This is the 2nd part of a five part series of blog entries on the oral. please check through the blog for our other entries.
GENERAL POINTS TO REMEMBER AND THE DOCUMENT
The oral examination is common to both Higher and Ordinary Level. It consists of a conversation of approximately twelve minutes duration. Candidates have the option of bringing in a Document of their choice, which may be a picture, a newspaper or magazine article, a literary text or a project in French.
Marks are awarded for:
Pronunciation, (20 MARKS)
Vocabulary, (20 MARKS)
BASIC COMMUNICATIVE PROFICIENCY
Students are awarded marks for communicative proficiency, which simply put means that candidates are asked questions on a series of topics, and expected to speak in a way that a French speaker with no knowledge of English or Irish would understand, with little difficulty.
The following are the most common areas of questioning:
- Giving personal details, such as name, date of birth etc..
- Discussing family and home
- Describing your region or locality.
- Describing your school.
- Speaking about your part-time job or work in general.
- Stating which languages you speak.
- Future plans
- Past events
- Expressing feeling and attitudes
- Engaging in discussion. – this is how a student responds, shows a willingness to answer.
- Talking about your experience of learning French
- Speaking about the present-day culture associated with French.
- Being able to discuss similarities/differences between life in Ireland and France.
- Describe and discuss issues that transcend cultural divisions.
- Asking what a student would do in a given situation.
ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A WELL-PREPARED DOCUMENT
- You are assured that the content of your document will be discussed, allowing you to anticipate a certain portion of the exam.
- VOCABULARY: 20 marks are awarded for vocabulary. Having a well prepared document allows candidates use a rich and varied vocabulary on a wide range of subjects, particularly those who presented a well-chosen Document.
- PRONUNCIATION: 20 marks are awarded for pronunciation. When you are preparing your document, take the time to correctly pronounce the words. Ask your teacher to read it through with you, and highlight any words that you are having difficulty with, and then write those words phonetically, so that you will know how to pronounce them.
- STRUCTURE: 30 marks are awarded for structure. When you prepare a document in advance of the oral exam, you should be looking at how you are presenting your points. Could you use a pronoun instead of a noun to avoid repetition? The document is a great opportunity to learn how to say things in a different way, and use maybe a subjunctive or an infinitive structure. My advice is to write down what you want to say, and then try and say it differently. Your teacher is the best person to guide you here, as teachers have a great knowledge of the intricacies of the French language.
- COMMUNICATION: 30 marks are awarded for communication. This is YOUR exam, not anyone else’s. Forget what the others in your class are doing, and concentrate on yourself. When you walk into the exam centre, the examiner is only interested in what YOU have to say, and YOUR views, opinions and interests. Examiners will NEVER make reference to another candidate, or to general performance within the group. They will concentrate solely on the candidate sitting in front of them.
- Candidates who choose to prepare a document have the opportunity of speaking about
abstract or social problems such as alcohol, unemployment, homelessness or emigration. Due to effort on behalf of the candidates, they were able to and willing to give opinions about different facets of life, which would not necessarily be covered in the exam.
- Be different! Try to come up with a document that is not the same as those being done by others in your class. According to the Chief Examiner’s Report: “Examiners commented on a lack of authenticity in some class groups, e.g. where every candidate expressed a liking for the same TV programme, the same school subject, or the same film or book, and all repeated the same few lines about their school tour, how they spent the previous weekend, or what they did during the Easter holidays. At times, they all presented a document on the same theme. In such cases, candidates appeared to view the oral examination as a test of memory, rather than as a personal, individual conversation where the examiner gets to know the candidate and their opinions, and thus is able to determine his/her level of oral proficiency”.
- The oral exam is not a recital! you are not there to perform, but to engage with a trained professional, who is on your side!!
- Students are so worried about the speaking element, that they always fear the worst. Some candidates truly believe that examiners are there to catch them out, and present them with a myriad of abstract topics. This is simply scare-mongering!!
- The examiners will make reference to some of the points 1-20 above. The most important thing to remember is that the conversation is about YOU and your life.
- Imagine that there are 30 students being examined in your school, and that each one of you prepared exactly the same document. (It does happen!) How do you think that you will get on? Each student is awarded marks on their own merit, but in order to do well in the exam, your responses must be authentic and natural. If the whole class is going to go in and deliver the exact same “speech”, authenticity and spontaneity is lost. Why would you do that to yourself? Be original in your document, and choose a topic that genuinely interests you.
I personally think that the following is fool-proof method for the document.
- Choose a title interests you.
- Choose a title that has enough scope to engage a natural conversation.
- Try and link your subject matter to French or French culture. (This is not a requirement, but I always feel that it gives an extra dimension). Eg: if you love rugby, and you want to talk about a famous rugby player, perhaps bring in something about the Irish bid to host the Rugby World Cup, and how France was awarded the hosting.
- Link your pastime with a document. If you are into photography, research a famous French photographer, and how they have influenced the world of photography, or how Instagram is now the most popular forum for photographers.
- What are you hoping to do after school? Do you want to work in the fashion industry? Are there any French designers that have influenced you?
- Are you interested in science? How has science helped us? Can you link to any French scientist?
- If art is your passion, who in the artistic world has had a bearing on your style?
- Remember that you will be asked why you chose your document. This is an open question, and will lead the examiner into the heart of the document.
- You lead the conversation, but don’t just recite what you have learnt. Be willing to allow the examiner to interact with your document.
- The more interesting and off the beaten track your document is, the more chances of you really impressing the examiner.
- Show your picture/document to other people, and ask them what questions come to mind when they look at it. Learn how to ask the questions in French, so that you will have a better chance of understanding what is being asked of you in the exam.
- If you choose to speak about a concert for example, the examiner will possibly ask you about the whole experience, from buying the tickets, to travelling, to the atmosphere etc.
- Do not choose something that is too emotive for you. For example a family pet that is no longer with you, as you may get upset on the day.
- The document should be an extension of you, so pick something that is comfortable to speak about, and that you are really interested or concerned about.
- A couple of years ago, a student of mine chose to write about MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) as he was hoping to become a doctor, and was genuinely interested in the work done by this organisation. After the exam, he was delighted to have had the opportunity to speak about this, as the examiner was very interested in the topic.
- Finally, take your time. This is a conversation, not a race. Try to relax and remember above all else, the examiner is there to help you, not catch you out.
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FRENCH LEAVING CERT REVISION COURSES
If you would be interested in attending one of our French Leaving Cert Revision courses, please follow the link below for more information. All of our monthly courses take place from September to May and are held in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. Our Courses begin at 1pm and ends at 5pm. The cost is €60 and includes a 30 page booklet with exclusive French Notes content. During our revision courses, students learn how to write opinion pieces, Diary entries and/or the narrative (récit), learn active listening methodology, practice speaking and reading French comprehensions. They also do Translation exercises and study a specific area of grammar.