How can I prepare for the French oral exams?

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Best way to prepare for an Oral exam:

Practise speaking

Have as much conversation in French as possible, with friends or a tutor (it doesn’t necessarily need to be on the topics, any conversation in French will help). If you can’t find anyone, talk to yourself in French so you get used to expressing thoughts in French quickly.

Read aloud, and if you come across words you are unsure of, check the pronunciation – either use an online dictionary which has audio clips of the words, (Pronounce like a French on YouTube is good for this) or ask a tutor/teacher/native speaker. This is particularly important for key vocab and words which sound, or are spelt, very similarly eg soleil, sommeil, oreille.

Learn set phrases for expressing your opinions in a more interesting and sophisticated way (don’t just stick to Je pense que…) eg Je suis fermement convaincu(e) que…

Similarly, learn some set phrases which contain impressive grammar structures, so you can use these confidently and accurately – si clauses, subjunctives, conditional, y, en, dont etc. Either make lists of general ones, such as subjunctive triggers, or phrases that link to the subject.

Practise listening You need to do this so you can understand your examiner easily (they will speak very clearly and help you understand, but it’s a good idea to practise listening anyway to hold a more fluent conversation). Listening to native speakers also improves your accent and pronunciation.

Using media is the easiest way of doing this - find a French artist you like and listen to their music. Alternatively, listen to French radio, for example RFI which is the French National news. Watching French TV and films is another easy way of practising. Walter Presents, on 4od, is a channel of foreign programmes and has good subtitled French dramas and comedies (I recommend Kabul Kitchen)

Finally, prepare for the debate – a large proportion of the marks go to content so you need to have things to say.

Read around the topics and understand the main for and against arguments (French newspapers, such L’Obs and Le Monde, often have good articles covering topics on the syllabus, but you can also do research in English to get ideas).

Come up with counterarguments to the things you might say, so you have some quick responses to use if your ideas are challenged.

 I found it useful to make written notes with 3 main points for, and 3 main points against, each subtopic. However, don’t memorise huge paragraphs as the examiner will interrupt you if you start to recite prelearnt things, so learn your points, and try to phrase them differently each time you practise them out loud.

Know your opinions on the topics before you go into the exam so you don’t waste time deciding whether you are for or against nuclear power/immigration/genetic engineering etc

If you are discussing books, films, plays etc, try to find a list of what you are likely to be asked about (look on transcripts from example papers on the exam board website). Practise talking generally about these things, identify the ones you struggle with and make notes – ask a tutor or look online if you need more inspiration for what to say.  

Most importantly, you need to be able to express ideas and opinions.

Also make key vocab lists: knowing subject specific vocabulary is essential, and will be helpful in the exam paper as well. I found Quizlet useful for making, organising and learning vocab lists.

Know the topics well so no matter which way the conversation goes, you will have something to say.

Do a mock exam with someone you don’t normally practise French with, or someone you don’t know well (eg a teacher who doesn’t teach you, a tutor, a friend of a friend who speaks the language) – although practising with friends is very useful, talking to someone you know less well is better practise, as it will make the mock seem more formal and more like speaking to an examiner, who you won’t have met before.

Eleanor F. GCSE French tutor, A Level French tutor, 13 plus  French t...

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is an online A Level French tutor with MyTutor studying at Birmingham University

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