As the oral examinations are near, I’ve had parents coming to me seeking advice on how to better prepare their children for it.
Oral examination constitutes 15-25% of the overall language examination therefore, it is integral in deciding the final grade.
The oral examination is divided into three sections:
- Reading Passage,
- Picture Discussion
Let’s discuss the objective of each component and how to prepare your child beforehand.
The first component is reading a passage given to the student. The passage can be an excerpt taken out of any written article. The most common genres are mainly narrative and factual.
Examiners grade the student’s reading ability mainly on:
Reading fluency comes with the ability to recognise words and being familiar with the passage flow. Students should use the 5 minutes waiting time to read and familiarise themselves with the article. This is also a good time for them to practice pronouncing difficult words.
Many students have problem with enunciation. This is a problem most are not aware of at all. An easy way to resolve this is to practice reading tongue twisters. When practicing with your child, remind your child to exaggerate the pronunciation of each letter in each word. This helps your child to work on relaxing the facial muscles, making it easier to pronounce words clearer in the future. While reading, do take note on the way ‘tr’, ‘d’, ‘t’, ‘thr’ should sound.
I always emphasize on punctuation when it comes to reading. The purpose of punctuation in a passage is to guide the reader to pause or project an intention intended by the writer. When a pause is made where there is no punctuation, the intention is changed and can potentially confuse the listener, in this case, the examiner.
Many students tend to ‘swallow’ their words at the end of the sentence or rush them. Thus the last words always end up being inaudible. One way to overcome this is to train the child to read the word louder and slower. You can start by underlining the word so it is easier to focus on.
A picture paints a thousand words, therefore, the second component tests how well a student interprets different situations happening in the picture.
Students will also score better if they attempt a variety of sentence structures using appropriate vocabulary.
The tested picture is given alongside the passage 5 minutes prior for the student to prepare as well. Students should use this period to plan to structure their description when preparing for this section.
A simple one is to ask oneself these questions:
- What is this picture about?
- Where is this scene happening?
- When did the activities happen?
- Who is/are involved?
- How are they related?
- Why do you think the event happened?
When describing, always start by making a general description of the entire scene, stating the venue, date and time and what the scene is depicting.
Next, describe in detail in a clockwise direction starting from the main activity. Avoid pointing at the picture. Rather, use prepositions, adverbs or descriptive phrases to determine the individual characters.
Lastly, it is preferable if the student adds his own assumptions or opinions.
Below is an example:
“This picture depicts an accident happening on a highway during peak period in the afternoon. The accident involves two cars in collision. There is a victim lying beside the car on the right. A lady wearing a skirt is attending to him while a man on the far right is on the phone. He might be calling for the ambulance. I believe it is dangerous to drive recklessly on the road. You might end up seriously injured or even die. Therefore, one should be careful while driving on the road.”
The last component involves a short conversation between the examiner and the student. The topic of conversation usually relates to the picture discussed earlier.
Students score better when they are able to communicate their ideas fluently using different sentence structures and without much prompt from the examiner.
Parents can help by preparing a few questions beforehand that relates to the topic. Before your child answers a question set by you, remind him/her to take a moment to organise the thought together instead of answering with one-word replies. Encourage a child to elaborate his answers with his opinions, experience etc.
Below is an example:
“Yes, I play sports. I have been playing badminton since I was 5 years old. I play badminton every Saturday with my family. I like to play badminton because I like the challenge. I want to be a professional badminton player when I grow up.”
Most importantly, do not dictate the content, this will affect his confidence in projecting his ideas. What you need to focus on is the way it is being communicated.
Grading starts from the time a student walks up to the examiner. First impression counts so neat attire and well-mannered behaviour is important.
Also, a child’s confidence can be developed by having better posture and training them to look at you in the eye when they speak.
Hopefully, with these pointers, you will be able to help your child prepare for the upcoming oral examinations.
Written by Delphine Pung
Educator and Co-founder of The Paper Potato Studio