The time has come. Well, almost. Although chestnuts are not in bloom yet, May is approaching rapidly. The good news is that soon after your matura exams you’re gonna have the longest summer holidays ever! I still remember mine and I tell you – it’s something worth waiting for! But hang on! Before you’re lost in daydreaming, let me give you some tips that might be useful in your oral English exam. 7 is said to be a lucky number, so here are my 7 tips:
1. MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION. Dress properly, smile and say ‘good morning’ / ‘good afternoon’ when you enter the room. I know it seems obvious, but my experience as an examiner makes me remind you of this basic rule. Secondly, when you speak, don’t stare at your feet, don’t fidget around nervously. Try to look confident, and maintain eye contact with the examiners.
2. THINK IN ENGLISH. What I mean is – don’t try to say what you want to say, say what you actually CAN produce in English. Your brain is not an instant translation tool and you won’t have uncle Google at hand – it’s a pity, I know.
3. AWKWARD SILENCE? DON’T LET IT FALL! In an oral exam silence is a killer. So? Speak! If you forget a word and can’t recall it – drop it! Don’t focus on it too much, as it will make you get stuck. Try to use a synonym, or define the word you need instead.
4. DON’T USE LEXICAL TEDDY BEARS! If an examiner hears a sentence like: “They are happy because they are smiling” their blood is up! So instead of using such hackneyed words and phrases, try to use their more sophisticated synonyms. You can find a list of such words here: http://larae.net/write/synonyms.html and here: http://www.teachingideas.co.uk/english/files/supersynonymssheet.pdf
To learn more about lexical teddy bears read my blog post: Why NICE isn’t so NICE…
5. EXAMPLES CAN SAVE YOUR SKIN! You know that during your oral exam it is not enough to mention a required piece of information, you have to mention and develop it. So one sentence is not enough. But what to do when your mind goes blank and you can’t come up with any arguments to support your opinion? The answer is: EXAMPLES! You can use them to develop your answer. For instance, the question is: “How can we protect the natural environment?” So you have got a ready-made answer: “You can sort our rubbish, save water and electricity, and use public transport.” And very often, after reciting this sentence, you feel content because you think you have said everything. Nope. It’s not enough. No other ideas? Use examples, like: “For example, I have three bins at home and my family sorts out plastic, paper and glass. I also always remember to switch off the light when I leave my room, as it not only saves energy but also makes electricity bills lower.” Better? Better!
6. HONESTY IS NOT THE BEST POLICY (in an exam). Remember oral exam is not a holy confession and examiners are not priests. So what? Well – don’t try to be too honest, lie! No one is interested in the truth here, it’s your language competence that matters. So when you hear a question like: “Tell me about your last summer holidays” give free rein to your imagination and tell them that you went to Africa and rode an elephant, drank coconut milk and climbed banana trees. It doesn’t really matter that you have never been to Africa! You must sound interesting, that’s all.
7. YOU CAN DO IT! And last but not least – believe in yourself. You can say more than you think you can say in English.