Approaching the Question

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Approaching the Question

In this exam you will be expected to perform a number of tasks depending on the exam board. Your writing test could include many different elements - short simple sentence answers, paragraph answers, whole essays and possibly coursework.

It could be a separate exam in its own right (for example, an essay paper) or part of a longer exam (for example, a listening exam where you then have to write an article based on info provided on the tape).

You will be expected to communicate using good sophisticated accurate French to cover serious issues and topics. You will be asked for your opinions and be expected to justify what you have said.

Whatever format your exam takes, you can still find plenty of good tips to support you.

Some of the tips here are similar to things you have seen in other sections but some are new.

  1. Read the question and make sure you understand it. It sounds obvious, but you can't answer the question unless you know what you've been asked - for example, is it when or where did the accident take place? Is it why did they protest or how did they protest? You won't get any marks for details that don't relate to the question, even if they're right!
  2. Time. You have to remember the time; there's no point spending ten minutes on a question that carries three marks and then not have time to do a later section that carries ten marks. You have to force yourself to limit time on sections. You can always come back afterwards if you have time spare.
  3. Vocabulary. What if you don't know a key word? Think your way around it. Do you know any other words that mean the same? Could you rephrase it or define it? For example, 'global warming' becomes 'the earth is becoming warmer' and so on. What about 'quelque chose pour...' for example, 'a bottle opener' becomes 'quelque chose pour ouvrir une bouteille'.
  4. Accuracy. You will not get every answer right or know every single word you want for a particular question. Nobody expects you to - not even for a grade 'A'. But don't let problems in a section that you can't do distract you from another section that you can do perfectly well. Accept that there are a few things you can't do and write them off. You'll probably be surprised at what you can do - concentrate on this and pick up as many marks as possible on these parts.
  5. Marks. Read the question and the number of marks allocated to each question. You need to know how much is allocated for content and how much is accuracy. Does four marks mean four details or two details with two marks awarded for accuracy? Make sure you are clear on this. You could be trying to write too much or wasting time on a section where you've already got full marks.
  6. Word limit. The word limit is there for a purpose. Some exam boards have very strict rules about going over word limits, especially on coursework where you have time to plan, draft and re-write. You could be penalised very heavily. What's more, not only is it a waste of time but you may be making more mistakes and actually dragging your grade down. The content and quality are far more important than the number of words.

Grade: Standard of language:
A Excellent response. Question answered fully; extremely clear and effective structure; (excellent knowledge of French-speaking country;) language virtually flawless with very few errors.
B Very good response. Question answered very well with very good structure (and knowledge of country;) Very accurate - few errors, usually minor.
C Good relevant answer; clear logical organisation; sound accuracy but errors in more difficult language.
D Satisfactory answer; lacks clarity in places or relies heavily on any source material; accuracy is variable with some very basic errors.
E A few relevant points are made. Frequent defects in organisation; limited knowledge of country concerned; high number of basic errors which hampers understanding.
N Very limited answer - largely irrelevant and disorganised. Very limited knowledge of France. Frequent basic answers with only a few parts accurate.
U Question not really understood. Virtually no knowledge of country. No real appropriate language.

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