Revision guide
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How to revise
Top techniques
  Turning the tables
  Graphic arts
  The right answer
  On the case
  Oral exams
Prepare for the day
In the exam
Tips for parents
Oral exams
Practise listening to languages CD-roms or foreign language radio stations for 10-15 minutes each day
Practise listening to language CD-roms or foreign language radio stations for 10-15 minutes each day
Photograph: Don McPhee

Orals can be more nerve-racking than written exams because they take place in front of teachers, friends and even moderators.

If you are doing a foreign language exam, you should have rehearsed a number of possible situations such as conversations about your family or what you do in your free time, based on previous oral exams. You will have to comment and answer questions on these situations, and learn basic phrases and words that will help you.

To make this revision more enjoyable, active and useful, try to work with a friend or relative, preferably one who has taken an exam in that language already. Tape-recording what you say can help you to evaluate your performance and identify the areas that need improving. It will also help your pronunciation.

Careful listening techniques are needed and it will help if you listen to the radio in the foreign language for 10-15 minutes each day, in the bath or anywhere.

You can revise in similar ways for the English orals. Practise presenting your talk to a small group who you will not be working with in the exam.

On the day

  • Speak slowly, loudly, clearly and with expression.
  • Listen closely to comments and questions, responding accurately and relevantly. Remember: questions/answers will depend on what you have already said, so you can steer the conversation to a certain extent towards topics that you prefer.
  • If you do not understand a question, stay calm and ask the examiner to repeat it. If you still do not understand, be honest and say, "I am sorry but I do not understand the question," and the examiner will then rephrase the question or move on to another.