Posted in Writing Classes

CPE Review

This is a handout with as much language and advice possible for approaching the CPE writing part 2 review tasks. I made it for my December candidates, fingers crossed they actually read it! I only had time to add language for film, book and restaurant reviews, in return for using my lesson plan please be so kind as to answer me the following question:

What other types or review have you come across in CPE exams? Let me know and I’ll endeavour to add language for them to this phrase list.

You can download the handout here: CPE Review (formatting looks better in word than on wordpress!)

CPE Review

Register: Informal/neutral

Use: all your colourful vocabulary:

Phrasal verbs/idioms/impressive collocations.

Forms and conventions:

Title: for films/books/restaurants use the name/title or if think up an imaginative title using an idiom/expression.

Planning, 6 step system:

1.        Read task, underline content points.

2.        Divide content points into paragraphs: Intro, décor, ambiance, service, food, recommendation.

3.        WHAT do you want to say? Add your notes to each paragraph in simple form.

4.        HOW are you going to say that? Brainstorm advanced grammar and vocabulary for each note.

5.        Forms and conventions: Title paragraph titles, fixed introduction.

6.        Write! Remember word limit is: 280-320


Personal anecdote to grab attention. Introduce name of book/film, restaurant + location, course, TV show etc.

Seldom do I find the time to…, however when I do take time out of my hectic schedule, I like nothing more than…

Being a bit of a film buff/book worm/foody, the news that … had opened a new restaurant/released a new film/book had me itching to try/see/read it. So last week I popped down with a friend to check it out.

Having never seen/read/tried… before I approached … with a sense of trepidation, not knowing what to expect. Soon however, all my fears were allayed.

Book reviews:

Vocab to describe the book in general:

a page-turner / a white-knuckle ride / a tearjerker / a laugh a minute / I couldn’t put it down.

Vocab to describe specific parts:

a slow start / a gentle introduction /gripping climax / nail-biting conclusion / cliff-hanger ending/ a shocking twist in the tail


The book is set in _______(place/time)

The action takes place in ______ (place/time)

the present day (now)

an alternate reality where vampires / wizards walk the earth

a sleepy village in the USA

the bustling city of New York


The plot centres around / focuses on (the adventures / lives of _________)

The plot follows the adventures of _________(character name)


Villain / hero / heroine / anti-hero / main character / protagonist

The characters are believable / well-crafted / a bit 2 dimensional.

Film/TV reviews:


An all-star cast

heavily influenced by the films of..

glowing reviews

startling originality

suspense builds up

a polished performance

a bold experiment

an accomplished actor

an unmitigated disaster (bad film)

a dazzling display of his/her talents

made a lasting impression on me.

Brought a tear to my eye

Like watching paint dry (boring)

I was on the edge of my seat (exciting)

A blockbuster (big commercial film eg Superman)

… sets off an amazing chain of events

Gripping film (exciting)

The director/author evoked a magical atmosphere

… awakened my interest in…

Hold my attention

Capture the audience’s imagination.

Spectacular set-pieces (main action scenes)

… is cast in the role of…

… is miscast in the role of…

…gives a(n) (un)convincing performance as…

The film is let down by a clichéd script.

Restaurant review:

Hearty meal

Wholesome food


Succulent/juicy (meat)


With a kick (spicy)



Packed with flavour

A steaming plate of..


Bustling eatery(restaurant)

Lively atmosphere

Service with a smile

A plate piled high with..


To die for


To lick your lips in anticipation






Restaurants cont.

Make a pig of one’s self

To feast/gorge on (eat a lot of)

To eat/drink to your heart’s content

Devour/gobble up





Aromas wafting from the kitchen

Cheap – economical/reasonably-priced

Expensive – pricey/costs an arm and a leg

€20 a head (per person)

Killer Lines:

Were I to sum up … in one word, it would be…

… left a lot to be desired (wasn’t good enough)

…more than lives up to the hype (is as good as everyone says it is)

… is by far and away the best … you’re likely to … this year

… really raises the bar (sets a higher standard)

… sets the benchmark for other (others will be judges against how good it is)

… ticks all the right boxes

… holds up well in comparison with …

…comes off badly in comparison with …

Grammar check list

Have you included?

·         An inversion (not only/no sooner/seldom)

·         An inverted conditional (Were we to…)

·         A participle clause (Being…/Having gone…)

·         A double comparative (The more we… the more)

·         A cleft sentence (What is most crucial is…)

·         Idioms

·         Phrasal verbs


Barcelona based English Teacher, blogger and sometime actor and director.

12 thoughts on “CPE Review

  1. Than you so much! The page is amazing. In the 2015 revised exam I have also been asked to write a review of an app, a touristic attraction and a series, I hope you can give us some advice related to those categories

  2. Hi! Your post was very useful. I had to write a review of electronic gadgets that can make real difference to people’s lives.
    Thank you!!

  3. Loved your handout! Full of great ideas.
    As you asked us to contribute with other types of review, from the Cambridge handbook, it is also mentioned a play or concert and an exhibition. =)
    Thanks for sharing ^^

    1. One more thing… If you don’t mind me saying, I think you should add your reference to your handout! That way, if people distribute it, you’ll get the rightful credit for it =)
      Have a good one!

  4. I am really really impressed. This is good stuff, well done and thank you so much for your professionality!!

  5. Thank you ever so much! As for the content, the popular ones I’ve noticed were to write a review of a sports centre, a building, an exhibition/museum

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