How to effectively study French over summer holidays

It’s the last thing you want to hear about. Unless I offer you a free holiday to the French Riveria of course (not this time).  However, maintaining French language skills over summer can prove to be hugely advantageous when preparing for Junior Cert/ Leaving Cert. And the good news is that it’s quite easy in the era of broadband!

Aural preparation:

You can find the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate past aural exams online. However, you can also view some French news videos online here . Remember that the language is obviously quite advanced, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t understand every single word. Build up a good ear for the accent. Otherwise, here are some videos and recordings with the transcripts included so you can read back over the recordings. Some also include quizzes and are fantastic practice-hereand here is another..

Mot du jour:

A word of the day is a really fantastic way to build your French vocabulary. Firstly, get yourself a “vocab” copy. You should ensure that you have one in school. During the school year, you should write down every single new French word that you encounter from the very beginning of your textbook. Given that the Junior Cert exam consists of around 75% vocab, it’s a fantastic way of ensuring that you really maximise your potential. Over summer, you can go back over textbook/ exam papers picking out words, writing them down and learning them. If you have already done this in school, websites like can send a “mot du jour” to your email address. Meanwhile, Instagram accounts like @madameschindler post new words frequently.

Oral work:

Again, I really think that summer preparation for this is really worthwhile. The French Leaving Cert curriculum is a demanding one, and many classes and teachers struggle to dedicate adequate time to the oral in the run-up to exams without compromising other areas of the curriculum. I really think that the oral exam demands lots of preparation and, when prepared correctly, I do think it’s the easiest area of the exam to prepare for- you do have a fair idea of a lot of the questions that you will be asked, so use this to your advantage! Remember- an impressive answer in the oral exam is a few sentences (if possible) and shows confidence. Good pronunciation is also imperative. If you struggle with pronunciation, remember that Google Translate (for all its actual “translation” failures) has a microphone that orally pronounces French words. IF you have poor broadband, record it to your phone and ensure that you keep practising! Work on perfecting your confidence with your oral answers and ensure that they don’t come across as learned off. The examiner can interrupt you at any time- ensure that you are prepared for this by actually understanding what you’re saying, and being able to formulate sentences on the spot.

Written work:

While I do believe that learning off realms of answers is ridiculous and often next to useless, students must ensure that they are prepared to write about a number of topics- for example alcohol, terrorism, young people. Therefore, ensure that you know a variety of phrases for the written topic (see here) and phrases relating to topics. However, remember that you must answer the question that is being asked. For example, if the question asks about what the government can do to prevent binge drinking with young people- remember that you must answer exactly that. Therefore, I would advise students to spend their time working on basic sentence structures to ensure that they can formulate sentences in the exam where learnt off, irrelevant sentences will not suffice. I would also ensure that students know a range of vocabulary relevant to various topics- for example the environment.  Regarding the diary entry- ensure that you know a variety of these phrases but also remember that it is designed to test how you can formulate tenses- particularly the past! Junior Certs should ensure that they know the phrases used for the letter- see here. A good way of checking the accuracy of written work is Bon Patron. It certainly isn’t 100% accurate but is a good way of pointing out simple errors. Bon courage.


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