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Our 7th Annual Student Review Contest


Below are answers to your questions about writing, judging, the rules and teaching with this contest. Please read these thoroughly and, if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, post your query in the comments or write to us at

Questions About Writing

What is a review?

In a cultural review, a reviewer experiences a work of art or culture, asserts an opinion about it, and backs up his or her claims with compelling evidence.

In this sense, a review is like an argumentative essay. This is what makes a review more than just a book report: a reviewer has to read (or watch, or listen to, or experience) a work closely; analyze it and understand its context; and explain what is or isn’t meaningful, interesting or relevant about it.

In other words, don’t simply summarize or describe the work you are reviewing. State an opinion and support it with details to make your case.

How can I make my review stand out?

We’re primarily looking for reviews that assert an opinion about the work being reviewed — whether positive or negative — and have something fresh, meaningful and interesting to say about it. But we’re also looking for writing that is vivid, engaging and fun to read.

A few pieces of advice:

  • Express an opinion. Your review should both tell your audience about the work you are reviewing and communicate your intellectual, emotional and visceral experience of it.

  • Back up your opinions with relevant and descriptive details from the work itself. The more specific you can be, the better.

  • Bring readers into the experience with you by using sensory images. Metaphors, similes, descriptive adjectives, strong verbs, vivid imagery that draws on all five senses — these are the difference between a good review and a great one.

  • Be mindful of your audience. You are writing a review for The New York Times, so your readers will include a broad cross-section of people and you’ll need to give appropriate context for those who might not be familiar with the work you’re reviewing. At the same time, be sure to take into account the creative work’s target audience. For example, if you are reviewing a video game intended for 10-year-old girls, aim to write a review that will be useful for 10-year-old girls (and their parents).

I’m not sure what to write about. Where should I start?

To help you understand the role that criticism plays in your life already and hone in on a topic that feels interesting and meaningful to you, you might start by responding to one or all four of these writing prompts:

Then, read some reviews. You can find many in the Arts section of The Times, in your local or school newspaper, or on your favorite website. You can also check out the winners of this contest from previous years (linked in the Resources section above).

Is there anything I can’t write about?

We invite you to review anything that fits into a category of creative expression covered by The Times. For example, you could review BTS’s latest album because The Times reviews music; but you could not review Santa Cruz decks and wheels because The Times does not review skateboards.


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