Speaking

If you are doing your GCSE from 2011 onwards you will do controlled assessments. This section has all the info you need to know for talking your way through the assessments.

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Every time you speak in your language class you’re improving your fluency, accuracy and confidence all in preparation for the words to just flow out when it comes to actually doing the oral assessments.

The oral assessment are also great preparation for later in life when you’re bound to be involved in speaking out loud to loads of people in all sorts of situations: at school giving a class presentation, at work chairing a meeting, at a wedding giving the best man’s speech. These are all pretty nerve racking situations but that’s life. Remember your teacher and us have all been in the same situation.

How to revise for the oral assessments

Most of your revision and practice for the oral exam will happen in class, but there are still some tips to help you brush up on your speaking skills for when you’re at home.

Insider info:

"Learn key words and set phrases; know your tenses and remember the genders - you’ll be confident in what you’re talking about."

In class

  • Answer questions in class.
  • Prepare answers in your head -just in case you’re put on the spot.
  • Read out textbook exercises, paragraphs or questions in front of your classmates - it’s a great way to practice your pronunciation.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes - we all make them and we all learn from them too.
  • Try speaking to your teacher in the foreign language whenever possible.
  • Don’t slip into English when you don't know what to say. It can be tempting but speaking in English isn’t going to help you pass the foreign language oral exam.
  • Memorise some simple phrases to use in class, such as 'I don’t have a pen', or 'I don't understand', 'please can you repeat...?', 'please slow down' or 'I need the toilet'. Knowing these will give you the confidence to speak in class as they’re basic things you probably say all the time at school.
  • If you are confident and happy speaking, try and encourage others who may be a bit shy.

At home

  • Talk to yourself! Go over saying the alphabet, numbers, words, phrases, the more you practice the easier it’ll become to pronounce the words correctly. 
  • Don’t confine speaking in a foreign language to your language class, it’s a great way to talk to your friends at school if you don’t want anyone else to overhear, or just fancy a chat!
  • Practice as much as you can when you’re in the country where your GCSE language is spoken. People are really helpful and pleased when they know you’re practising your other language.
  • Learn key words and set phrases; know your tenses and remember the genders - you’ll be confident in what you’re talking about.
  • Ask your teacher for some example tasks to get an idea of what you’ll have to say.

What to expect in the assessment tasks

In your oral assessments you will need to show that you can be part of a relaxed interaction in your foreign language about topics that you’ve learnt in class. Your assessment is usually done with your teacher and you may be recorded. Don’t use big sentences and tonnes of vocab as it’s easier to mess up especially if you are nervous, instead keep each sentence small and perfectly formed. Your teacher will have done lots of preparation with you beforehand so here’s just some advice that we learnt along the way:

Insider info:

“Learn conversational fillers. These expressions are great as they make you sound like a native speaker and give you more time to think of the answer, without that awkward silence!”

The interview

  • You’ll receive a card saying what you have to say/ask.
  • Use your preparation time wisely.
  • Your teacher will ask you some questions.
  • Remember to answer the questions in full and to include a verb.
  • Chuck in opinions whenever you can for some easy marks.
  • Even if you’re not sure what has been said, try and answer as much as you can so you can still get some marks.
  • Learn the format - know how long you need to speak for each task and whether or not you need to ask a question. 
  • Learn conversational fillers such as ‘...well...’, ‘let me think...’, ‘hmmmm...’, ‘oh’ etc that are used in your foreign language. These expressions are great because they make you sound like a native speaker and give you more time to think of the answer, without that awkward silence!

The conversation 

You’ll have been preparing the topics in advance that may come up in class so here are a few pointers of what to do to reinforce your hard work:

Handy hint:

“Don’t be scared to ask the teacher to repeat if you didn’t quite catch what they said.”

  • Learn the vocab. Having a wide range of vocabulary really wows the examiners, so learn it and show them the X factor.
  • Avoid long silences - use the conversational fillers and try to say something rather than nothing.
  • Don’t be scared to ask the teacher to repeat if you didn’t quite catch what they said. You won’t lose any marks for this and it happens all the time when speaking in your native language.
  • Put in those opinions, top scoring phrases and different tenses whenever the right time comes up!
  • Listen to the language used in the question - listen out for tenses and words you can use in the answer.

How to keep your cool 

Don't turn to jelly - check out our lifesaving tips for the oral exam:

Top tip:

“Be enthusiastic and committed about what you have to say - don't mumble or ramble on.”

  • Stay calm and use positive body language.
  • Take deep breathes.
  • Give yourself time to think of the answer- use those conversation fillers to stall for time.
  • Talk slowly and calmly.
  • Remember you won't look as nervous as you feel.
  • Make sure you listen! - lean forward, tilt your head to hear or look at your teacher’s lips - do what you can so that you hear and understand exactly what they are saying.
  • Use hand gestures if that helps you to explain what you want to say.
  • Hold onto a paperclip or lucky charm - these will act like a lightning rod and draw your nervousness and negativity away from your thoughts.
  • Be upbeat and positive.
  • Smile!
  • Be enthusiastic and committed about what you have to say - don't mumble or ramble on.
  • If you don’t know the answer... make it up! you don’t have to tell the truth, you just have to answer the question as best you can.
  • Amaze your teacher!

So enjoy being the centre of attention and feel confident about your speaking.