Oral exam

You take the speaking exam separately to your other language exam (the listening, reading and writing). The format of the exam is similar to GCSE but your language knowledge and vocab will obviously need to be up a notch. This part of the A-Level assessment varies quite a bit between exam boards, so make sure you ask your teacher exactly how your speaking test will pan out.

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Everyone gets nervous about the oral exam which is completely natural, but the advice on these pages will help you thoroughly prepare and be ready for the exam. The butterflies on the day will still be there but so will the skill and knowledge to talk your way into the grade you’re aiming for.

Exam structure

Warning:

”The format of the oral exam depends on your exam board so make sure you check with your teacher.”

There are 2 parts to the AS and A2 exams - a discussion part where you may talk about a topic that you have researched and/or topics that have been covered in class and a conversation part similar to the role play in GCSE, where you’ll be given a stimulus card that will help structure and direct the conversation. Depending on your exam board (heard that one before), the duration of the speaking exam will be around 35 minutes and may include preparation time - don’t forget to check with your teacher.

The assessment for the speaking test is divided into 4 areas; response, quality of language, reading and research, and comprehension and development. In other words you’ll be marked on your use of initiative and abstract language in your response; your pronunciation, range of vocabulary and grammatical structures; your knowledge of the topic and your ability to understand and deal with the questioning.

Discussion of a stimulus:

You’ll receive a card with around 5 questions on, and instructions for the discussion with your examiner. Depending on your exam board, you may have 15 minutes prep time to write notes and anything that will be of use to you in the discussion. This is the time to put in all your opinions and justifications.

For the A2 speaking exam, you may have to take a stance on the information presented on the stimulus card - so you’ll be either for or against and you’ll have to defend your stance - good debating style vocab will be really useful for this section. For example, learn some cool native phrases that will give your argument a leg to stand on.

Conversation:

This part of the exam is a spontaneous convo between you and the teacher about some of the topics you’ve studied or researched. You may just talk about one topic or maybe a few but your teacher will tell you all the information you need to know and how this part of the exam is structured. 

Revision

To revise for the speaking exam, you need to know all the topic relevant vocab as well as introductory phrases, opinions and justifications. Here are some ideas on what you can do to prepare:

Revise wise:

”Learn lots of synonyms and alternative ways of saying phrases so you’re not constantly repeating yourself.”

  • Go through practice questions with your teacher or language assistant.
  • Talk in the foreign language whenever you can. Talk amongst friends or even to yourself, this might sound silly but it’s actually a great way of improving your fluency, pronunciation and confidence.
  • Listen to podcasts/the news in the target language to help tune your ear ready for the exam. Always aim to write notes or answer questions afterwards so you pay attention and concentrate.
  • Look at the mark scheme so you know how to get those top marks.
  • Learn lots of synonyms and alternative ways of saying phrases so you’re not constantly repeating yourself.
  • Create a list of all the topics and sub-topics. Then leave some space below for you to write in mock answers, good phrases and specific vocab. Review this regularly in prep for the oral exam.
  • See your language assistant more! They’re there to help you so make the most of it. As they’re native speakers they’ll know the lingo and expressions being used currently and will be able to help you one-on-one with mock exams and general conversation.

What to do in the exam

Don’t worry, for this exam you won’t be expected to show specialised factual knowledge or vocab. but you will need to give some simple facts, defend and justify your opinions and respond to unrehearsed and unpredictable questions. This is nothing to worry about, you’ve had loads more opportunities to improve your speaking this past year.

Top tip:

”If you’re not sure what to say, make it up! The examiner won’t know if you’re telling the truth or not but it’s better than an awkward silence.”

Good preparation for this comes from your vocab book (surprise surprise) but we’ve got more incredible ideas below to help you get ready for your speaking test:

  • Talk, talk, talk! To really get good marks you need to respond well to what the examiner says so always try to answer.
  • If you’re not sure what to say, make it up! The examiner won’t know if you’re telling the truth or not but it’s better than an awkward silence.
  • Don’t jump in straight away with an answer - give yourself a bit of time to think before responding.
  • Use conversation fillers. They’ll make you sound more competent with speaking the language and give you a native speaker edge, as well as buying you time before you actually answer!

Useful weblinks

French

The French Pronunciation Guide has audio clips for you to hear how to pronounce verbs and consonants like the native speakers.

German

This German Pronunciation Guide has examples of German sounds and is great for hearing pronunciation of words and letter combinations.

Spanish

Study Spanish lets you listen to and practice your Spanish pronunciation.