30 Tips to Prepare a (French) oral examination

Preparing for an oral examination can be very daunting as there is no place to hide!
But don’t panic! It can be a stress-free experience provided you are well prepared and know what to expect.
Below is a list of things to do in order to make your examination a much easier adventure!



Updated 27/08/2018

1) Your presentation (if any) but not by heart. It must sound natural and authentic, not monotonous and rehearsed!
2) Key words / Linking words / Connecting words: which will help link your ideas together, develop and make an argument.
3) Vocabulary: have an A to Z notebook in which you can record all important new words. Use rich and varied vocabulary.

IMG_5741 (3)

A to Z vocab notebook
A to Z vocab notebook

4) Read assessment of past oral exams (Board of studies). They help you get familiar with the format of the exam as well as with the type of questions asked. This is probably the most valuable tip of them all!
5) Practise responding to a wide range of sample questions.
6) Record yourself on the webcam or iPhone practising your oral (you can do this with friends whom you feel comfortable with and give each other productive advice and criticism). Watch it and see what you could improve on! If with friends, why not practising as an examiner-student role-play!
7) Practise your numbers.
8) Practise asking questions (also such as « Pouvez-vous répéter la question, s’il vous plaît ? »).
9) Watch French movies or shows with subtitles (SBS for example).
10) If you need a tutor, find a tutor you feel comfortable with, who has adequate credentials and who is familiar with the examination (check my website http://www.estellebox.com for information about SKYPE tutoring lessons);

11) Make sure to maintain eye contact throughout the conversation.
12) Don’t forget to smile (even if you do not feel like it and where appropriate)!

13) Practising as much as possible! You will all the more confident for it on the day of the exam.
14) Reading about the assessment criteria: what are the examiners marking / looking for? Read assessments of past oral exams to become familiar with the exam’s expectations.
15) Doing a practice trip to the examination centre before the actual day (where possible), and familiarising yourself with the route, the time needed to get there, parking facilities and the buildings’ location.
16) Managing your nerves: learn techniques to manage your stress and anxiety!
Overcoming exam anxiety
Dealing with exam stress
Exam nerves

17) Get a good night sleep! You will be far more productive if rested!
18) Arrive at least 30 minutes before your session time!
19) Self-correct: if you realize that you have made a mistake, don’t ignore it. Pause, correct it and carry on.
20) Expand your answers: do not answer the examiner’s questions by “yes” or “no”! Try to answer with two or three answers.
21) Use a variety of grammatical tenses: in short, SHOW OFF!
22) Imagine that you are having a real conversation with a French person in France.
23) Bring snacks and water!
24) Bring your advice letter / ID

25) Getting yourself ready for the exam at the last minute. It should be a consistent effort throughout the year.
26) Learning paragraphs by heart. Examiners know immediately that you have, do not be fooled! It turns your message into a monotonous monologue devoid of life and is pretty easy to spot.
27) Rushing: speak clearly and confidently.
28) Repetitions such as “Je pense que” eight times in a row! Learn to vary: “Selon moi”, “À mon avis” etc. This is when your A to Z notebook becomes useful.
29) Eating something garlicky before the exam! It might sound silly and trivial but you would not want to put your examiner off straight away….

Bonne chance

Good luck, think positive and 30) BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!


Preparing for your HSC Languages Oral Exam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MyCGJskq34

Please feel free to leave your tips in the comment box below!!

Published by Estelle Demontrond-Box

Language Teacher, CIoL-certified Translator, Published Writer, I am from Besançon, France and now live in Sydney, Australia. Enseignante de langues (CAPES d'anglais), Traductrice certifiée (CIoL) et Auteure publiée, originaire de Besançon, je vis désormais à Sydney, Australie.

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