Tips from the top: the following text is taken from the Spanish Chief Examiner’s Report, which is available to read in full on the web. Although, as you will see if you click on the link, the report was published in 2003, it still holds true today.

The two sections which appear below for you to read are taken from the sections on common mistakes and the recommendation. They are self-explanatory. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve any questions or doubts.

OBSERVATIONS (these are made by examiners)

While a high percentage of candidates were well able to exchange information in a natural way and to discuss topics of current interest, one or two examiners noted that there was a tendency in some centres for students to learn chunks of material off by heart.  Pupils should be encouraged to express their own ideas rather than learn off large chunks of someone else’s ideas.

PROBLEM AREAS (examples of the mistakes are given in brackets)

􏰀 Answering a past tense question with a present tense – a general reluctance  to use past tenses.  (¿Qué hiciste el verano pasado?  –  Voy a España el año pasado.’)

􏰀 Lack of use of imperfect tense when necessary.

􏰀 Reluctance to use future and conditional tenses (especially with ‘ir’ and ‘hacer’).

􏰀 Lack of subjunctive when necessary.

􏰀 Not using infinitive of verb with ‘querer’ or ‘tener que’it must be Tengo que ir/tengo que estudiar/quiero visitar/quiero descansar etc

􏰀 Not using ‘tener’ with age. It must be Tengo dieciocho años, mi hermano tiene quince años etc (students often remember it for their own age, but not when they are talking about other people).

􏰀 ‘Hacer’ not used with weather expressions. It must  be Hace calor en España/ En Irlanda suele hacer frío/ Cuando estaba en Madrid, hacía mucho sol y mucho calor etc.

􏰀 Use of wrong gender (‘la’ used with turista, problema). It’s el turista, el problema

􏰀 Non-agreement of adjectives.

􏰀 Use of ‘bien’ instead of ‘bueno’Avoid the use of está bueno (if you’re talking about a person, it means you think they’re attractive!) and DON’T say es bien. It is incorrect. If you want to say that something is good eg a book/film, then: es un buen libro/ la película es buena etc. Even  better, use a less common adjective eg interesante/maravilloso/sorprendente/genial etc.

􏰀 Misuse and over-use of the verb ‘gustar’ – using ‘me gusta’ when ‘me gustó/me gustaría’ should be used. Me gusta/n = I like; Me gustaría/n = I would like; Me gustó/gustaron = I liked.

􏰀 Confusion between ‘ser’ and ‘estar’.  I haved used this in class as a useful way of helping my students remember when they should choose ser and when estar. Thanks to “Real Academia Noble” (link above) for the thoughts on it. The following is from the post linked to above:

Dr. Eve Helpp





T-ime (Day, Week, Hour)


R-elationship, belongs






P-hysical Condition or state

P-resent Progressive (this is the gerund/-ing form)

􏰀 Lack of vocabulary – topics such as household tasks, food, school subjects and clothes caused problems for some students.

􏰀 Responding to a question by repeating the verb used by the examiner.  (e.g. ‘¿Vas al cine? Vas al cine con mis amigos’.)

TIPS (again these are made by the examiners)

􏰀 It is strongly recommended that students try to express their own ideas rather than attempt to learn off set pieces on the various topics from textbooks.  Where examiners encounter obviously learnt-off passages, they question candidates on the substance of what is said to establish whether the ideas and language used have really been understood by the candidates.  Learnt-off passages which are recited are of little benefit.

􏰀 Candidates should ensure that they have familiarized themselves with all five role-plays.

􏰀 Some students need to spend more time practising the various tenses when speaking Spanish – especially when talking about and describing events which happened in the past.  Practice using irregular and commonly used verbs like ‘hice, fui, estuve, era, me lo pasé’ would be of benefit to many students.

􏰀 While the use of phrases like ‘me gustaría/ voy a’ can express the candidate’s future plans, the use of the future tense should not be avoided – candidates should not be afraid to show the examiner that they are familiar with this tense.


Where they talk about “learnt-off passages should not be recited” the idea is that, although you should have lots prepared on as many topics as you possibly can, you should present it in a natural way, using pauses and intonation, and “rest words” to help you like bueno or pues or vamos a ver or no sé (in a tone of voice that makes it clear that you do know, you’re just thinking!) or es una pregunta difícil/interesante to make the conversation seem as natural as possible. You need to vary your tone and intonation so that it doesn’t seem like you’re rattling off a chunk of text (even if you actually are!).

Make sure you use your weekend wisely – this time next week you’ll have this behind you and there’ll just be the Irish oral between you and the Easter holidays and some well deserved rest!

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