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Effective strategies for acing the VCE French oral exam

Updated: Jan 19

4 French language textbooks commonly used for VCE French exam preparation

The oral component of French VCE is now underway. Some candidates started on the 3rd of October and are now feeling relieved and (mostly) happy with their performance. Others will have to wait until the end of the month, with almost three more weeks to feel nervous about the exam but also three extra weeks to prepare and feel more confident, fluent and ready.

What makes a confident VCE French oral candidate?

With over 8 years of experience tutoring students from various schools across Victoria, I can confidently say that the students who performed best during the VCE French speaking exam are the ones who worked regularly and trained from the start of the year (or even the year before). These students were feeling prepared and confident on D-day.

“Practice makes perfect” isn’t overrated when it comes to VCE French. This empirical conclusion, drawn from personal observation, also intersects with the Neurolinguistic Approach (NLA), a pedagogical method used in teaching and learning a second or foreign language, based on current research in neurosciences (including neurolinguistic).

The Neurolinguistic approach shows that, in order to be able to speak a foreign language spontaneously, it is necessary to develop, first, specific neuronal connections (neuronal pathways inside of the brain), which can only develop if the language is used in authentic communication settings, for a prolonged amount of time.

In the same way animals, walking through the forest to reach the river, will create a wider, deeper and more defined path as time goes by, each use and repetition of authentic language will strengthen the neuronal path in the brain.

In a typical classroom setting, it is difficult for a student to achieve the amount of speaking practice necessary to create, strengthen and maintain these pathways. This is even more true in Victoria in 2022, when a large part of learning time has been spent online in the past years, a generally challenging setting to practise speaking skills.

C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.*

A wooden pin board with revision pages for the VCE French oral exam pinned

When it comes to speaking exams, like the VCE French oral, preparation and repetition are keys: get familiar with the topics, prepare answers and rehearse.

First, becoming familiar with the many topics and question types is essential, to avoid feeling overwhelmed by unexpected questions. The usual topics range from family, hobbies and school to past holidays and plans for the future and always include learning French and French culture.

Then, taking the time to write down key ideas and phrases, for each topic or possible question, is an important step. Many tools and techniques can be used. Some prefer to write whole paragraphs, while others think and learn better with mind maps.

Finally, it is necessary to practise answering a wide range of questions, as often as possible. This is the step that helps develop the neuronal connections necessary to achieve spontaneous and authentic conversation, creating confidence for the exam day.

A lifelong confident speaker

Visisting the Eiffel Tower as a confident French speaker

Ultimately, a language is more than an exam subject, and the French language, like any other language, is meant to be used in authentic situations. Mastering a foreign language is a key to learning about and enjoying a different culture, through arts, cinema, music, and travel...

These rehearsed sentences, these strengthened neuronal pathways, are not only boosting up confidence for exam day, but also creating a lifelong confident speaker of French.

*"C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron" is the French equivalent of "Practice makes perfect."

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