Part 9: IGCSE French/Spanish: 9: Maximising performance in the speaking exam.

IGCSE French/Spanish: 9: Maximising performance in the speaking exam.

In blog 9 in our series aimed at students studying distance learning French IGCSE or distance learning Spanish IGCSE, an Oxford Open Learning distance learning tutor gives tips on how to succeed in oral exams.

When you are preparing for your IGCSE speaking exam, it’s definitely worth bearing in mind that it will be recorded and sent to a marking examiner whose job it is to listen to hundreds of candidates answering very similar questions on the same topics. Speaking from experience this can be monotonous and even soul-destroying if the candidates simply produce predictable textbook answers in their general conversation. Make your version stand out in a positive way and not only will you make the examiner’s day but you should also gain yourself extra marks for a) using original answers and b) impressing him/her with your use of complex structures and varied language. Here’s how to do it:


  • Speak loudly and clearly – it must be clear if the examiner is to hear all the good bits!
  • Reply in full sentences to ensure you maximise your use of verbs.
  • Try to say as much as possible for every answer you give. Extend your sentences by explaining and describing people/events in detail.
  • Use a variety of tenses (past, present, future, conditional) wherever possible.
  • Include attitudes and opinions (with reasons/justifications) for every answer.
  • Talk in the 3rd persons (he/she/it and they) as well as the 1st persons (I/we).
  • Give personal accounts, these will undoubtedly be original.
  • Use your imagination – this is one exam where it doesn’t all have to be totally true!
  • Use idiomatic expressions to make yourself sound more like a native.
  • If you need time to stop and think, mask the hesitation with ‘fillers’ (‘well’…’er’ etc.) from the target language just as a native speaker would.
  • Have plenty of learnt vocabulary/verbs ready to use, this will help you vary your language.
  • Get plenty of practice and preparation answering the sorts of questions that may come up.
  • Find out from your teacher examiner if he/she will be willing to practise with you in advance, as this will allow you to get used to their voice/accent and style of questioning.
  • Get a good night’s sleep and eat/drink before the exam. You need brain power and energy to concentrate!


  • Panic about making mistakes. You are bound to make a few but the exam is marked POSITIVELY so you are given credit for what you do well, not what you do wrong.
  • Speak in English during the exam. The teacher examiner is under strict instructions not to respond to this so it will only waste time and also create a negative impression.
  • Worry if you have to ask the teacher examiner to repeat something because you didn’t hear or understand it the first time. As long as you do this in the target language and provide an answer eventually, you shouldn’t lose marks for this.
  • Think or worry about the timing of the exam. This is part of the teacher examiner’s job.
  • Think about the exam too much once it’s over. What’s done is done and can’t be changed.

Good Luck!

Chloe Bullock


For more information on home study courses visit the Oxford Open Learning website or contact a student adviser for more details on 0800 9757575.

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