Below are my top tips for students who want to achieve great results in their language subjects, which can be followed both before and during your final exams.

 

Plan your approach:

It’s important to stay organised. You should plan your approach to study and exams to maximise your learning. I decided to map out my entire year on a calendar; I’m a visual learner, so it was beneficial for me to see the year clearly outlined. I would write down important dates, and then I would work backwards to see how much time I had to prepare.

 

Immerse yourself in the language:

Make sure to immerse yourself in the language wherever possible – it’s the perfect way to fully understand what you’re learning in class. Aim to ‘live’ your language throughout the year. You can involve yourself in the language outside of classes by taking cooking lessons in your language, watching television programs, or by going to restaurants and festivals.

 

The oral exam:

Before you get to the exam, you can prepare by doing the following:

  1. Be consistent, and organise weekly or monthly meetings with your teacher to practise conversing in the language, emulating the oral exam.
  2. Have a dedicated folder for your oral exam responses; this will make it much easier to compile answers to the specific area of study you’ll discuss in the exam.
  3. Create vocabulary lists and short sentences that include sophisticated grammar throughout the year; as these become more advanced, you can add this type of complex language to your oral responses.
  4. Pre-empt your examiners’ questions by imagining all of the possible questions that could follow from one of your answers. 
  5. Speak as much and as often as possible throughout the year. Sometimes it is simply a matter of ‘loosening the tongue’ to improve your accent.
  6. If you have difficulty pronouncing words, try this trick: speak with a pencil in your mouth. The struggle to properly enunciate words through this activity will engage your muscles, eventually improving your pronunciation once you take the pencil out. Trust me – it works!
  7. If you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who speak the language you are studying, use them to your advantage by engaging them in conversation.

 

The written exam:

Some good things to do when preparing for your written exam are:

  1. Refrain from thinking of your language as a chore. There are so many easy ways to tailor your language studies to your specific interests. Watch language films you are genuinely interested in or read online news articles about current world events.
  2. When you’re watching films in your respective language, make sure you have the language subtitles on – not the English ones! By watching a Greek film with Greek subtitles, for example, you are training your ears and mind to better recognise words. Use books and magazines; even if you read children’s picture books or the fashion descriptions in Vogue magazines, you’re engaging with your language in real-life settings. Moreover, you’ll succeed in broadening your vocabulary.
  3. Aim to hand in written work for correction at least once a fortnight. You can increase the frequency of this closer to the exam.
  4. Dedicate a weeknight to listening to language radio programs or music, and add to this by looking up the transcripts. Seeking out ways to engage with the language wherever possible will improve your confidence and engagement.
  5. Refrain from using online dictionaries; it will only be you and your ‘brick’ dictionary in the exam, so start your preparation now by using it while you’re studying. You’ll become more familiar with the language’s alphabet and become faster at looking up words.

 

One last thing:

My Year 12 Greek teacher often reminded me that the examiners are not scary beings who harshly criticise students for poor grammar or misspelt words. Rather, they’re members of a cultural community who are overjoyed by the fact that someone like you and me appreciates their language.

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