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C2: Proficiency Training – The Heist

Cartoon Safe Heist ⬇ Vector Image by © ronleishman | Vector Stock 13979890

In this lesson C2 students will develop their understanding of idiomatic expressions that often come up in the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam. They will encounter the expressions in a text about a bank heist gone wrong. Download the student handout below:

Credit to: for the planning a bank robbery activity.

You may also wish to use this quizizz game for spaced repetition of the target language.


Students start by discussing common tropes of heist movies. They then skim the text to find out what went wrong in this case. (they were set up, someone ratted them out the police)

Students then answer the detail questions:

  1. How had they planned for the robbery? In great detail, taking note of intricacies while the narrator was working in the bank
  2. What was the first problem they encountered? The getaway driver was late
  3. How did the staff in the bank react? Only the bank manager put up any resistance
  4. What are the pros and cons of the way Tony behaves? he’s unpredictable but intimidating
  5. What happens to Tony and Barry? they are killed in the gunfight
  6. Where is the narrator at the end of the story? in prison

Language Focus

Students now focus on the expressions in bold. They discuss their meaning with their partner and try to paraphrase them, they then make a note of how familiar the expressions are to them.

Students now flip the paper over and look at version 2 of the same text. Now the expressions have been replaced with simpler language. Using the key words, they must recall the expressions. They then flip over their paper to check their answers.

Set the key word transformations testing the expressions for homework.

Plan a heist

Put students in small groups and have them plan a bank heist using the prompts on pages 2 and 3, which are adapted from

Students then present their different plans to the class.

Text Version 1

The Heist

  1. What heist/bank robbery films have you seen?
  2. Do you enjoy this type of movie? Why? Why not?
  3. How do people typically rob banks in films? What strategies do they use?
  4. How can heists go wrong?

Read the text about a bank heist, what went wrong?

The plan had been simple. I had been instrumental in drawing it up, I’d worked in that branch for over 5 years and had taken note of all the little intricacies and predicted all the problems we might have to contend with down to the last detail; I was nothing if not meticulous. I had done everything in my power to make sure everything went like clockwork. In the lead-up to the big day some doubts had been preying on my mind to such an extent that I hadn’t got a wink of sleep, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. 

We’d stuck to the plan to the letter. Aside from a rocky start, when the getaway driver had kept us waiting for the best part of an hour, everything had gone smoothly, almost too smoothly. The bank clerk had offered no resistance, the security guard had admitted defeat pretty quickly, clearly realising that facing off against armed robbers was above his pay grade. The manager made a bit of a fuss about handing over the combination to the vault but Tony soon made him see sense. A gun barrel pressed to your forehead can be very persuasive. I’m not 100% on board with how Tony conducts himself but you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. He had risen to fame as useful muscle for a tight spot but he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box.

Barry got to work on the vault without interference and before long we were stuffing the duffle bags with wads of cold, hard cash, it was a beautiful sight, which did wonders for everyone’s confidence. Maybe that was it, we got too cocky, little did we know what lay in store for us outside. Tony was the first to catch sight of the blue lights, I was loath to start shooting but, as always, there was no stopping Tony, they didn’t call him the loose cannon for nothing. All of a sudden it was like a warzone, Tony didn’t stand a chance, neither did Barry. It’s nothing short of a miracle that I got out alive. It was obvious that the game was up, it must have been a set-up but who had ratted us out? I guess that’s something I’ll be pondering for the next 25 years. It ain’t so bad, running water, 3 square meals a day and a roof over my head. I guess I should spare a thought for those who were not so lucky.

  1. How had they planned for the robbery?
  2. What was the first problem they encountered?
  3. How did the staff in the bank react?
  4. What are the pros and cons of the way Tony behaves?
  5. What happens to Tony and Barry?
  6. Where is the narrator at the end of the story?


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

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