Are you working towards the Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) exam? Have you been having sleepless nights thinking about what might appear on the writing exam? Do you need some tips to help you with your planning? If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of the previous questions, fear not – we’re here to help!

The review is just one of the options in Writing Part 2. However, you can’t guarantee which ones will be on the paper on exam day. Also, it’s not just the structure that’s important. If the topic really takes your fancy because you already know lots of C2 vocabulary, you might go for that one!

Above all, you need to feel prepared. That means understanding a task, planning effectively and having some CPE secret weapons at your disposal. By the end of this blog, you’ll know what a typical Cambridge C2 review question looks like, what to include in your plan, what grammar and vocabulary you could incorporate and how you can prepare for this part of the C2 Proficiency writing exam. Let’s start with the basics!

What is a review?


According to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam page:

C2 Proficiency exam page

The review is one of six options you can choose from in the C2 Proficiency Writing paper Part 2, along with the mandatory essay that you’ll complete in Part 1, which we covered in our Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Writing Exam – Part 1: Essay blog post. Don’t forget to revisit our Guide to the Cambridge C2 Proficiency Writing Exam – Part 2: Report too! Keep your eyes peeled for blogs about the rest!

Review format


  • Word count: 280–320.
  • Register: neutral – it depends on the target reader.
  • Main purpose: describe, evaluate, recommend, suggest.
  • General structure: title, introduction to the topic, three main paragraphs – one to describe, one to discuss in more detail, one to recommend.
  • Common themes: films, books, restaurants, art, festivals, concerts.

Why choose the review task?


One of the main reasons a lot of students feel comfortable writing reviews is because we use them so often in everyday life. That is to say, we prefer to check opinions before committing to a product or an event.

However, it’s not as simple as giving stars! We need to make sure our writing is upgraded to C2 level. Check out the table below for examples of upgraded language. We’ve used four different review topics.

Review task

We’ve used two techniques here: In red, you can see examples of pseudo-cleft sentences. In blue, you can see examples of negative inversions. We’ve highlighted a nice phrasal verb in pink, and you can see lots of underlined examples of descriptive language.

However, it’s important to use these sparingly. In other words, use your planning stage to decide where you’re going to use them or your writing can seem too formal. Remember, you’re writing to convince someone, so you want to communicate on their level. Don’t go overboard!

How can I structure a review?


First, let’s look at a review task.

How can I structure a review

As the task asks you to do three things: describe the book you enjoyed, talk about the attractions it had for you as a child and explain why it’s relevant today, you’d probably want three paragraphs. Add a fourth for a short conclusion and you have your general structure. Your title can be the name of the book.

You should allocate at least 15 minutes to your plan. Think carefully about what you want to write about and how you can explain your ideas. Make a list of useful collocations connected to the topic. Then, think about how you can use excellent examples of C2 grammar. Plan how you’re going to connect your ideas with linkers. Vary your sentence structure and occasionally add a much shorter sentence in order to add emphasis. It really works!

Remember, your writing needs to have cohesion. The more time you spend planning, the more you can work on the structure. Try to visualise your paragraphs as rectangles. Within these rectangles there are smaller rectangles that vary in size and shape. Imagine that you have to decide on the perfect order and distribution. As a result, your paragraph will be stronger.

What does a review look like?


What does a review look like

First, the writer introduces the topic of the review. This helps the reader know what he/she is about to read. Next, the writer gives a brief description of the story. No spoilers please! In the third paragraph, the writer comments on how the story is relevant today. To conclude, he/she links back to the original introduction and summarises the entire review in one neat little paragraph. Beautiful!

We’ve also highlighted some lovely collocations which are appropriate for this task about children’s books. You’ll find lots more inspiration for your reviews on sites like Goodreads, Metacritic, The Guardian and Rolling Stone.

What else can I do?


  • Practise! Practise! Practise!.
  • Don’t limit your English to a specific time. Instead, do as much of your daily life in English as possible.
  • Read in English – it’s a fantastic way to consolidate grammar points and learn new vocabulary. It’s fun too!
  • Listen to music in English. What better place to start than Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs of All time?
  • Practise! Practise! Practise! Did we mention that one already?! We’ve included some blogs below to keep you busy:

How to Write a Review for Cambridge C1 Advanced

6 Tools To Take Your Writing To The Next Level – general writing tips

Our Year In Review: Top 10 Blog Posts Of 2019 – a different example of a review!

5 Spelling Rules For Comparative And Superlative Adjectives – work on descriptive language

Looking for further support?


If you’re interested in preparing for the C2 Proficiency exam but don’t know where to start, get in touch with us here at Oxford House today! We offer specific courses that are designed especially to help you get ready for the exam. Let our fully qualified teachers use their exam experience to guide you through your learning journey. Sign up now and receive your free mock test!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

take your fancy (id): appeal to someone.

at your disposal (id): available to be used.

keep your eyes peeled (id): watch carefully for something.

sparingly (adv): in small amounts, without wasting any.

go overboard (id): do something too much.

allocate (v): to give a particular amount of time or money to something.

be about to do something (id): to be going to do something very soon.

neat (adj): tidy.

check out (pv): examine or investigate.


pv = phrasal verb

id = idiom

adj = adjective

adv = adverb

v = verb

Leave a Reply

Captcha *