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5 tips to feel ready for your GCSE French !

In the UK, GCSE French is made of 4 exams : reading, listening, writing and speaking. You can choose between two tiers: the Foundation Tier (grades 1–5) and the Higher Tier (grades 4–9).

The syllabus covers three themes across all four question papers:

-          Identity and culture

-          Local, national, international and global areas of interest

-          Current and future study and employment

What is expected from you is to understand texts/audio and to demonstrate your ability to provide information and opinions on these topics. Throughout your preparation, you’ve learned all the necessary vocabulary, grammar structures and expressions to to do that.

But a few weeks or days before the exam, it is normal to feel a bit overwhelmed. So, what can you do to regain your confidence ? Here are my 5 tips.

1. Plan your revision

Plan a revision programme focusing on what you know less well. Create vocabulary lists on each topic, read texts and listen to conversations or audio exercises on the topics you need to revise. You can find useful exercises in text books or on BBC Bitesize GCSE.

Another way to practise is to have a go at past papers. Sometimes this can make you feel anxious as the exams approach, but don't panic if they seem too difficult. It may be a good idea to reach out to a French tutor if you need help or reassurance!

2. Reading exam : be clever

For the reading exam, read the questions carefully as they’ll give you clues about what you’ll be looking for in the texts. Focus on finding the information you need even if you don’t understand everything. Use the context (title, type of text) to help you understand what it is about. If you don't know a word, deduce its meaning from the context (other words in the sentence may give you a clue about the type of thing or action it may be).

Don’t forget that you can guess the meaning of a lot of French words as they’re similar to English. Sometimes they differ slightly in their written form in French, for example an accent is added and/or a letter repeated, so you have to use your creativity to see the similarity.

One tricky exercise is in the section B (fill in the gaps) : don’t panic, and try to be clever by looking at the words around the gap. What can or can not fit here ? After a noun we may need a verb or an adjective ; do we expect an infinitive or a verb in the past tense here ? Try to look for patterns in the sentence's structure too (sometimes a structure is repeated so you know what type of word to expect). This will help you to eliminate some possibilities and get more marks.

3. Listening exam : know what to listen out for

Read the questions first, as they’ll help you predict what to listen out for. Scribble down anything that might be useful to have accurate answers, especially when you have to answer in French. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything, it doesn’t mean that you can’t retrieve the information needed.

Practise listening as much as you can throughout your day with Youtube videos, news in French (like 1 jour 1 actu), podcasts, series… It will help you a lot !

4. Writing exam : check your writing carefully

Spend some time planning your answer, making sure you cover all of the bullet points. The tip here is to check your writing carefully for grammar, spelling and verb tenses in order not to lose marks:

  • Are your verbs in the correct tense and are the endings correct ?

  • Do your adjectives agree with their nouns ? Don’t forget to add these ‘s’ !

  • Are your adjectives at the right place ? Most adjectives go after the nouns but some common adjectives go before (petit, grand, vieux, bon, joli, autre, mauvais, jeune, gros, beau, et leurs comparatifs moindre, meilleur, pire).

  • Have you remembered to put the accents ?

For your translation into French, try not to translate word for word but try to think 'how would French people say that ?'. Try to translate one sentence at a time instead of word by word. Be careful with words’ order as it can be different from English. Don’t forget to check your translation for missing words, grammar or verb tense errors !


5. Speaking exam : keep it simple and... practise !

First advice here is to keep it simple. Don’t make overcomplicated sentences but try to use varied vocabulary and expressions. Don’t forget to use a range of tenses as you need to show that you are able to use them all. Give clear opinions and reasons.

If you notice that you’ve made a mistake, correct yourself as it twill still enable you to get the mark. If you’re really stuck, you may ask the examiner in French to repeat or explain. Don't give up if you struggle and don't feel like your speaking skills are too bad. You won’t speak like a native but it doesn’t matter : focus on the information you want to convey and do your best.

Of course, what will make the difference in the speaking exam is a lot of practise. If you have someone who you can practise with (a sibling, a friend or a parent...), make the most of it. One or more sessions with a native French tutor can also give you the confidence boost you need before the exams. I offer revision sessions tailored to your needs so you can ask any questions you need, go through a particularly tricky grammar point or practise any exam. Get in touch if you’d like to book a session !

Je te souhaite bonne chance et succès à ton examen!


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