FCE - Writing - A Book Review

review - (noun)
 A report in a newspaper or magazine, or on the internet, television or radio, in which somebody gives their opinion of a book, play, film, product, etc.; the act of writing this kind of report.
1 / 25
Slide 1: Slide
Middelbare school

This lesson contains 25 slides, with interactive quizzes and text slides.

Items in this lesson

review - (noun)
 A report in a newspaper or magazine, or on the internet, television or radio, in which somebody gives their opinion of a book, play, film, product, etc.; the act of writing this kind of report.

Slide 1 - Slide

FCE: Writing Paper 2 
Reviews are included in Part 2 of your writing exam, which means that, unlike essays, you can choose if you want to write a review or instead work on one of the other options (article, report, letter/email, or story in FCE for Schools).

Slide 2 - Slide

Writing reviews is fun!
OK OK, it might not be as much fun as, for example, going out with your friends or spending a year travelling around the world, but compared to other writing tasks in the FCE exam, such as essays, it definitely feels a little bit more casual and easy-going.
We are going to have a look at the typical requirements, structure and other little things you should include, leave out and/or be careful with, so let’s start by having a look at an example task that could be part of your exam.

Slide 3 - Slide

What a typical review task looks like

When we look at different review tasks we can see very quickly that there are similarities between them which you can take advantage of whenever you sit down to write. A typical example might look like the one below:

Slide 4 - Slide

Tip:Check two things when looking at a writing task: 
What to include and who is going to read your text. Read the task carefully and underline the key parts. Below I have done all of that for you.

Slide 5 - Slide

So, who is going to read the review?

Slide 6 - Mind map

So, who is going to read the review?
  •  Because you are writing for an English-language magazine their readers are going to be your audience. 
  • Why is this important? In the FCE writing exam you are marked on your use of appropriate language for each task, which includes the right register (formal, neutral, informal).
  • Choosing the wrong one can cost you marks so we don’t want that to happen.

Slide 7 - Slide

In our example for FCE we are writing for a magazine. Which style should we choose
a neutral to informal style
very informal

Slide 8 - Quiz

Answer was "A", because:
In our example we should choose a neutral to informal style as we are writing for a magazine. Many different kinds of people will read your review so we don’t want it to be too informal, but still keep it light and interesting.

Slide 9 - Slide

There are also three main points that we have to include in the review:

What book have you read recently , talk about the main character and his adventure
what surprising thing the main character of the book did, why it was surprising and whether or not you would recommend the book.
Discuss the last book you have read with a strong man character and say whether you would recommend it to others.
Write about the last book you read and say why you liked.disliked it.

Slide 10 - Quiz

The good thing for your review writing, in general, is that there are always three things that you have to include. These are usually a description (What did the main character do?), a discussion (Why was it surprising?) and a recommendation (Would you recommend the book to other people?). You can normally look for these three things in every review and you will see how similar all the different tasks are.

Slide 11 - Slide

How to organise your review

Looking back at our example task, there are three main ideas that we have to deal with in our text:
What surprising thing did the main character do? (description)
Why was it surprising? (discussion)
Would you recommend the book to other people? (recommendation)

Slide 12 - Slide

Of course, we can give each of these points a paragraph so our review already has three
We could combine the first and second point into one paragraph as they both talk about the actions of the main character.) Adding a title an interesting introduction makes it four and we are ready to go. The outline of our review (and every review, really) now looks like this:

Title and introduction
description (What did the main character do?)
discussion (Why was it surprising?)
recommendation (Would you recommend the book to other people?)

And just like that we have a universal plan for most review tasks in the FCE writing exam.

Slide 13 - Slide

Plan before you start writing

Take three or four minutes to make a little map with the different paragraphs and just two or three key words under each heading so you know exactly what you want to include in your text. This way, you won’t forget anything you want to write about and feel more relaxed once you actually start putting your pen to paper.

Slide 14 - Slide

The main purpose of the introduction is to create interest so the reader wants to find out what you have to say about the book, film, restaurant or whatever you have to write about. You can use a few tricks to achieve that:

Firstly, start with a personalised question. This connects the reader to your review and makes them want to continue reading, and secondly, don’t give away the surprise but only give a little hint at it. This way, you can create even more excitement

Slide 15 - Slide

Look at my example: 

As you can see, I followed my advice and started with a personalised question.
If you like my introduction, which you should 😉 , try to follow this plan each time you start a review. It guarantees excited readers, happy examiners and high marks for you.

Slide 16 - Slide

Here, you need to give some information based on your task. In our example you have to say what surprising thing the main character did.
The best part about the description is that you don’t have to do anything special – just answer the question and move on. Of course, there are some things that (don’t) make sense to include so let’s go into a little bit more detail.
Stick to the question and don’t talk about unrelated things.
Give some support to your answer (related details)
Use adjectives and adverbs to make it more interesting to read.

Slide 17 - Slide

Tip: Don’t make it too complicated for yourself. Describe what you have to describe and go to the next point.

In my paragraph I don’t talk about unrelated things, but only the details that are necessary to understand how Jake gets to the point at which he makes his surprising decision. I also included some descriptive adjectives and adverbs to make my paragraph a little bit more interesting (mysterious, ragged, exact, eventually, unexpected, brutally).

Slide 18 - Slide

There is usually some part in which you have to give your opinion in every review writing task (That’s what discussion really means.) so it is really important to keep the following things in mind:
Again, don’t write about things that are not in the task.
Use specific language to give your opinion (Make a note in your exercise book)
In my opinion/view, …
For me, …
I think/believe/feel that …
I would say that …
It seems to me that …

Slide 19 - Slide

In the example task you need to discuss why the main character’s action is surprising so here is what I would write about my book “11/22/63”:

Once again, I followed my own advice to only answer the question and to use specific language (it seems to me that, in my opinion). You see that it’s not that complicated if you know what to do.

Slide 20 - Slide

The last part of your review is usually a recommendation to your readers. As in the previous to chapters you have to use specific language to please the examiner and to make it clear to the reader that you are recommending something.
  1. Don’t mix up the recommendation with the other parts of your review.
  2. Use specific language to give recommendations: (make a note of this)
I recommend/suggest [title/name] to + person
I recommend/suggest + -ing ( reading/watching/trying/buying)
I recommend/suggest that …
You should + base verb (read/watch/try/buy)
You might want to + base verb
Write a final sentence to conclude the review.

Slide 21 - Slide

My recommendation looks like this:

As you can see, I used specific language to give recommendations (I definitely recommend) and concluded the review with a final sentence (…it was absolutely worth it…).
If you put all four parts (introduction, description, discussion, recommendation) together and follow the advice given in this lesson, your review will be a hit.

Slide 22 - Slide

How your review is marked
Marking FCE writing tasks is like a science and for a lot of students it feels as if there is this big mystery and nobody really knows how it works. Actually, there are very clear rules that the examiners have to follow and the criteria are publicly available.

While it is possible to find all the information on your own I thought it would be a good idea to put everything together in an article for you. Check out how your writing tasks are marked by clicking here.

Slide 23 - Slide

There are four marking scales in the writing exam.
 Each of these scales looks at specific aspects of your writing. 
Content – answering the task, supporting your ideas
Communicative achievement – register, tone, clear ideas, conventions of the specific task type
Organisation – structure of the text, logical order, connected ideas
Language – grammar and vocabulary
Each scale is scored out of 5 so you can get a maximum of 20 marks where 3/5 basically means that you have passed this part of your writing.

Slide 24 - Slide

Now it’s time to practice
In the next lesson we will write a review of the main character in your free choice book who behaved in a surprising way. You can have the book next to you and you should try to write the review in 40 minutes from start to finish: 140 - 190 words. 
In the class : You may have the book with you, no use of the internet! Make a plan before starting. 
At home: You may have the book with you, don't use the internet! Make a plan before starting. It needs to be handed in in Google Classroom (document or photo shot).

Slide 25 - Slide