What is a document?
The document is an optional element of the oral exam. Basically, students can bring in a document (a photograph, a literary text or an illustration) if they wish but this is at the discretion of the student.
I would highly recommend using a document for the French oral exam. Remember- the exam is 12-15 minutes long and the document can take up around 3minutes of this depending on your examiner. Use this to your advantage and prepare a document. It can be a great help particularly if you’re quite nervous about the oral exam.
What can be used?
As I’ve mentioned above, the document itself can be a photograph, a literary text or an illustration. The vast majority of students opt for a photograph. Be careful and take the time to prepare something truly different and outside the box. Remember- you are intending to wow your examiner and make your exam memorable for them!
The Chief Examiner Report notes a few examples of the most impressive, thought provoking documents: “last winter’s floods, media coverage of Tiger Woods, a poem about racism, the Niall Mellon township trust, a photo of Marie Curie linked to the role of women in society, the Jade Goody story, Poland since World War 2, the effects of last winter’s cold spell, the film les Choristes.”
A few examples are:
- Your favourite French singer- see my most previous post for inspiration!
- A personal interest- for example some of my previous students have showed photographs of them winning All Ireland medals in gymnastics and singing. My most innovative student this year has produced a photo of Zayn leaving One Direction!
- A photograph of yourself and a celebrity
- Some interesting local news- for example a photo of a local sports team winning a championship
- Topical news- for example the Paris/ Nice attacks (please take the time to plan this sufficiently!). You could also use an image from the Euros 2016, given that they were set in France.
What should I avoid?
- Firstly, make sure to check what your classmates are doing for their oral. Make sure that you don’t complete the same document as they are completing. For example, the Chief Examiner Report notes that “the presentation by several members of a class of the same document (e.g. trip to Paris) had a tendency to be counter-productive, especially where all candidates had manifestly learnt by heart the same material.” This is sure to be monotonous for the examiner- make sure to avoid doing this.
- Similarly, I would avoid using a collage of images for an oral. The examiner is free to select any image from the collage for specific questioning. Why prepare information for ten images when you can just prepare information for one?
- Make sure that you are prepared for every possible question on your photo. In order to do this, show different people your document before the exam and ask them to ask you questions on it. This will give you an idea of the broad scope of potential questions. Indeed, the Chief Examiner report notes that “A student who chose the topic of a concert, for instance, did not always realise that there would be the possibility to speak about the “total experience”, e.g. getting tickets, transport, friends who also went, venue, accommodation, eating, general atmosphere, weather, bands who played, crowd, return journey, cost, etc.” Remember, if you bring in something that even seems relatively simple (such as a football team), you may be asked about footballers being overpaid, etc. Soyez prêtes!
- Remember that like every other area on the oral exam- the examiner can interrupt you anytime! Some students do get rather frustrated at this- how dare the examiner interrupt their answer that they’ve spent hours learning by heart? Jokes aside, ensure that you can form sentences yourself and do not rely on learned off material. It is extremely obvious to the examiner, and insinuates that you cannot adequately communicate yourself.
Finally, remember that the onus is on yourself to inform the examiner that you have a document. A simple “J’ai un document” at the beginning of the exam will suffice. Also remember that your document must have no writing on it in English.