FCE and CAE written exams – Writing a review

by / Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Which part of the exam includes writing a review?

You may have to write a review in part two of the writing exam. Other text types that may also appear are articles, emails, letters, reports and proposals (only in CAE). You are always given a choice of three text types from which you choose one. It is important to be become familiar with writing all of these text types before the exam.


This blog will deal primarily with writing a review.


How many words should it be?

For FCE you should write 140-190 words and for CAE you should write 220-260 words.


How long is the exam?
For FCE you have 1 hour 20 minutes for the full writing exam (part one and part two) so you should spend about 40 minutes on each part.


For CAE you have 1 hour 30 minutes for the full writing exam (part one and part two) so you should spend about 45 minutes on each part.


What do I write about?

You could be asked to review a number of different things including, a restaurant, a gig, a holiday, a film, a book, a website or a product. You will, however, always be given guidance about what to write. This includes information about context, target reader, topic and purpose.


Please note in contrast to the FCE exam where you usually only review one book, film etc. in the CAE exam you may have to compare two.


How do I structure the review?

What you include in each paragraph will of course depend on the question you are answering and what information you’ve already been given. As a rule of thumb though, each review will begin with a title and an introduction. This is followed by the main body that must cover everything the question has asked you to do and a final paragraph that tells the reader whether you recommended book, film, product etc. or not.


What language should I use in the review?

As a reviewer your job is to paint a picture of the product or event etc. in the reader’s mind. For this it is essential that that you use descriptive language such as adjectives or adverbial phrases. You should also be giving your opinion and recommending so you must brush up of different ways of doing this. Finally, this is also your chance to show off your topic-specific vocabulary to the examiner e.g. vocabulary for talking about films (cast, crew, special effects) or restaurants (overcharged, set menu, appetising).


How can I practise writing reviews?

Try to be more critical when attending events like gigs or going to the cinema. Think about how you would describe them and who you would recommend them to. After the event you can try to write a short review about what you’ve seen in order to get into the habit of doing so.


We read reviews every day – from book reviews on Amazon to see whether a book is worth buying, film reviews in a newspaper to decide if a film is worth watching or restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor to decide where we want to go for dinner. Not only can we use these websites to pick out useful vocabulary, we can also write real life reviews on them too. Next time you visit a restaurant why not review it on TripAdvisor? https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/


There are also some great listening resources out there that broadcast reviews. Two entertaining film podcasts are ‘The Guardian Film Show’ which you can subscribe to in order to receive daily podcasts which are usually between 10-12 minutes long and BBC Radio 5 Live ‘Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review’ which is a weekly podcast.




You can take the exams at Live Language in Glasgow. More information here: https://live-language.com/cambridge-exams/

Do you need some help preparing for the exam? Have a look at our Cambridge Preparation courses here: https://live-language.com/cambridge-exams/

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