In this article I will plan an FCE review, then write it.

Here's a sample review task from Cambridge: First:

Who's going to read this? My fellow college students. What does that mean about the tone? It means I can be on the informal side of neutral. You know, serious but friendly.

Planning time!

Okay, the first thing to do is to think of a book where the main character surprised me. This is quite an important step, because everything that follows is linked to this decision. Do you think I should spend five seconds on it, or thirty seconds?

[Thirty seconds later] I chose one of my favourite books, The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguru. It's great! They made a movie of it with Anthony Hopkins.

So what do I have to include? 

  1. - write a review of the book
  2. - explain what the character did 
  3. - and why it was surprising
  4. - would I recommend it

It doesn't make much sense to have points 2 and 3 separate, so for this review I will keep them together in one paragraph.

So my outline looks like this:

  • Title
  • Introduction
  • Review
  • Main Character's Surprising Moment
  • Recommendation

Let's think of vocabulary and grammar I can use. I'm just going to brainstorm by writing words and phrases I know that might be useful in the different paragraphs.

genre; historical drama; romance; set in the 1930s; duty; uniform; reserved; butler; gentleman; conflict; a difficult choice; there's no doubt that; not only but also; 

Okay, that's not bad - I've got some good ideas already. Now I want to think of a title. I want something that is interesting and that helps me to write the review. What do I mean by that? For example, I could write 'Review of The Remains of the Day'. But that's boring and doesn't help me to write it. If I have a title like 'The Surprising Truth about The Remains of the Day' - well, I can already think of a way to write the last paragraph.

You'll see what I mean, I hope.

I'm ready to write it now! Here goes:

The Surprising Truth about The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day seems to be a very simple story. An elderly English butler borrows a car and drives to the coast to meet an old colleague. But is that all there is to it?

In fact, the story is as complicated as its main character. Mr Stevens is the perfect butler - obedient, skillful, and reserved. He is also secretly in love with the housekeeper, Miss Kenton. However, he is so bound by duty that he never tells her - never even gives her the slightest hint.

The key moment in the book comes when their employer becomes fascinated by the Nazi ideology and tells Mr Stevens to fire two young Jewish servants. Miss Kenton cries, while Mr Stevens carries out his task with no emotion. The writing at this point in the book is sublime - when you know that Stevens is in love with Kenton, his behaviour is mystifying. Why doesn't he at least tell her that he agrees with her?

Working out the answer to that question is one of the most rewarding quests in literature, and that's why I strongly recommend you read this book as soon as possible.

(202 words)

I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty good review!

It's not perfect though - I forgot to link the ending to the beginning. That's why I gave myself 5 minutes to check and change it!

All I have to do is reword the ending:

Finding out the truth about Mr Stevens is one of the most rewarding quests in literature, and that's why I strongly recommend you read this book as soon as possible.

That gives a 'thread' through the review, from start to finish.

There's also a really good review on on the imdb page. Take a look. (Specifically the one written by Ben Calmes.)

Do you have any questions about the review I wrote? Or about the process? Ask them in the section below and I will do my best to answer!


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