Exercise 6: Writing a Review (Ultimate Guide)

Exercise 6: Writing a Review (Ultimate Guide)

Exercise 6 of the Reading and Writing paper of the IGCSE English as a Second Language (ESL) exam (0510/0511/0991/0993) is always a formal or a semi-formal writing. It can be an article, an essay, a report, or a review.

In this article, you will discover how to write the perfect review that impresses the examiner and gets you the highest band.

So, what’s a review?

A review is a piece of writing someone writes expressing their opinion about something such as a new product or service that is usually published in a newspaper or a magazine.

Review writing could be for:

  1. Books, Movies, or TV shows
  2. Places such as hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, amusement parks, shopping centres, museums, gyms, etc.
  3. Events such as concerts, festivals, exhibitions, trips, etc. 
  4. Digital or physical products or services such as apps, games (video games, board games, etc.), websites, courses, products (such as electronics or appliances)

The main purpose of a review is to give your opinion about something. The review needs to engage the audience from the beginning to the end. As a side note, it’s better to be positive and write about whatever you are reviewing in an overall positive way since it will generally be easier to write; however, a negative review is also totally acceptable.

The tone and register of a review

The tone of the review can be personal and informal. If writing for adults the style may be more formal than if writing for teenagers. But in both cases, you should sound professional as if you know about the subject.

If the review is for the school magazine (and it mostly is), then the main audience is the students at your school. Therefore, the register should be informal to semi-formal but should avoid language that is too idiomatic and colloquial.

The ideal format of a review

Introduction: Provide general information about what is being reviewed

Body (2-3 paragraphs): Give your opinions and/or highlight interesting points about some aspects (e.g. the facilities of a museum, the special effects in a film, the quality of food/service in a restaurant, etc.)

Conclusion: Give your overall opinion and recommendation

Title

The title should include the name of what is being reviewed. Here are some examples:

  • Discover Your Talent — A Course Review
  • Samsung Galaxy S24 Review
  • Fitness Time: The Best Gym in Riyadh?
  • Book Review: The Alchemist

Don’t stress too much on the title as you can simply write the name of what you’re reviewing without any other details. For example: “VOX cinema”.

Introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to inform the reader about what is being reviewed and engage the reader to make them interested and continue reading.

The main components of an effective introduction are:

  1. Something to engage the reader from the beginning right away such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement highlighting a unique aspect of what you’re reviewing.
  2. General information about what is being reviewed. This will depend on what you’re reviewing. For example, if you are writing a film review, you should mention its name, genre and the director’s name.

You could also add details of when and with whom you watched/visited/attended this movie/cinema/course, etc., and a quick overall opinion, which hints to the reader whether the rest of your review is overall positive or negative.

Here is an example of an effective introduction:

“Do you love superfast rollercoasters and other exhilarating rides that make your hair stand on end? If so, then Sky Zone Amusement Park is a must-visit. My friends and I visited it recently, and we were blown away!”

Body

In the body,

  1. Mention more relevant details of what’s being reviewed
  2. Mention your personal opinion (what you liked and/or disliked), while providing evidence, reasons or examples. You can write entirely positively, entirely negatively or have a balanced approach

The details to include depend on what you’re reviewing. These will be discussed later.

Conclusion

The purpose of the conclusion is to give your overall opinion and recommendation.

In the conclusion, make sure to say whether you recommend this movie/book/product/service, etc. and to whom, stating why.

Here are some examples of useful concluding phrases:

  • In a nutshell, you should definitely read/watch/use …
  • All in all, I strongly/highly recommend …
  • On the whole, I wouldn’t recommend it (in view of the fact that … / because …)
  • Overall, it’s worth seeing/reading/using …
  • I strongly advise you (not) to …

+

  • It’s more suited for … / It will change the way you see… / Don’t miss it! / It’s absolutely worth a visit! / If you like …, then (the name of the movie/restaurant/course, etc.) is definitely for you! / If you’re looking for a …, don’t give it a second thought! / Or any other similar phrase.

Here is an example of an effective conclusion.

“I strongly recommend Sky Zone Park to anyone who wants to have an unforgettable experience whether alone, with friends or family. It’s absolutely worth a visit!”

Special types of review writing

Book review

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Summary of the book

Paragraph 3: What you liked OR disliked

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

OR

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Summary of the book

Paragraph 3: What you liked

Paragraph 4: What you disliked

Paragraph 5: Overall opinion and recommendation

Introduction

In the introduction,

  1. Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement about something bold in this book that makes the reader want to know more.
  2. Summarize the main background information of the book, for example, the book title, its genre (fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, etc.) and author’s name.

Here is an example of an effective book review introduction. “Have you ever been so inspired by a book that it completely changes your perception of life? If not, then I suggest you read “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.”

Body

In the 1st body paragraph, write an outline of the story (do not describe the whole story, especially the ending). Use the present tense.

Here are some useful phrases for this part of the review:

  • The plot focuses on/revolves around/involves …
  • Set in …, this marvelous story explains …
  • This is an enchanting story of …

In the 2nd (and 3rd) body paragraph(s), mention what you liked and/or disliked and state why, giving examples if possible.

You could write about:

  • The plot (captivating, entertaining, fascinating, thrilling, predictable, confusing, implausible, etc.)
  • The author’s writing style ( Does it suit the book’s genre?). You can write, for example, “The writer does a fantastic job in combining … with … // The writer skilfully combines … with …” // With the author’s visionary blend of … and …, the book … // The writer attempts to …, but fails miserably …)
  • What you learned
  • How the book made you feel? Were you satisfied by the book’s ending? Note: don’t mention the ending itself; just how it made you feel (e.g. The book was heart-touching// The book had me hypnotised! // It kept me absorbed from the beginning to the end! // I couldn’t stop reading it until the end! // I was impressed by… // What struck me most was… // , etc.)

Conclusion

In the final paragraph, give your overall opinion and recommendation (whether you recommend it or not, and if yes, to whom and why? If not, why not?).

Examples of concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Film Review

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Setting of the film and main plot

Paragraph 3: What you liked OR disliked.

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

OR

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Setting of the film and main plot

Paragraph 3: What you liked

Paragraph 4: What you disliked

Paragraph 5: Overall opinion and recommendation

Introduction

In the introduction,

  • Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement about something bold in this movie that makes the reader want to know more.
  • Mention general information about the movie, for example, the movie’s title, its genre (sci-fi, comedy, thriller, horror, etc.) and the director’s name.

Here is an example of an effective film review introduction:

“Are you looking for an intriguing action-packed film where you can turn off your brain and enjoy the ride? If so, then “London Has Fallen”, directed by Babak Najafi is the film for you!”

Body

In the 1st body paragraph, mention the setting of the film (place and time) and an overview of the plot, including the main character(s) and plot twists (if any). Don’t describe the full story, especially the ending. Use the present tense.

Here are some useful phrases for this part of the review.

  • The plot focuses on/revolves around/involves …
  • Set in (time and place), the movie …
  • … provides the setting for …
  • As the film opens, …

In the 2nd (and 3rd) body paragraph(s), mention what you liked and/or disliked about the film and state why, giving examples if possible. For example, you could write about:

  • The plot (captivating, entertaining, thrilling, fast-paced, predictable, confusing, implausible, etc.)
  • The acting (excellent/exceptional/remarkable/awful/unconvincing/weak, etc.)
  • The script (e.g. the script is dull/exciting/clever/witty, etc.)
  • The special effects (realistic, brilliant, spectacular, breathtaking, mediocre, terrible, etc.)
  • How the movie made you feel (the film literally brought tears to my eyes// The film was heart-touching// The film was heart-pounding // I was on the edge of my seat the whole time// I didn’t want to miss a scene! // I was impressed by… // What struck me most was… // By the final scene I was already half-asleep, etc.)

It’s also important to note that you should focus on the main things rather than writing about every aspect of the film. Writing a few well-developed points is better than many unjustified ones.

Conclusion

In the final paragraph, give your overall opinion and recommendation (whether you recommend it or not, and if yes, to whom and why? If not, why not? Is it suitable families? Why?).

Examples of concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Here are some useful expressions for describing a movie:

  • The film combines (suspense) with (horror) …
  • a must-see
  • a box-office success/failure
  • a blockbuster
  • a masterpiece
  • well-worth seeing
  • not to be missed

Important points to keep in mind

  • Include film-related vocabulary in your review, e.g. lead role, actors, director, plot, script, special effects, etc.
  • Any expression you use should be consistent with your opinion of the film. For example, if you’re writing positively about the film, it’s not appropriate to write “By the final scene I was already half-asleep”!

Place Review

Restaurant/Cafe Review

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked OR disliked (mention 2 points)

Paragraph 3: What you liked OR disliked (mention another 2 points)

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

OR

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked

Paragraph 3: What you disliked

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

The 2nd and 3rd paragraphs don’t have to be balanced. For example, in an overall positive review, you can write 3 points you liked about the restaurant and only 1 point you disliked

Introduction

In the introduction,

  1. Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement about something unique in this restaurant that makes the reader want to know more.
  2. Mention general information about the restaurant, for example, its name, its location, when it opened, why you visited it, and with whom you visited it (if any). Note that you don’t have to mention all these details and that some of them, such as its location or when it opened, can be included in the 2nd paragraph.

Body

In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, mention what you liked and/or disliked according to the format you choose.

You can write about:

  1. Location (the city? close to/far from? Is it easily accessible?)
  2. Its physical features (if any striking one, e.g. extreme size, unusual architectural shape, etc.)
  3. The food: type of food (fast-food, fine dining), food options (varied, limited), taste (delicious, mouth-watering, lip-smacking, scrumptious, appetizing // awful, overcooked, salty, etc.)
  4. Staff (polite, helpful, friendly, amiable // awful, rude, unskilled, careless, slow, etc.)
  5. Setting: décor (modern, contemporary, magnificent, etc.), atmosphere (lively, soothing // dull, crowded, noisy, etc.)
  6. Cleanliness (immaculate, spotless, tidy // filthy, dirty, untidy, etc.)
  7. Price (expensive, exorbitant, overpriced // inexpensive, affordable, reasonable, low-priced, etc.)

Here are some useful phrases for this part of the review:

  • Located in …, this (sumptuous, luxurious, sophisticated, impeccable, exceptional, or any other suitable adjective) restaurant offers …
  • As you enter the place, you …
  • Just as you step in, …
  • The ambience of the restaurant was …
  • The menu offers …
  • What I particularly enjoyed was …
  • I was pleasantly surprised by …
  • The best thing about it is …
  • However, I disliked …
  • I was disappointed by …
  • I was extremely dissatisfied by …
  • What you may find unfavourable is …

Describe the restaurant in the present tense and describe your experience in the past tense. Remember to write about the important parts of the experience, not every detail.

Conclusion

In the final paragraph, mention your overall opinion and recommendation (Do you recommend it or not? If yes, to whom and why? If not, why not? Is it suitable for families?).

Examples of concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Other places

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked OR disliked (mention 2 points)

Paragraph 3: What you liked OR disliked (mention another 2 points)

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

OR

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked

Paragraph 3: What you disliked

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

Introduction

In the introduction,

  1. Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an interesting point about it, such as its exploding popularity, its long-awaited opening, etc.
  2. Mention general information about the place, for example, its name, its location, when it opened, why you visited it, and with whom you visited it. Note that you don’t have to mention all these details and that some of them, such as location, can be included in the 2nd paragraph as part of your opinion about the place. For example, the following sentence could be used to begin the 2nd body paragraph: “Located right at the heart of (city name), (place) is easily accessible by car.”

Body

In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, mention what you liked and/ or disliked according to the format you choose.

You can write about:

  1. Location (the city? close to/far from? Is it easily accessible?)
  2. Its physical features (if any striking one, e.g. extreme size, unusual architectural shape, etc.)
  3. Atmosphere (lively, soothing // dull, crowded, noisy, etc.)
  4. Cleanliness (immaculate, spotless, tidy // filthy, dirty, untidy, etc.)
  5. Facilities (depends on the place you’re reviewing.  For example, in a gym review, you could write about the variety of gym equipment available and whether there’s personal coaching; and in a shopping centre, you could write about the variety of shops available and whether there’s a children’s play area.)
  6. Price (expensive, exorbitant, overpriced // inexpensive, affordable, reasonable, low-priced, etc.)

Here are some useful phrases for this part of the review:

  • Located in …, this (sumptuous, luxurious, sophisticated, impeccable, exceptional, or any other suitable adjective) (place) offers …
  • As you enter the place, you …
  • Just as you step in, …
  • The ambience of the place was …
  • The place offers …
  • What I particularly enjoyed was …
  • I was pleasantly surprised by …
  • The best thing about it is …
  • However, I disliked …
  • I was disappointed by …
  • I was extremely dissatisfied by …
  • What you may find unfavourable is …

Describe the place in the present tense and describe your experience in the past tense. Remember to write about the important parts of the experience, not every detail.

Conclusion

In the final paragraph, mention your overall opinion and recommendation (Do you recommend it or not? If yes, to whom and why? If not, why not? Is it suitable for families? Why?).

Examples for concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Event Review

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked OR disliked (mention 2 points)

Paragraph 3: What you liked OR disliked (mention another 2 points)

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

OR

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: What you liked (mention 2 points)

Paragraph 3: What you disliked (mention 2 points)

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

Introduction

In the introduction,

  1. Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement about something unique in this event that makes the reader want to know more.
  2. Mention general information about the event, for example, its name, location, when it’s held, why you visited it, and with whom you visited it. Some of these details can also be mentioned in the following paragraph.

Body

In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, mention what you liked and/or disliked according to the format you choose.

You can write about:

  1. Location (the city? close to/far from? Is it easily accessible?)
  2. The program of the event (For example, what band will be playing in the concert? What’s their album name? What will be displayed in the exhibition?)
  3. The performance, including the stage lightening and the musicians’ attire (if it’s a concert or a festival)
  4. Atmosphere and sounds (lively, boisterous // dull, crowded, noisy, etc.)
  5. How did it make you and the audience feel? (fascinated, excited, mesmerized, captivated, enthusiastic// didn’t live up to my expectations, dull, etc.)
  6. Ticket price (expensive, exorbitant, overpriced // inexpensive, affordable, reasonable, low-priced, etc.)

Conclusion

In the conclusion, mention your overall opinion and recommendation (Do you recommend attending this event or not? If yes, to whom and why? If not, why not?)

Examples for concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Product Review

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Positive aspects of the product

Paragraph 3: Negative aspects of the product

Paragraph 4: Overall opinion and recommendation

Introduction

In the introduction,

  1. Start with something to engage the reader such as a rhetorical question or an attractive statement about something unique in this product that makes the reader want to know more.
  2. Mention general information about the product, for example, its name, the brand name, and its release date. You could also include when you bought it, why you bought it and your first impression.

Body

In the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, mention the positive and/or negative aspects of the product according to the format you choose.

You can write about:

  1. The product’s core features and your comment on them
  2. The benefits and uses of the product
  3. Any notable improvements or changes to previous versions (if applicable), and your comment on them (Are they useful? Not many? Disappointing?)
  4. Price (mention its price and comment on it: expensive, exorbitant, overpriced // inexpensive, affordable, reasonable, low-priced, etc.)

Conclusion

In the conclusion, mention your overall opinion and recommendation (Is it worth buying? Why? Why not? Who are the target users?).

Examples of concluding phrases have been mentioned earlier.

Points to keep in mind

Dos:

  • Organize your review into 4-5 paragraphs. Leave a line between paragraphs or indent the first line of each new paragraph. Don’t do both!
  • Take care of spelling, punctuation, and grammar. This is important as the examiner will look at the accuracy of your language.
  • Use a wide range of cohesive devices and linking words. Here are some examples:
  • Addition: and, also, as well as, plus, what’s more, apart from that, not only … but also …, but that’s not all, above all, and best of all, on top of that, one of the best things …
  • Contrast: but, yet, though, while, however
  • Reasoning: because, as, so, that’s why, for this reason,
  • Giving examples: for example, like
  • Highlighting and stressing: specifically, especially
  • Use a combination of simple, compound, and complex sentences. A series of long sentences will make your writing difficult to read, and a series of short simple sentences will make your writing boring to read. Balance is the key.
  • Place longer sentences next to shorter ones for a dramatic effect.
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary, including some advanced and less commonly used ones. Don’t use common adjectives such as happy, nice, bad, sad, etc. Try to think of more advanced and interesting alternatives such as ecstatic, pleasant, terrible, heartbroken, etc. We recommend reading a lot of samples to improve your vocabulary. You can find them on our samples page.
  • Use a variety of adjectives and adverbs
  • Include a range of topic-related vocabulary to show that you have a good understanding of the topic. For example, if you’re writing a film review, you could include vocabulary such as “director, “cast”, “special effects”, “scene”, “protagonist”, “blockbuster”, etc.
  • Use advanced punctuation sparingly (1-3 in the whole review), for example, colon (:), semicolon (;) and em dash (—).
  • Aim to complete towards the maximum word limit (approximately 160 words). Exceeding the word limit slightly (15-20 words) is fine as long as you write accurately and complete the task within the correct time. If you exceed the word limit by any number of words, no marks will be cut directly, but you increase your chances of making more mistakes and spending more time than required for this exercise, which may affect your mark indirectly. If you write towards the lower limit or below, you are highly unlikely to achieve the highest band for Content as your content is not well developed.
  • Develop your content by including reasons, evidence or examples to support the opinions expressed.
  • Spend about 30 minutes on this exercise: the initial 5 minutes for planning and the last 2-3 minutes for checking your work for simple spelling and grammatical mistakes.
  • Include your audience throughout by using pronouns such as “we”, “us” and “you”.
  • Use phrasal verbs, examples: pick up, left off, takes you on, etc.
  • Use contractions but stay away from ones which are too informal such as wanna, gonna, etc.
  • Write legibly
Don’ts
  • Avoid writing very simple sentences with simple vocabulary, e.g. “The film is very nice. The actors are also good, and the story is also great.”
  • Avoid repetition of vocabulary and beginning your sentences with the same words. Sometimes students write 3 or more sentences in a row starting with “The” or “I”!
  • Avoid very formal linking words and vocabulary like “moreover”, “furthermore”, etc. as this may have a negative effect on the target audience (i.e. other students if you’re writing for your school magazine).
  • Avoid abbreviations and slang (texting language) such as, wanna, gonna, etc.
  • Avoid listing (firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.). If necessary, you might use other informal alternatives to “firstly”, such as “To start with”, “For a start”, or “For starters”, but listing is not preferred whatsoever.
  • Avoid including too many different ideas in your review. It is better to include fewer ideas and develop one or two in greater depth rather than writing many ideas which are not well-developed.

Final note

Practice a lot of past papers and get feedback on your writing. If you don’t have a teacher, reread these notes and check for what you have done right and what you haven’t. Read some of the samples on the samples page to see what you have just learned effectively used and incorporated in a review.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our samples page and if you find this helpful, please share it with your friends.

Good luck! Go get that A*!

10 responses to “Exercise 6: Writing a Review (Ultimate Guide)”

  1.  avatar
    Anonymous

    Amazing notes!!!!! Absolutely love them!
    However, I just have two small questions:
    – In book review, if its not a story or something like that, for instance, its a course book can I still use the introduction
    “Are you looking for a book to help your English go from…….? Then …. is for you. Written by………….., and was published back in……”
    Is it appropriate ?

    – How strict are the examiners? Considering this is ESL but the grade boundaries are extremely high.
    Thank you!

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your kind words! We’re glad you found them helpful!

      Yes, you can still use the same introduction regardless of the type of book you’re reviewing. It’s also worth noting that exam questions will never limit you to reviewing a specific book; you can review whatever book you want. This is also the case for all types of reviews.

      Examiners are neither strict nor lenient; they evaluate your answer based on the specific criteria outlined in the mark scheme, so you get your marks based on the maximum level of competence you showed in your answer. With dedicated practice and a good understanding of what the examiner is looking for in your answer, you can definitely get top marks despite the high grade thresholds.

      1.  avatar
        Anonymous

        Thanks alot for the response, much appreciated.

  2.  avatar
    Anonymous

    Hi ESL Kings, your notes are detailed and the suggested sentence frames are well developed; many thanks.

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Thank you for your wonderful feedback! We truly appreciate it!

  3. Ayaan avatar
    Ayaan

    I used all of your notes and they have always helped me. I am giving exam in mayjune 2024. I wanted to ask you that in Place review, Resturant/cafe review section in the second option in paragraph 4 is it important to write opinion and recommendation in one paragraph or you can write in 2 seperate paragraphs?

    1. ESL Kings team avatar

      Hi Ayaan, thank you for your comment. We are glad our notes are helpful!

      Regarding your question, your final opinion and recommendation are typically included together in the final paragraph of the review since they’re strongly correlated. You recommend or do not recommend something based on your overall opinion about it, so there’s no need to write them in two separate paragraphs. In fact, you can even just mention your recommendation, which implies your opinion.

      So, while your final opinion and recommendation can be included in separate paragraphs, it is not recommended for the previously stated reason, as well as the limited word count of the review.

      1. Ayaan avatar
        Ayaan

        Okay thanks! Sorry for the late reply. I was busy practicing my upcoming speaking exam on 19th/20th April.

        1. ESL Kings team avatar

          You’re welcome 🙂
          It’s ok. Good luck with your exam!

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