Listening Exam

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Listening Exam

Listening is probably the topic where most students feel they are weak. You can't revise this topic very easily at home and it's far more daunting than a normal written exam. Don't panic - it's the same for everyone. Exams vary across boards but essentially they are testing your ability to understand a variety of French across different topics, different styles etc. and questions range from fairly straightforward simple answers to much more complicated ones. You may have true/false questions, gap-fill exercises, multi-choice questions, or full sentence answers in English or in French.

You may also have to use the information on the tape to produce summaries or written work detailing or arguing for/against what is on the tape. Don't panic if some of this doesn't seem to match what you've done in class. Check which ones apply to you.

Listening Exam

However, there are points that can help. They might seem obvious but you'd be surprised!

Read the question. It may sound obvious, but you can't answer the question unless you know what you're listening for - e.g. 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!
Make sure you answer in the correct language. Most listening exams have sections to be answered in French and other sections to be answered in English. The normal rule is that you answer in the same language as the question - if the question is in French, the answer is in French etc. It is easy to get so into the exam that you don't even notice the language has changed and keep using the language from one section in the other section. When you have to answer in French, check the accuracy of your work - there is often credit awarded for your French as well as your understanding of the tape.
Time. Lots of exam boards now allow you to use personal stereos. This may seem great, as you can listen to the track as much as you want. But 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.
Accuracy. You will not get every answer right or perhaps not even be able to do every 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.
Marks. Read the question and the number of marks allocated to each question. If it carries three marks, you'll need to make three points. Here, minor details can be important - e.g. not just 'he used to go swimming every week' but 'he usually used to go swimming every week', not just 'scientists can't find a cure for this condition' but 'scientists can't find a cure for this condition yet.' etc.
Numbers. Yes even at A-level numbers are still common in listening exams - prices, times, temperatures, statistics etc and students still find them difficult. Split the numbers up as they're said, keep repeating the number in your head until you can work it out, even write the number out long hand (there's normally enough space on the exam paper for rough work). These are really fairly straightforward questions and marks are easily gained here but you won't get anything for being close - you need to get it right.
Practice. It's far more difficult to practise for your listening exam compared with written exams but there are still chances - work with an assistant if you have one, work in class, exchange, pen-pals, holidays in France, practice tapes/student tapes that your teacher might have. (I'm sure you can get copies but you'll have to do the work here. You can't expect your teacher to run off a dozen copies of a revision tape for a class of 17 and 18-year olds.). Most of all don't panic - you're no different from anybody else here and you're probably far more able than you imagine.

For both the AS and A2 you should practice listening to the radio and/or a practice tape which maybe your teacher could record for you. Take a tape in and ask politely!

Usually you will be required to listen to a recording then answer questions in French and then do an English summary.

But exam requirements vary - check with your teacher.

You can improve your listening by:

  • practice
  • listening out for key words
  • reading the questions carefully to focus your listening

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