Do you have a GCSE French exam looming but don't know where to start when it comes to revising? Fear not, because in this post, we provide our top GCSE French revision tips to get you started. Covering speaking, listening, writing, and reading, our advice will help you get off to a flying start with your French studying.
If your GCSE French exam is on the horizon and you’re not sure where to begin, then this post is for you. Here are our top GCSE French revision tips to ensure that you have a structured approach to revising.
Before you start studying for GCSE French, you need to know what the exam involves, and which topics you’ll need to know. Once you’ve got to grips with what to revise, you can then focus on how best to do it (organisation is key). A revision plan that covers everything you’ll be studying, and when, will help you stay on track leading up to your exam. It doesn’t need to be complicated – a simple wall calendar would work – but make sure it outlines everything you’ll need to learn.
The GCSE French Exam Format
To get you started, here’s an overview of the GCSE French exam format, as outlined on the AQA website:
Paper 1: Listening – At Foundation level, this is a 35-minute exam with 40 marks available. For the Higher level paper, the exam is 45 minutes long, with 50 marks available. The listening exam is worth 25% of your overall grade. The first section asks questions in English, which have to be answered in English too. The second part will ask questions in French, with answers to be given in French.
Paper 2: Speaking – The speaking exam will usually take place with your French teacher, and not in an exam hall. At Foundation level, the test will last around 7-9 minutes, and at Higher level, it lasts 10-12 minutes. There are 60 marks available in total, and the test accounts for 25% of your overall French GCSE grade. There will be both a role play, or photo card, and conversation element to the test.
Paper 3: Reading – The reading paper is a written exam that lasts for 45-minutes at Foundation level, and 1 hour at Higher level. There are 60 marks awarded in total, which will contribute to 25% of your overall grade. The first section asks question in English, which should be answered in English. The second section will ask questions in French, to be answered in French too, and the third section is a translation from French to English.
Paper 4: Writing – The GCSE French written exam lasts for one 1 hour at Foundation level and 1 hour 15 minutes at Higher level. There are 50 marks available at Foundation level and 60 marks at Higher level. There are four questions in the paper at both Foundation and Higher level.
GCSE French Listening Exam Advice
One of the best ways to prepare for the listening exam is to use the past papers on the AQA website. There are also linked audio files available on the website that you can use for listening revision.
It’s a good idea to think about the topic in question before you start. Try making a list of words or phrases that may come up. This way you’ll be more likely to pick up on the vocabulary when it’s used in the paper. You’ll also be more likely to identify any trickier words that may arise.
Numbers can easily be mistaken in listening exams, so listen to them carefully. You’ll have two chances to listen to the recording, so use the second listen to clarify any hesitations you might have had the first time round.
Having listened to the recording twice, and recorded your answers, it’s a good idea to use the audio transcript provided on the AQA website to go through the questions again, and to note anything you may have missed.
Other good ways of revising for the listening exam are to listen to French radio or podcasts, to get used to hearing the language. One podcast we’d recommend is News In Slow French, which is suitable for language learners working towards intermediate level French.
GCSE French Speaking Exam Tips
The French speaking exam has two parts. The first section will ask you to give a presentation based on a picture or photocard, and the second section requires you to have a conversation about the topics covered in the picture.
One of the best ways to prepare for the presentation part of the exam is to have several presentations written out and practiced. If you cover a number of topic areas, then you’ll be prepared for whichever topic may arise on the day. Writing out lists of words and phrases for each topic will also give you a competitive edge.
Practicing your presentations with another person will also be a great help. Even if the person doesn’t speak French, talking out loud will help you to perfect your accent and pronunciation, and help to improve your confidence.
You could also consider recording your presentation on your phone, as listening back to it will help you revise, and put you in the right frame of mind on the day of the exam.
GCSE French Reading Exam Preparation
The first section of the reading exam will ask you to answer questions in English, whereas the second section will ask for answers in French. For both parts of the exam, it’s important that you read the comprehension text thoroughly before you attempt to answer the questions – this will also help to provide context to the questions.
Grammar and vocabulary revision is key for success in the reading exam. Areas such as tenses – past, present, future – and topic-specific vocabulary will help you to answer the questions more easily, as will being familiar with different question types, i.e. what, why, when, who, how, etc.
Using past papers will also allow you to get familiar with words and phrases that you’ll need to know for each topic. Besides these papers, reading French texts in the form of French blogs, newspapers or books will help you prepare to do your best in the reading exam.
GCSE French Writing Practice
The GCSE writing exam is made up of two tasks. The first will ask you to write about a topic related to a reading passage, and the second will ask you to select a writing task from a choice of three. Each will require a different writing style, i.e. discursive, narrative or descriptive. Both sections of the exam will require you to use a variety of tenses, clauses and vocabulary, and you should also demonstrate accurate use of grammar.
One of the best ways to revise for the GCSE French writing exam is to practice the different tasks using past papers, and have someone assess your writing afterwards. Using past papers will allow you to get to grips with the content and style of each type of question, and personal feedback will help to identify any areas you may need to work on. You can ask your class teacher, or French tutor, to look over your writing work once you have completed it.
How To Improve GCSE French Vocabulary
When it comes to improving your French vocabulary, the earlier you start the better. The more time you give yourself to expand your vocab, then the more words and phrases you’ll know when it comes to exam day. The best way to do this is to have a ‘vocab book’, where you can jot down any new words or phrases that you might come across. Creating topic-specific vocab lists will also be really helpful when it comes to success in the exams.
Reading a wide range of French texts of different styles will also help to expand your vocabulary. Be sure to note down any new words or phrases you find that you think could be useful in the exam. If you’re a more visual learner, then writing down words you want to learn on post-it notes, and sticking them around your study space, could help you to memorise important phrases.
Practice with GCSE French Past Papers
While it’s important to know the content of the exam, it’s also key to have good exam technique. Using past papers as part of your revision schedule is a great way to get to grips with the layout of each paper, and the types of questions that they may contain.
Past papers will also help to flag up any weak areas that may need improving before your GCSE French exam. You will also be able to monitor your progress by checking your answers against the provided mark schemes. As your exam approaches, it’s a good idea to do the past papers under timed exam conditions, as this will help to improve your time management skills. The more timed practice you’re able to do, the faster you’ll get at answering the questions under pressure.
GCSE French past papers can be downloaded directly from the AQA website, here.
For more advice on revising for GCSE French, check out this useful YouTube video from Lydia Violeta:
Please note that the GCSE French revision tips contained in this post should not be used as a substitute for advice given by your school and the AQA website