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CAE – review

Paper 2 Writing – Part 2

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A review

may be about a book, magazine, film, play or concert; it may also be about a product or a service. A review in the Cambridge English: Advanced Writing paper does not merely ask for a general description of the thing reviewed, but requires an evaluation of its suitability for a particular purpose or audience. The target reader is specified in the task, and candidates should be encouraged to use this information when choosing appropriate ideas and language to include in their response.


  • A title is advisable.
  • Think what your are trying to achieve and, in the introduction, DO give your reader and indication of the structure of your review. You should also raise a question in your reader’s mind.
  • Start a new paragraph for every item/aspect you are addressing in your review.
  • Try to make it interesting by using a wide range of vocabulary: colourful, lively language; comparisons to describe something; specialised topic vocabulary.
  • DO give your assessment of what you are reviewing and DO NOT forget to cover all the points mentioned in the task input.
  • DO include a final recommendation or evaluation in the final paragraph.

Don’t forget!

  • The target reader is specified in the question, so the candidate knows not only what register is appropriate, but also has an idea about the kind of information to include.
  • Language of opinion (positive, negative), recommendation, description is necessary.

Useful language for a review

What I liked

  • What I liked most was …..
  • The thing I liked most was ….
  • I was pleasantly surprised by …..
  • ….. would appeal to …..
  • If you get a chance to ….

What I disliked

  • What I disliked most was …..
  • I was disappointed by/with ……

Reviews of books

  • main character
  • is set in
  • Fiction: science fiction / thriller / fantasy / mystery / historical / romance …
  • Non-fiction: cook book / travel book / textbook / manual / coffee-table book …
  • atmosphere / plot
  • author
  • written by
  • chapter
  • factual
  • unbelievable
  • bestseller
  • ending

Reviews of concerts

  • artist / band / musician / (bass/lead/rhythm) guitarist / (backing/lead) singer / drummer / soloist / trio / orchestra
  • auditorium / hall / venue / lyrics / (catchy) tune / score / gig

Reviews of exhibitions

  • painting / sculpture / handicrafts
  • gallery / catalogue / display

Reviews of films

  • lead role
  • star role
  • star
  • star actor/actress
  • starring
  • secondary role
  • He plays a …….
  • written by ….
  • cast / director / producer
  • is set in …..
  • based on a true story …..
  • believable
  • true to life
  • not very believable
  • far-fetched
  • (As for fiction books +): animation / adaptation / comedy
  • Costumes / design / photography / script / special effects / soundtrack
  • ending

Reviews of plays

  • scene / act / set / stage / interval

Reviews of TV programmes

  • Chat shows / current affairs programme / debate / documentary / series / soap opera/ sitcom (situation comedy)
  • Host / presenter

Reviews of hotels, restaurants, etc

  • location
  • service
  • setting
  • attractive / disappointing setting
  • owned by
  • run by
  • head chef (restaurant)
  • waiters (restaurant)
  • staff …….
  • staff at reception …….(hotel)
  • hotel facilities ….
  • reasonable prices …..
  • good/excellent/poor value for money …..
  • (a bit/somehow) expensive
  • overpriced
  • not worth the money
  • always fully booked
  • book in advance


  • The script seemed rather conventional/predictable to me.
  • The plot struck me as completely bizarre/absurd/incomprehensible
  • The characters are appealing and true to life
  • The dancers were quite brilliant/amateurish


  • I would strongly encourage you not to miss/not to waste your money on…
  • I would definitely recommend seeing/visiting/reading/having a look at …

Model questions and answers

Review – Model question 1


You see this announcement in an international magazine called Cinefilia.

The most UPLIFTING and the biggest DOWNER.
It’s sometimes hard to choose a film that fits your mood purely on the basis of the poster or the description on the cover of the DVD. That’s why we want to publish reviews of the most uplifting and the most depressing films our readers have seen, so that others know what to watch and what to avoid.
Send in a review which describes the most uplifting film you’ve ever seen and the one you found the biggest downer. Make sure you give reasons for your choices.

Write your review in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

Review – Model answer 1

In this review I am going to compare two contrasting tales about overcoming adversity. Whereas The Blind Side (2009) left me with a huge grin on my face, sadly, Doctor Zhivago (1965) left me feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.

Doctor Zhivago, directed by five-time Oscar winner David Lean, is set in the Bolshevik revolution and follows the title character, who must adapt to the new order while pining for Lara, the beautiful wife of a political campaigner. The director succeeded in creating a film that is thoroughly engaging but full of gritty realism, cruelty and tragic irony. Take the tissues!

The Blind Side, which is based on a true story, is also a bit of a tearjerker, in a completely different way. Starring Sandra Bullock, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a rich white mother in Tennessee who takes a homeless black teenager under her roof. Understandably, the gentle giant thinks he isn’t good at anything but his new mother sees his potential to become a football star and part of the family. The plot is based on a true story, making it all the more touching.

I would strongly recommend The Blind Side. It will appeal to a range of people and is a great choice for a movie night. Although Doctor Zhivago is a classic, I think it has more of a niche audience and is best saved for when you want a dose of gloom!

[+/- 245 words]

Review – Model question 2


You see the following advertisement in a music magazine.

Ever fancied yourself as a music journalist? Now’s your chance.
We’re looking for enthusiastic music lovers to write a review of their favourite album of all time. We want to know why you love it and why you think everyone should listen to it. It doesn’t matter who the artist is or how old or new the music is.
Send in a review of your favourite album of all time giving reasons for your choice.

Write your review in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

Review – Model answer 2

A thrilling album

I’m certainly not alone in my choice of favourite album. In fact, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” has sold over 50 million copies worldwide since being released in 1982, and still currently holds the much coveted title of “best-selling album of all time”. A toe-tapping blend of pop, funk and R&B, it’s sure to get everyone grooving at a party, yet also contains unexpected emotional power in the lyrics.

Jam-packed full of catchy melodies such as the opening “Wanna be startin’ something” and the famous “Beat it”, almost every song makes you want to hum along. It’s like a feast for the ears, with a range of styles from the soft duet ballad with Paul McCartney “The Girl is Mine” to the rock/pop of the title track. The album will leave you with no doubt of the unique and extraordinary talent of the King of Pop. What disco would be complete without a few of his renowned numbers?

Unlike much of today’s modern pop, this album actually deals with a huge number of deep themes such as jelousy, loneliness and obsession. The song “Billie Jean”, for example, chronicles a story of a crazed fan who insists that she has his baby. Not hard to imagine that the artist was channelling some real experiences in his writing.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that this remains the best-selling album of all time and I challenge even the most cynical listener to play “Thriller” without tapping along.

[+/- 245 words]

Review – Model question 3


You see the following advertisement in a film magazine.

Reviews wanted: best film ever!
We are planning to produce a set of DVDs of the ten best films of all time. Send us a review of your favourite film. What was it about? What made it so good? Why should we include it in the set of DVDs? The best reviews will be included with the set of DVDs

Write your review in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

Review – Model answer 3

The Power of the Force

I am a great fan of science fiction films, and although I know these particular films are now old, the original trilogy is so iconic that I don’t see how any set of the best DVDs ever could fail to include them. Of course, I’m talking about Star Wars.

Who doesn’t know the plot? Evil Darth Vader is building the massive Death Star space station to help the Empire overcome the Rebel Alliance, which has been formed to fight against tyranny. Vader captures Princess Leia, who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in the robot R2-D2, later bought by Luke Skywalker. Luke accidentally triggers a message put into the droid by Leia, asking for assistance. Luke later trains to be a Jedi and with his friends sets out to crush the Empire. What follows is an action-packed roller coaster, crammed with special effects and enthralling plot twists.

The film has to be included in the set of DVDs because everything about it was fresh and new at the time, the special effects were totally spectacular and, amazingly, it still has the power to thrill the audience today. The music is instantly recognisable, and still sends a shiver down my spine. The characters are powerful and interesting, and have made stars of some of  the actors. The technical effects were well ahead of their time and have influenced many films since they were first seen on screens all over the world.

Do you really think any set of ‘The best films ever’ would be complete without this trilogy?

[+/- 265 words]

Review – Model question 4


Review with comments

A website(1) has asked readers for reviews of new software applications. Write a review of an application that you have used. Your review should comment on what is special about the software(2). It should also explain who might find the software most useful or appealing and why(3). Your review should also suggest one way in which the software could be improved(4).

Write your review in 220-260 words in an appropriate style.

Review – Model answer 4

London Tourist App [Title advisable]

[Good opening sentence to engage the reader’s interest. Statement of what’s being reviewed at the beginning]
It’s easy to get lost in a big city like London. So, when I read about the LondonApp just before I had to spend two weeks there, I did not hesitate and immediately downloaded it to my tablet.

[Clear organisation and paragraphing. (2) Some basic information is given about the app]
The app allows you to see where you are on a map of Greater London. You can type in where you want to go and it will show you how to get there, either on foot, by using public transport or when driving. It offers alternative routes and suggests how long your journey will take.

[As appropriate to a review (3) the writer’s opinion has at least as much importance as any facts about the subject of the review]
It is clearly a very useful app for anyone like me who does not know the city and wants to find their way around. Although London is a large city, the centre is relatively compact. Using it showed me how close I was to some of the places I wanted to go. As a result, I was able to walk to my destination and so see much more of the city. Had I not had the app, I would probably have used the underground and so would have missed a great deal.

[(4) Do include a final recommendation and/or evaluation in the final paragraph. A rounding-off sentence at the end summarises the writer’s opinion]
Although I found the app simple to use, I think the developers could make it even more attractive to tourists. Imagine you are walking past an interesting building and would love to know what it is. How good it would be if you could just click on that building’s location on the app’s map and be taken straight to information about it. It would certainly add extra value to an already excellent app.

[Not too formal in register – (1) formality is not necessary in a website review]
[Variety in structures and sentence lengths]

[+/- 260 words]

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