How to ace your French IB Oral

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For many students, the speaking part can be difficult. Some find the IB French oral exam trickier than other assessments, especially for those who don’t speak French regularly.

The individual oral exam weighs 25% in the final Language B mark. This means that in order to get a good grade, you need to be able to communicate effectively. Of course, this takes time and you might even need a helping hand to succeed.

Does the upcoming French IB oral send your stress levels soaring? Fear not! With the right course of action, you’ll be able to overcome your communication barrier and develop more confidence.

French Oral IB Tutor

In this post, you’ll get to learn what you can expect during the exam as well as get valuable tips from our tutor Saleh on how to ace your French IB oral. Remember, if you need help, just a few lessons with one of our IB French teachers or examiners can make a big difference.

French IB Oral for Standard and Higher Level

SL and HL French IB oral assessments are done a bit differently.

At an SL French oral exam, you will have to choose between two pictures related to the 5 themes of the French IB syllabus. You will then have about 15 minutes to come up with a plan for your oral presentation and get ready for a conversation.

When it comes to HL French IB oral, you need to give a talk based on the literary works you’ve studied during your French course. You’ll have 20 minutes to prepare what you’d like to say on the topic.

In both cases, you should create a plan for your speech rather than trying to write out everything you want to say. For instance, you can write down some bullet points or highlight the things you’d like to elaborate on further.

Regardless of the level, the ‘talking’ part of the exam takes about 15 minutes and normally consists of a presentation, conversation, and discussion

Presentation

You will have 3-4 minutes to give a speech. First of all, you need to describe a picture or summarise a piece of literary work. In particular, specify its main idea, talk about its characters or the environment they are in, as well as briefly express your views.

Conversation with your examiner

Within the following 4-5 minutes you’ll get a chance to showcase your fluency, comprehension, as well as the ability to engage in a conversation. In particular, the examiner will ask you a few questions related to the stimulus. Listen closely and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if something is unclear. Remember, a clarification question is not a sign of poor conversational skills, it is a sign of your attentiveness.

Moreover, many examiners appreciate it when you ask them follow-up questions. Not only do they showcase your interest in a topic but also your active listening skills.

Besides responding to questions, this part involves sharing your opinions, ideas, thoughts, and personal connection to the topic. We suggest that you make a list of useful expressions introducing your opinion and actively use it in a conversation.

General discussion

The conclusive part of your IB French B oral lasts 5-6 minutes. At this point, you have a chance to connect the topic and your own experience.

Start by briefly summarising the key points from your presentation and how they relate to the stimulus. Then transition to explaining how the theme of your presentation connects to your life, hobbies, interests, or even current events.

Also, it is not uncommon to go beyond the topic of the presentation and touch upon other themes of your French course.

Tips to Ace Your IB French Oral Exam

Now that you know what to expect at your IB French speaking exam, let us give you some tips to excel at the presentation, conversation, and discussion alike.

Have a Way with Words

It goes without saying that to speak a language well, you need to have a wide vocabulary. That’s why repeating and adding new words to your vocabulary is important. Of course, learning so many new words and submitting them to memory can be boring … unless you get to turn it into a game and make it fun. Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Listen to YouTube videos on the potential exam topics and write down a new lexicon.
  • Pick podcasts on subjects that interest you and are linked to the topics on your course.
  • Use past exam topics and record yourself doing the oral. Afterwards, you can mark yourself according to the mark scheme and see how you improve with practice.
  • Talk French with your buddies for a day and help correct each other.

Liven Up Your French with Idioms

While a vast vocabulary is essential, using some idioms will truly set you apart in the French IB Oral Exam. Idioms can make any language more animated and natural.

Just as a reminder an idiom is a phrase or expression whose meaning is different from the literal meanings of the individual words. In fact, idioms are often culturally specific and can be challenging for non-native speakers to understand because their meanings cannot be worked out just from the words themselves.

But don’t try to memorise it all. Instead, it’s better to focus on learning a few idioms for each prescribed topic. Here are a few easy-to-memorise examples:

  • Identité et culture:
  • Avoir la main verte (to have green fingers).
  • Se casser la tête (to rack your brain).
  • Être dans la lune (head in the clouds/distracted).
  • Monde contemporain:
  • Voir le verre à moitié plein (to see the glass half full).
  • Être à la pointe de la technologie (to be at the cutting edge of technology).
  • Casser les codes (to break the code).
  • Relations humaines:
  • Se donner la main (to hold hands).
  • Avoir le cœur léger (lighthearted).
  • Se tirer dans les pieds (to shoot oneself in the foot).
  • Globalisation et organisation (Globalisation and Organisation):
  • Mettre la main à la pâte (to pitch in / get involved).
  • Voir plus grand (to think big).
  • Un grain de sable dans la machine (a snag).
  • Sciences et technologie (Science and Technology):
  • Voir plus loin (to see beyond).
  • Sortir des sentiers battus (to go off the beaten track).
  • Être à la pointe de la recherche (being at the forefront of research).

It goes without saying, you can’t cram new vocab the night before your French oral exam. You need to build your confidence gradually. To do so, you should actively integrate idioms into your practice. For example, use them in mock presentations or conversations with friends.

Learn Your Tenses

Naturally, you need to know your way around these. And this concerns not only present, past, and future tenses, but also conditionals and imperatives.

Again, you can turn grammar practising into a game. For instance, you may write all the topics on separate pieces of paper and put them into a pile. Then write all the tenses and put them into the other pile. After that, draw a piece of paper from each pile to see which topic and tense to combine. And now try to tell a story with the given conditions. Make sure to repeat the drawing several times to cover as many topics and tenses as possible.

You can also use random wheel spinner apps for the same purpose.

Be Ready for Questions

As we have already mentioned, questions coming from your examiner are an essential part of the IB French oral exam.

If you don’t want this to take you by surprise, you should get to know possible questions. That’s why long before you face these in your exam, you need to come up with your own list of questions.

Imagine that you’re a celebrity. You tell an interesting story. After that, you turn into an interviewer. You ask your superstar self a question to find out more. Then you turn into a celeb again and answer. Repeat that till there is nothing else to ask on a topic.

Chances are that your examiner will ask the same things. And if your self-questioning leads you to a different yet related topic, you can use this experience as a foundation for the general discussion portion of the exam.

Ensure you have a Dialogue, not an Interrogation

Questions at your IB French B oral are to be expected. However, don’t let them be in the form of interrogation. If you give short and uninspired answers, this experience can become quite intimidating. Instead, you can turn questions into a dialogue. Don’t try to give super deep answers, you won’t have time for that anyway. What you can do is try and take your conversation to the areas you know the best.

For example, if you get a question like ‘How do different cultures celebrate important moments in life?’, you can start your answer with ‘In my personal experience’ or ‘In my culture’, or ‘In my family, we celebrate …’.

This will help you make your answer more personal and related, as well as give you a chance to show off your knowledge.

Engage Your Examiner

Remember, a dialogue with an examiner is an important part of the oral assessment. That’s why your goal, in addition to showcasing your language skills, is to make a conversation engaging.

First of all, try to keep your examiner interested. To do so, you may use vivid descriptions, comparisons, anecdotes, or even humor. Second, there are two parties in a dialogue, so don’t be afraid to ask questions, too, especially thought-provoking ones. This will show your enthusiasm for the topic. Lastly, think about delivery – eye contact, appropriate facial expressions, and voice tone variations will have a positive impact on the overall impression.

Use Formal Language in Your IB French Oral Exam

While ‘tu’ will do in casual situations, the IB French oral is a formal environment. That’s why your communication must be respectful and appropriate. This means that instead of ‘tu’ you should say ‘vous’.

Your ability to use formal language in the exam setting not only demonstrates your language proficiency but also creates a positive impression on an examiner.

Incorporate Rhetorical Elements to Your Speech

How can you make your presentation even more impressive and effective? Try to incorporate rhetorical devices to emphasise key points or improve your delivery.

  • For example, exclamative sentences are able to add excitement to your speech. The phrase such as ‘Imaginez un monde sans pollution!’ may show your concern for the environment.
  • Instead of statements, here and there you can employ interrogative sentences. With sentences like ‘Ne pensez-vous pas que la technologie est essentielle?’ you can really engage your examiner in a dialogue.
  • While imperative sentences may sometimes come off as too direct and even a bit impolite, they can serve as a way to suggest an action. For example ‘Prenons un moment pour réfléchir à…’ invites an examiner to participate in your thought process. Or you can use phrases such as “N’oublions pas l’importance de…” to draw their attention to your ideas.

Rhetorical devices will serve you well only if you use them strategically. Too many exclamations or questions can seem excessive. 

Know the Marking Criteria

You will prepare for your oral exams in a much more effective way if you know what the examiners are looking for. This means grabbing the criteria for the French IB oral, and understanding what will get you a 6 or 7.

Remember, you have to articulate fluently; you just need to be able to clearly express your ideas and questions around the stimulus. Still, to secure the grade boundaries, you should express yourself without significant hesitations.

Chance Favours the Prepared Mind

We don’t even need to say that thorough IB French oral preparation is vital for a good grade. The best way to polish your skills is to actually speak, talk, and converse.

It’s great if your family and friends can speak French. You can just pretend that you forgot how to speak your native language and use French instead. The more you practice, the more confident you get.

Don’t have anyone to practice with? Just use the power of technology to your advantage. For example, you can watch YouTube videos of French creators or French shows on Netflix to polish your pronunciation. Or you can record yourself on the phone to understand what others hear when you speak. You can even sign up for language exchange apps to get a chance to converse with native speakers.

One more way to prepare for the IB French oral exam is to get a tutor. A tutor can give you valuable advice on how to improve your oral skills, point out your weak points, suggest vocabulary, and much more. You can even organise your own mockup French oral exam as one of the ways to prepare for the real thing.

Prepare for Your IB French Oral Exam with TutorsPlus

Saleh sums up: ‘Based on my experience as a French B teacher and examiner, I admit that the French IB oral exam sometimes represents a real challenge. Especially, when there are only 15-20 minutes to prove your language proficiency. Having said that, I believe that the magic key to ace it is simply by boosting your vocabulary knowledge along with effective practice. The more words you know, the easier your exam will be’.

Would you like to boost your vocabulary through practice? TutorsPlus knows how to help. Saleh, and our experienced and friendly team of language tutors, who are also IB teachers and examiners, can help bring your A-game to ace French oral IB. With us, you are able to cover the distance from ‘Je ne sais pas’ to ‘Oui, je parle français’ with minimum struggle.

You can reach TutorsPlus at 022 731 8148 or info@tutorsplus.com. We work hard to help you learn French easily!

If you want to take a look at the subject guide to see the outline of the whole course, you can see the IBO subject guide here.

Saleh holds a Masters degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Université de Paris II Panthéon Assas and has been teaching French B in international IB schools since 2016. Based on his experience teaching, he has developed his own resources to target key areas of the course and ensure students understand and excel in the IBDP requirements, as well as building a solid base of grammar, vocabulary and communication skills. Plus, as an IB examiner he provides thorough preparation for Internal Assessments and guides students through practicing past papers. His students appreciate his patient and kind teaching style, combined with his subject knowledge and passion for French.

By Sara Lloyd

Sara has been an education consultant for TutorsPlus for 15 years, and is an expert on international IB education.  She is also a parent of two lively children.

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