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CAE Review | C1 Advanced | 14 Key Steps To Success

CAE Review

Almost every day students ask me "Rory, how can I answer the C1 Advanced: CAE Review question in the exam?" However, before answering this question. Let's first answer another question, "what is a CAE Review?"

A CAE Review is a writing task from part 2 of the C1 Advanced (CAE) writing exam. However, reviews do not always appear in the exam. This is because in part 2 you write only one answer from three different questions and the three questions are based on 5 different writing tasks.

So, in part 2, there are 3 questions, but these are 5 writing tasks that examiners can select from. Mathematically, there is a 3 in 5 or 60% chance that the review will appear in the exam. On top of this, 'emails' and 'letters' (2 other writing tasks) won't often appear together in the same exam. So, realistically, there is a 3 out of 4 or 75% chance of having a C1 Advanced Review question.

Confusing? Tell me about it. But I like those odds. If my maths in the paragraph above is incorrect, please write a comment at the bottom of the page! I'm an English teacher, not a Maths teacher 😉

CAE Use of English Tip: Notice how I used the word 'incorrect' in the paragraph above my photo? Make sure you study prefixes before the exam as you'll probably be tested on these! They most often appear in the Use of English paper. There's a useful page on prefixes in this book >>

Often students don't know where to begin with review writing, but luckily, you found me.

This page will lay out how to prepare for and write a review to get the examiners jumping up and down with joy.

Answering this question well, might affect whether you pass or fail the C1 Advanced exam. So make sure you follow the information on this page to ensure you get the highest marks possible!

CAE Exam Tip: Did you see I used the phrasal verb 'lay out' a couple of paragraphs ago? 'Lay out' is another way to say, 'display' or 'show'. Whenever you're reading English writing, make sure you watch out for collocations and phrasal verbs like this as they are tested a lot in the exam. My recommendation is to have a little notebook and add new phrasal verbs and collocations to it every time you encounter them. If you don't know what a collocation is, here is a quick video explaining.

Right, enough prittle prattle (informal way of saying 'idle talk').

Examiners' Marking Criteria

If you understand how the examiners mark your review, you will know how to get high marks for each criterion. This is imperative if you want to pass the CAE review.

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How to pass C1 Advanced CAE Writing Part 2 Review

Write down important notes from the video below in the relevant fields of this worksheet. You should keep this worksheet open in a separate internet tab and keep adding information to it from the rest of this page.

CAE Review Video Summary and Transcript

I hope you enjoyed the video above. Some students prefer to learn by reading rather than watching videos and so I thought it would be useful to outline the most important parts of the video for you. These are the steps you should follow if you want to pass the C1 Review writing:

Before the Exam:

  1. Watch and understand how examiners mark the CAE writing paper (see this video).
  2. Learn and remember what the examiners want from a CAE review (see 'review advice' below).
  3. Do lots of practice examples. Use sample exam papers to help with this. If you are doing a computer based exam, make sure you write your practice answers on computer. If you are doing a paper based exam, make sure you write with a pen or pencil on a sheet of paper. When you have finished your practice answer, count how many words it is. If it is within the word limit, remember how much space it has used on the page. If you do this a few times, you will know approximately how long your writing needs to be in the exam and you do not need to waste time counting how many words you've written.


During the exam:

  1. Spend the first 2 minutes reading the question and underlining the important information and who the target reader is (see 'review question' below).
  2. Spend 5 minutes planning your answer. Think about the type of language you will use and how you will link your key ideas together (see 'CAE review plan' below).
  3. Take 30-35 minutes to write your answer. While writing, think about the type of language you will use (see 'CAE review vocabulary' below). Examiners like to see you use complex grammatical structures and vocabulary, even if they are not executed perfectly. Make sure you answer all the required parts of the question. When you make a point, try to back it up with further information and focus on how you can link your points together nicely.
  4. Save 3-8 minutes to read over your work at the end. Try to read your work from an outside perspective. Make sure that the points you want to make are clear and obvious. Sometimes they are obvious to the person who wrote them, but not to a person who is reading the work for the first time. Have a look at this page for some common errors which students make at C1 Advanced.


CAE Review Advice

I would advise adding the most important bits of information from this section to your worksheet here.
CAE Review
This is from a Handbook which Cambridge instruct teachers to use when preparing their students. You can learn this yourself and be in exactly the same place as a teacher. I truly believe that you can train yourself to pass the exam if you know the right resources to use and you can access this document here.

What this shows us is that you need to use descriptive language but you also need to tailor your writing to the target reader. Think about this when deciding what type of language to use (see 'review vocabulary' below) and whether or not your ideas are appropriate. Try to practise with review questions which target different readers. Write and Improve is a good website with a variety of questions.
CAE Review
This is also good advice. When you are reading different types of reviews, try to check how the language differs from one review to another depending on the target reader. Check to see if you can find any reviews written by published or well known authors. If you find any of these reviews, check whether they give recommendations and try to copy the style of these and the language they use in your own writing.

When practising before the exam, focus on the descriptive and explanatory language you use.

CAE Review Example

CAE Review Question

These are the words I would underline from this question.

So, from the words I've underlined, see if you can answer these questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. Who is the target reader?
  2. What are you reviewing.
  3. What are they key points you need to address?


  1. The target reader is a website.
  2. You are reviewing a book or film about a person who has made an important contribution to society.
  3. There are 2 key points you need to address:
    1. Did you learn anything new about this person's life?
    2. Did the book or film give you a better understanding as to why this person did what they did?


CAE Review Task - Plan

So with those points in mind, I'd like you to write down a plan for this review here.

It is really important that you do this because when you've done that, you can compare it with my review plan below.

In the exam I would recommend trying to write a review of something real as this will be a lot easier to write about.


My CAE Review Plan

Here is a plan I made for this question. Don't worry if yours is very different, this is just how I would write my plan to help me in the exam.

Language: neutral but engaging.

Film: The Aviator - Howard Hughes, aviation.


Introduction (60 words) -
Capture audience with a question.
State what I'm going to talk about.

First paragraph (80 words) - address point 1.
Didn't know much about Howard Hughes before watching.
Learnt that he became very famous and had many celebrity friends.
Learnt that he suffered from mental problems.

Second paragraph (80 words) - address point 2.
He was fanatical, an adventurer/explorer with BIG dreams.
He was a perfectionist.
Extra point if needed: Was it about beating the competition? I don't think so.

Conclusion (30 words) -
Recommendation -

A good film for a number of reasons. Although maybe just as much for personal reasons, this person made a big impact.
It goes into the psychology and you get to see depth of character.

C1 Advanced Review Answer

c1 advanced review answer

Write down the mistakes you found in the answer above on this page >>

Examiners' Assessment Scale Template

Complete the assessment scale below based on the answer above. You can complete an online version of this assessment scale here >>


Mark (1-5)



Communicative Achievement





Student's Answer With My Corrections

Did you know that a simple book can change the way you perceive (remove the word ‘the’ here because you are speaking about life in general) life? No sooner had (you should write ‘had’ here because you started reading before you ‘realised’ which was in the past) I started to read 5 a.m Club than (you need to write ‘than’ here) I realized that something in my life needed/had to (I think this should also be in the past, you read in the past then you realised your life had to change) change. I would like to introduce you few line about this (you should remove the words 'few line about this' and replace it with 'to this, ') such a wonderful book and how it (you should repeat the subject 'it' here) increased my productivity on a daily basis (we normally say 'a daily basis' rather than 'my daily basis').

On the one hand, I have learnt how I can manage my time practising (you should say 'practising' with an 's' rather than a 'c' here because we are using the verb form of 'practice' not the noun form. This is a very common mistake which students and even native English speakers make) the morning person routine. This routine consists of waking up at 5 am every day ('consists of' is an example of a collocation. We use lots of collocations in English. If you don't know what a collocation is, watch this old video I made. I give lots more examples of typical C1 Advanced collocations in my membership website). Honestly, I (remove 'was') struggled the first time (remove 'which') I read about that because I never thought that I would be capable of doing it (you should always say capable of + verbing). As it is said: ‘If you want, you can’ and it’s what I did. I was able to wake up at 5am, breaking my daily routine, and setting a new habit which took me 21 days to adopt (you could also say 'which took 21 days until I adopted it'. Make sure you know the difference between 'adopt' and 'adapt').

On the other hand, I learnt that if I would like to take advantage of my time, I should follow some productivity techniques which help (be careful not to jump between present and past verb tenses) me to complete all my daily goals. (It might be worth revising 'would like to have + past participle and 'should have + past participle). Sounds easy, but it is not. I started creating a calendar where I put blocks of 1 hours during my working hours. Then, I selected blocks where my concentration was higher, and I assigned the most critical tasks to these hours. For the rest of the blocks, I assigned the remaining tasks which were less important. It is wonderful the way I can complete tasks now!

After 21 days, I realized that my daily routine had changed a lot! (It is better to use past perfect in the last sentence because your routine changed before the realisation). I discovered that I had (had?) more time to spend with my family plus covering all the my daily tasks successfully. Would you like to learn the daily routine of the author of this book? Do not miss the opportunity, and follow him on his social networks.


This is a good attempt at the writing task. Although you have made some language related errors, you have tried to use a good range of language which you will be rewarded for in the exam.

Examiner's Assessment Scale With My Comments



Mark (1-5)




This review focusses on what you learnt about your own life rather than what you learnt about the author's life.

You miss the second key point of the review which is 'why this person made their important contribution'.

If you make it more clear that you are addressing this point in your answer and if you change the main subject of the review from yourself to the author, you will get higher marks.

Communicative Achievement


The conventions of review writing are used well. There are clear paragraphs and a strong conclusion which leaves the reader wanting to read this book.

Adding a title to the review would be a good addition.

The register and tone are consistent with writing a review, slightly informal with a subjective tone 'Sounds easy, but it is not.' You back up your statements with evidence and expand your points well.

The clear paragraphing and strong introduction and conclusion help to keep the reader engaged and help with the overall flow of the review.



This review is well organised with clear paragraphing which help main points are clearly introduced: 'on the one hand', 'on the other hand'.

You introduce the broader ideas well in the introduction 'I realised something in my life had to change' you then get more specific talking about adopting the 'morning person routine' and creating blocks in your calendar. You then go back to the main idea in the conclusion that your 'daily routine had changed a lot'.



There is a range of relevant vocabulary and this is used to communicate the ideas well.

There is a good attempt at using simple and more complex grammatical structures, including less common words and phrases 'no sooner...'. There are some errors with the language and sometimes these can hinder the flow of the writing and make it tricky for the reader to follow the passage easily.

You have used good informal language, appropriate for a review, including asking the reader questions for example. You have also used good linking words and phrases to help structure your writing and add emphasis to your points 'Honestly, I...'

There is a little confusion with some past verb tenses but these do not impede communication.


C1 Review - Pass or Fail

Let's add up the marks:

Content: 1/5

Communicative achievement: 4/5

Organisation: 4/5

Language: 2/5

Total: 11/20

Remember there is an examiner's assessment criteria video above which you should watch if you have forgotten how examiners mark your writing.

This review is part 2 of the CAE writing paper. If we assume the student got 12/20 for part 1, the essay, then they would have got 22/40 in total.

This would mean the student would just fail this section of the exam by 2 marks. You need 24/40 to pass this exam paper. You can still pass the exam even if you fail one section as long as your average across all the exam papers is high enough. Page 5 of this document gives more detail on CAE exam marks.

C1 Advanced Review Vocabulary

"Did you know.....?" - It's good to ask a question in the review to make the reader more interested in what you're saying.

"...I really recommend + verbing"

"I highly recommend + verbing"

"must-see" - we use this phrase when we state that somebody must watch a film or television series.

"give it a miss" - this means do not watch or read the book/film/television series.

"It will have you in hysterics" - this means when you cannot stop laughing.

"I advise you..."

" a great account of..." - this means the book/film summarises or describes something very well. You can switch the word 'great' for a different adjective to give the phrase a different meaning.

" a remarkable performance as..." - this is normally used to talk about good acting by a particular person.

"the plot was dull..." - this means the story line was boring.

"the acting..."

"the character..."

"one strength/weakness..."


What To Do Next

    1. Read my CAE Writing Samples e-book. In the book you will find 21 sample writings that my students sent me. I marked the writings based on the examiner assessment scale and gave each writing my feedback and critique. Take a look now >>
    2. Register for my website and receive more information and videos on CAE reviews.
    3. If you become a member, you can see me (and an examiner) critique another C1 Advanced review writing. My membership site also shows you how to pass every type of writing you might face in the exam, along with examples and other practice exercises. I am constantly updating and improving my membership website. It currently offers you the best tips and techniques to prepare yourself for every part of the CAE exam. Here is what one Spanish student about the website: "Muy satisfecha con el curso, tanto por las explicaciones del profesor como con la claridad y utilidad de los contenidos." Lucia. ***** Start here >>
    4. Send a CAE Review to my Cambridge writing exam correction service >> I will mark it for you and give feedback.

Classroom Activities

Here are some online instructions and forms for you and your students to complete on computer.

If you prefer to print out worksheets for the classroom, the instructions below will be better for you:

    1. Complete this worksheet with the most important information from the video and advice above.
    2. Read this example review question then write a plan for it here. You should try to do this within 5 minutes.
    3. Print and read this example review answer. Write down any mistakes you find.
    4. Compare your mistakes with the ones I found here.
    5. Complete this assessment scale for the review.
    6. How similar is your assessment scale to mine?


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