At this stage, we are a day away from the Easter holidays and – in our school – two weeks away from the part of the exam that many students dread the most – the oral – but really, you should be looking forward to this part of the exam. This is the only time (for this subject) that you will meet the examiner. It’s your chance to charm them with your winning personality, open smile and (maybe?) witty jokes!
The oral examination is worth 25% if you’re studying at Higher Level and 20% if you’re studying at Ordinary Level. It really is a great way to make up the marks whatever level you’re at. Given the large amount of marks it’s worth, it’s definitely worth giving over as much time as is humanly possible to it in the remaining few days: you should be eating, sleeping and breathing Spanish or whichever language it is that you are studying. Talk to your teacher, your friends and yourself in Spanish, think in Spanish, write in Spanish, listen to some past papers, watch Spanish TV online, listen to the news or listen to a song to get your spirits up.
Nerves have no place in the exam room so make sure you leave them at the door with a few simple strategies:
- breathe deeply – down to your belly, which is where your nerves are – before and during the exam. Remember, the examiner is human, he/she expects you to be nervous and is not going to think you’re weird for trying to stay calm. Plus you’ll buy yourself a little time, which is my next point.
- Take your time answering questions. It is not a race to see how fast you can answer a question and be ready for the next one. Listen to the question, nod, BREATHE!, make an interested sound (more of an ehhh sound than an emmm sound – in Spanish anyway!), say something noncommittal like sí, or es una pregunta interesante or vamos a ver and think a little about how you’re going to answer the question.
- When answering the question, try to give full sentence answers! Don’t just say sí or no! The examiner wants to find out about you and about your life – you need to imagine this is the most fascinating conversation you AND the examiner are ever going to have! Act like that – smile, use your hands, make lots of eye contact, and generally act as if you are really happy to be in the exam and telling the examiner all about your life.
- Remember, this is what the last five or six years have all been leading up to! Ten minutes! After ten minutes plus whatever it takes you to finish the role play you’ll never have to speak Spanish again if you don’t want to. So you may as well go out on a high note!
- Which brings me to the role plays…7.5% of your entire Spanish Leaving Certificate! It’s there on a plate for you. Make sure you know ALL of them. You will NOT get to choose which one you want, and given Murphy’s Law, you WILL get the one you like least. So learn all of them! And make sure you’re prepared for the question at the end. Listen to it, think about it, and give a full sentence answer that will show you’ve understood the question.
- The oral exam is the closest thing to an interview that you have as part of your Leaving Certificate, so think about first impressions and consider your appearance when you go in: uniform worn correctly, with the top button done up and the tie closed. It would seem absolutely obvious also that boys would be clean-shaven and girls not wearing lots of make-up! You want to look smart, not give the examiner something to comment on.
The time is going to pass so fast between now and the time of your oral, no matter when yours is, so make sure that every hour counts. Use all the resources you have – your classmates, your teacher, your family, anyone who offers to help!
And finally ¡MUCHÍSIMA SUERTE!