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  4. Oral examinations

Oral examinations

Oral examinations for foreign languages follow the same pattern across French, Spanish and German, but differ according to the level of study. They are called end-of-module assessments (EMA) at Level 1, and oral examinations at Level 2 and Level 3.

Always check your module materials for the specific instructions you need.

At Level 1 (beginners)

You are given material to read at home to prepare for the two parts of your EMA. On the day of the test, you will be asked to perform two tasks in the language you are learning, an informal conversation and a one-to-one role-play. Your assessor will usually be your tutor. Each task lasts around two minutes long.

The EMA usually takes place during the last scheduled tutorial group meeting of the year.

At Level 1 (other)

You are given material to read at home to prepare for the two parts of your EMA. On the day of the test, you will be asked to perform two tasks in the language you are learning, a presentation of information to a group of students and a decision-making discussion within the same group of students. Each group is composed of around three to five students.

The presentation lasts around two minutes. The group discussion is around eight minutes long.

An assessor (usually your tutor) is present during both tasks. The EMA usually takes place during the last scheduled tutorial group meeting of the year.

At Level 2 and Level 3

You are given material to read at home to prepare for the two parts of your oral examination. This oral examination is normally conducted in groups, but where this is not possible, students take an individual oral examination.

Group orals

On the day of the test, you will be asked to perform two tasks in the language you are learning.

  • A presentation, which must include expressing an opinion.
  • A group decision-making discussion.

Each group is composed of around three to five students.The presentation lasts around three minutes and the group discussion is between eight and ten minutes long.

The oral examination is conducted by an examiner at a specified centre, usually in early October.

Individual orals

The format of the individual examination is given in the October preparation materials sent out to all students. On the day of the test, you will be given the details of a task which will involve the preparation and recording of a presentation of around five minutes in length.

The oral examination is supervised by an invigilator at a specified centre, usually in early October.

The book ‘Success with Languages’, The Open University, 2005, Routledge, expands on all these ideas, especially in Chapter 9, ‘Assessment’.

On the day of the oral examination

As part of the oral exam you will have some preparation time to read the question paper and the other materials and to prepare your notes.

  • Read the question paper and pay particular attention to the document you have been given.
  • It doesn’t matter if you don’t identify with the role or material you are given on the day. You will be assessed on your ability to present and argue a case in the language you are studying.
  • Use your preparation time to write down your prepared notes, especially your useful structures. You will only have the time to use a dictionary if absolutely necessary and only during the preparation phase.
  • Keep an eye on the clock so that you don’t run out of time for preparation.
  • When speaking, you won’t be allowed to run over your allocated time, and you’ll only achieve your potential by speaking for the whole of the time allowed and covering the necessary content.
  • Speak clearly, remembering that intonation and stress are important.

In a group oral

  • Listen carefully to others speaking. You will know your own role in the discussion, but you won’t have the other roles in front of you during the actual oral.
  • Take notes during other students’ turns. For example, you could sketch a table to show where each student sits, and note alongside the facts or points of arguments each makes.
  • Make your points clearly in the discussion, remembering to include everyone in the group rather than just speaking to the tutor.
  • You don’t need to reach a consensus in the discussion. Marks are awarded for content, quality of language, pronunciation, intonation and quality of discussion.

In an individual oral exam

  • When you are recording your presentation, keep an eye on the time so that you leave enough for contrasting or comparing and drawing conclusions, depending on the task set.
  • Play back your work when you have finished to check your presentation has been recorded.

The book ‘Success with Languages’, The Open University, 2005, Routledge, expands on all these ideas, especially in Chapter 9, ‘Assessment’.