Tips for Language Oral Exams

Untitled design (1)With the Irish Oral and Language Oral exams only around the corner, now is the time to really immerse yourself in your language and start to speak, think and even dream in it. The only problem is that once one oral is over you need to start immersing yourself in the other language! How confusing is that? The mind boggles! In order to perform as well as you can and reap as many marks as possible for the 40% (Irish) or 25% (modern languages) going for the oral try to take on board some of the tips outlined below.

Start speaking the language

Try to use your language on every occasion. Count in the language, talk to yourself in the language, think in the language. Really try to immerse yourself in the sounds and intonations of the language to develop confidence. When preparing for Irish watch TG4, tune into Radio na Gaeltachta, watch Nuacht, read Foinse. Do whatever you can to expose yourself to the language and study the lazy way, through the process of osmosis. Try to find an equivalent to these online for your modern language.

Prepared Pieces

In the Irish Oral you are asked to read a poem and discuss a cartoon strip Sraith Pictuir. You should have these well learned off. You have been given almost 2 years to prepare so there is no excuse to perform poorly in this part of the exam. Similarly some of the modern languages have prepared pieces. Learn these and do your best to really ace this part of the exam.


Practice Questions

Your teacher will be able to provide you with a list of the most common questions asked in oral exams. Be very familiar with these questions. Prepare answers and learn them off by heart. Check with your teacher that your learnt answers are grammatically sound. You can practice answering these questions with friends and family members; talk to yourself in the mirror, however you do it ensure that you are very confident answering these questions and you are used to answering them aloud. Be very familiar with how the expected questions could be constructed. If you are unsure about pronunciation try using a website like Forvo

Guide your Answers

If you have prepared a really good section on your hobbies but the examiner doesn’t ask you about this then find a way of bringing it in e.g. you have prepared lots on football and the team you play for. Q : Would you like to go to University next year? A: Yes, I would like to study Law at UCD. I chose UCD as they have excellent playing fields and sports facilities. I play football. . . . You have now guided the examiner to talk about what you have prepared (Go you!)

Grammar and Tenses

Listen carefully to the questions and be careful to answer in the correct tense. The examiner will be looking out for this. Ensure that you get to use as many tenses as possible during the exam to ramp up your marks. The basic expected from you is past, present and future but if you include conditional tenses you are bound to sound more impressive.

Idioms and Phrases

It is a good idea to have a few phrases learnt off by heart that you can easily insert into any conversation. For example ‘all in all’ ‘ so on and so forth’ ‘ day in day out,’ etc Perhaps ask your teacher for a list of simple everyday phrases you can just drop into conversation. For some French ideas click here.

Have a few stock phrases learnt off by heart such as ‘Can you repeat the question please?’ ‘Can you speak more slowly please?’, ‘Can you rephrase the question please?’ If you need to use any of these questions in the interview, you will be confident in how you construct them if you have them well prepared in advance.

On the day of the exam . . .

  • Be confident – walk into the room with a smile, make eye contact, firm handshake, greet your examiner and sit up straight in your chair.
  • Be enthusiastic in the interview. You want to impress.
  • Develop your answers. Avoid monosyllabic answers like ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ The examiner can’t award you any marks for these so give them plenty of material to bump up your grade.
  • If you feel nervous take a few deep breaths. Speak slowly and clearly. You can sip water if you feel that your mouth might dry up.
  • Finally thank the examiner before leaving the room.


When the exam is over it is best to forget about it. Postmortems of exams are best avoided. If you made a mistake it is good to just forget about it and remember what went well in the exam. Don’t bother comparing yourself to others. Remember the report your friend gives you on their performance, be it good or bad, is purely subjective and you have no way of knowing what really went on during their oral so don’t let someone else’s performance undermine yours.

Best of Luck!





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