Students who are taking their B2 First Certificate exam (FCE) will be asked to do two pieces of writing within an 80 minute time limit. Part 1 is always an essay. Part 2 is where you can get a bit more creative. You might, for example, be asked to write a letter, a report or a review, all of which have their own style and set guidelines.

When writing a review it can be difficult to know where to start. But don’t be afraid! We are here to help you every step of the way.

Remember a review could be for a book, a film, a magazine, a restaurant or even a product.


Three steps to writing a great review

Let’s start with something simple. Imagine. You turn over the page to your writing part 2 and you see this question:

How to write a review - Cambridge B2 First | Oxford House Barcelona

Question taken from Cambridge Assessment English website. (Feb 2018)


Step One: Make a plan

The first thing to do is to make a plan, just like we did in our B2 First essay guidelines.

Think of a book you read in which the main character behaved in a surprising way. This could be surprising in a good way, where the character does something amazing and helps somebody. Or maybe there’s a twist at the end and the character does something really shocking. Either way take some time to really think about your choice.

E.g. I’m going to choose The Great Gatsby, because I had to read the book 3 times when I was at school and I’ve seen the film so I feel like I know it really well.


The structure

Next, think of the structure. Consider all the parts of the question and use that to help organise your review. Make notes about the following:

  • An interesting title
  • A catchy introduction
  • A summary of the plot
  • A surprising moment
  • Your recommendation

Remember you’re going to want to separate these with clear paragraphs that are going to help the examiner read to the end without getting a headache.

You also need to consider the tone and how the review should sound to the reader. Remember this is for a magazine. Think about all the magazines you like to read. You want to sound chatty and grab the reader’s attention, but not bore them to sleep. Think semi-formal but friendly!


Useful Vocabulary

Now brainstorm some useful vocabulary for your chosen book, including lots of adjectives. Avoid using boring adjectives like good or bad. It’s much more exciting to say ‘amazing’ and ‘disappointing’ or terrific and ‘terrible’.

Here’s some more useful vocabulary to get you started:

superficial / deceptive / fascinating / unbelievable / rich / lonely / kind / reserved/ to be set in / to be written by / prosperity / characters / jazz age / protagonist / atmosphere / author / chapter / ending / fictional towns / prohibition / novel / on the outskirts / sad story.

Your next step is to think of some linking phrases. These are going to help tie together your thoughts and bring your review to life!

  • Overall if you like…
  • I was pleasantly surprised by…
  • In fact…
  • What I disliked the most was…
  • The book contains…
  • As well as…
  • This well-written book…
  • Unbelievably…

Step Two: Write it

Once you have a solid plan, writing your review should be easy!

First start with an interesting title. E.g. The Unexpected Anti-Hero. It relates to both the book that’s being reviewed and the question. It’s also short and snappy.

Next write an engaging introduction. Maybe start with a rhetorical question, for example:

Are you a fan of the Jazz Age? Then this is the book for you!

Or a general statement about the book that will hook the reader:

The Great Gatsby is a classic, with many twists and turns.

You could also give some background information. Here we use the past simple:

The Great Gatsby was written by F.S.Fitzgerald and is set in prosperous Long Island in 1922.

The second paragraph should summarise the plot (note – we usually describe a story in present tense):

Gatsby is a mysterious character, he has big extravagant parties, and we never know if we can trust him.

The third paragraph is where we introduce the surprising moment and reveal what the main character did and why it was surprising:

  • The most shocking part is when…
  • I couldn’t believe it when…
  • In fact…
  • It was so surprising when…

In the fourth paragraph, give a recommendation! Here the examiner wants to hear your overall opinion. It can be something simple:

  • I strongly recommend..

Or something more inventive:

  • I wouldn’t read the novel again because…
  • Everyone should read this immediately!

But don’t forget to say why!


Step Three: Check it

Now you have your winning book review it’s time to check for all those little (and big) mistakes.

Make sure you check:

  • You’ve answered all parts of the question.
  • It is easy to read.
  • Your spelling is correct.
  • You’ve used the 3rd person(s).
  • You have used punctuation.
  • There’s a variety of nouns and adjectives.

Final Tips

  • Pick a book you know quite well! Whether it’s Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, make sure you have lots to say about it!
  • Don’t be afraid to give both negative and positive opinions!
  • Experiment with using first person and try addressing the reader with ‘you’.
  • Read lots of real authentic reviews online, anything from holidays to music concerts, exhibitions to video games!
  • Remember to put some of your own personality into your review. Have some fun with it and good luck!

Follow the links for some excellent phrases and vocabulary for other types of reviews.

Restaurant Reviews

Film Reviews

TV / Theatre Reviews

Exhibition & Concert Reviews

Here are some more sample questions for you to practice on your own:

How to write a review - Example I - Cambridge B2 First | Oxford House Barcelona
How to write a review - Example II - Cambridge B2 First | Oxford House Barcelona
How to write a review - Example III - Cambridge B2 First | Oxford House Barcelona

Choose one and post your reviews in the comments section.

Good luck!

Glossary for Language Learners


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

Twist (n):: a sudden change in a story that you do not expect..

Chatty (adj): having a friendly style.

Avoid doing something (v): to intentionally not do something.

Terrific (adj): excellent.

Snappy (adj): concise.

Hook (v): to catch.


n = noun

adj = adjective

v = verb

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