PART 5 LEAVING CERT ORAL EXAM – STRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATION
PART 5 LEAVING CERT FRENCH ORAL EXAM – STRUCTURE AND COMMUNICATION
This is the final blog in a series of 5 about the Leaving cert French exam. In this blog entry, we have taken the Chief Examiner’s Reports from both 2010 and 2016 and looked at how candidates performed in both the Structure and Communication components of the exam, which between them, account for 60 marks out of a possible 100.
We hope that you have benefited from our blog series on the oral exam, and welcome any comments or feedback to Liz at [email protected]
Bon courage pour cette épreuve!
STRUCTURE 30% OF THE ORAL EXAMINATION
As with other areas of performance, candidates’ ability to express themselves accurately and grammatically varied widely. Many candidates had a good grasp of the main tenses, i.e. Present, Passé Composé, and Future. More able candidates were able to use complex tenses, such as the Imperfect, the Conditional and the Subjunctive, along with subordinate clauses and idiomatic phrases.
However, certain candidates were unable to differentiate between the tenses, pronouncing all verb endings the same, thus making it impossible for the examiner to determine which tense was being attempted. Negatives proved difficult for many candidates, particularly in the Passé Composé, e.g. je n’ai jamais visité / je ne suis pas allé.
The verbs c’est and il y a, as well as avoir and être, were sometimes confused, especially when discussing age, e.g. je suis 18 ans. Questions posed in the Future Tense were often not recognised by candidates. The rules for agreement of adjectives, even in words where the gender was obvious, e.g. elle est sportive, il est beau, ma sœur, were regularly not respected. Expressions of quantity, e.g. beaucoup de / trop de were often incorrect, and basic errors, such as à le instead of au, and de les instead of des, regularly occurred. In many cases, grammatical errors impeded communication.
This was not the most impressive feature of the average candidate’s performance.
There were however some candidates who displayed a wonderful grasp of French Grammar.
Example of very good candidates use of grammar was:
Ability to use basic tenses very well and manipulate other verb forms, such as:
The present subjunctive
Accurate use of simple pronouns
Accurate use of negatives
However some candidates found it difficult to formulate short, simple sentences.
Candidates are expected to manipulate the present, past & future tenses with ease.
They should be able to introduce simple pronouns, adjectives and prepositions appropriately.
Verbs are still a major issue for some candidates.
Some candidates only answered in the present tense form of the verb
Some candidates used “je” + infinitive in answering all their questions.
Correct manipulation of the negative in compound tenses was rare!
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The more able candidates were able to sustain a natural conversation in French, dealing with topics ranging from their everyday life to more abstract topics requiring some discussion. These candidates understood virtually all questions. They did not reject any topic proffered by the examiner, and were willing and able to respond in a spontaneous and authentic manner. They expressed their opinions freely, and had the ability to develop a subject without needing constant prompting. However, other candidates were hesitant to venture beyond the comfort zone of their prepared material, and instead relied on long sections of learned-off material, often poorly pronounced.
If the examiner intervened gently, in order to try to elicit a more authentic response, many candidates persisted with their prepared paragraphs, rather than genuinely trying to take part in a conversation. They did not appear to have the necessary strategies to overcome any gaps in vocabulary or lack of opinions on a particular subject. 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 Less able candidates often misunderstood the questions, or needed these to be reformulated. Often, they focused on one word instead of on the whole sentence, and therefore their answers were often inappropriate. However, examiners noted a great willingness to try and converse, even from candidates who struggled with comprehension and who lacked the necessary basic 15 vocabulary and knowledge of structures to construct full answers, and these candidates were rewarded for their efforts.
- In order to score highly here, candidates must demonstrate an ability to sustain a natural, flowing & comprehensible conversation in French over 12 minutes.
- Conversation deals with: basic details of candidate’s day-to-day life
- Expressions of feelings, impressions & opinions
- The candidate should have no difficulty in understanding virtually all questions
- Give a spontaneous & authentic reply.
- The candidate should rarely reject any topic proffered by the examiner.
- There should be NO recourse to long extracts learnt off by heart.
- The candidate should be willing to take up the challenge of moving beyond the realm of their prepared topics into other related areas.
- French used should be easily understood by a French native with no English.
- Good pronunciation is a prerequisite for effective communication.
Failure to achieve high marks in communication was attributed in some way to the following:
- Unwillingness or hesitancy of candidate in going beyond what he/she has learnt despite gentle encouragement by the examiner.
- Over-reliance of long sections, of learnt-off material.
- Tendency to misinterpret the question
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.