School ask us about the best way to prepare a writing we offer you today a few insights in the writing of a review.

Writing a review is one of the parts that you may have to deal with in an official Cambridge FCE exam. You are also supposed to write letters, reports, stories and lots of other types of text using between 140 – 190 words. You will be given a situationally based writing task specified in no more than 70 words.

A REVIEW, according to the official handbook provided by Cambridge Assessment English, is usually written for an English-language magazine, newspaper or website. The main purpose is to describe and express a personal opinion about something which the writer has experienced (e.g. a film, a holiday, a product, a website etc.) and to give the reader a clear impression of what the item discussed is like. It can include the review of a book, a concert, a place, etc. Description and explanation are key functions for this task, and a review will normally include a recommendation to the reader.

The examiners will give you a grade based on four fundamental aspects:

  • Content – Did you write what you were asked to write?
  • Communicative achievement – Was your writing too formal, too informal, or was it perfectly written?
  • Organisation – Did you link paragraphs and sentences? Is there a logical flow from start to finish?
  • Language – Did you show an extensive range of vocabulary or did you use basic words? Did you make lots of grammar and spelling mistakes?

Example of a review task

You see this announcement on an English-language website:

Reviews wanted


Have you been on a course recently? Please tell us about it! It could be any type of course, like a sports course, photography course or language course. What were the classes like? What was the most interesting thing you learned? Would you recommend the course to other people? The best reviews will be published in next month’s magazine. Write your review.

In order to tackle this task you have to follow a few basic guidelines:

  • Give your review an interesting title. This is the first step in attracting the reader’s attention.
  • Use a balanced structure in your writing. A 3-7-7-3 or 3-5-5-5-3 structure might be appropriate. This way you use about the same number of sentences in each paragraph and you keep focused.
  • Avoid starting the first paragraph with «the main goal of this writing is…». It can be a good way of starting for beginners, but it’s soooooo boooooring. You want a good mark, not to make your examiner fall asleep, right? So, use a hook instead.
  • Give your opinion in regard to what you are reviewing in the second paragraph. Remember a review is not just a list of facts – it’s more your opinion about what you describe. Why review a restaurant if you don’t let us know if it’s worth eating there?
  • Give more details in one or two more paragraphs, but focus on your given topic. Remember content is evaluated. If they ask you about books don’t speak about restaurants.
  • Summarise your view in the last paragraph, using different words than in the introduction, and include a recommendation.

Remember to plan your writing: take a few minutes to think, put your ideas in order and then you start writing. Take the last 5 to 10 minutes to review your writing. You can always forget some «s» in present simple 3rd person, so this step is very important.

Use a good range of structures: relatives, conditionals, inversions, connectors, etc. show that you dominate the language.

Use your best vocabulary. Collocations, phrasal verbs if the writing is not very formal, words that are specific for your topic. Show off! It’s time to put your effort to good use and put on paper all those endless lists of words you have been studying all along your preparation.

If you need more help feel free to contact us at http://www.21st.es. We are glad to help #becauseweloveenglish and we want you to reach a great level of English.

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