How to prepare for an oral exam

by Lingoda Team
April 27, 2017

Oral exams can often be intimidating for English language students, because they require fast and accurate recollection of learned material, while also requiring the student to engage in public speaking in an unfamiliar language. For this reason, it is important for language learners to adequately prepare for any test.

With that being said, preparation for an oral exam can also be more difficult than with a written exam, because of the nature of the examination process itself. While a written exam will have questions set in advance, with a correct answer, an oral exam tends to be more dynamic, with the examiner choosing questions as the student progresses. The answers, meanwhile, are less concrete and may ask for a subjective response, such as an opinion.

examination, speaking, mistakes

Nevertheless, there are certain steps that can be taken to help out. Here, we provide our own advice on how to prepare for an oral exam, ensure you perform to the best of your ability and ultimately pass.

Understanding the Exam

The very first step of the preparation process should entail making sure you fully understand the exam itself, including the procedures, what aspects of the language are being tested and precisely which material you need to be familiar with. We recommend the following.

  • Read the exam rules and be clear on what you can and cannot do;
  • Make sure you know what level the test is (e.g. A1, A2, B1, B2, etc.);
  • Look at the syllabus and ensure you know what you should be learning;
  • Ask to take a look at the marking scheme, so you know how your score will be decided;
  • Get any questions you have out of the way long before the exam itself.

oral exam, student preparation

Preparation and Revision

Once you have a clear idea of exactly how the exam works and what is going to be expected from you, you can start work on actually revising and preparing for it. Each student is likely to have different preferences for precisely how they revise information, but whatever the method(s) you opt for, we suggest you:

  • Create a study schedule and stick to it as rigidly as possible;
  • Read through your learning materials and attempt to pick out potential themes;
  • Try to think of possible connections between the items on the reading list;
  • Predict possible questions you could be asked during the exam and practice answering them;
  • Use a mirror while practising, so you can pick up on any nervous habits you have;
  • If at all possible, prepare a mock test and have someone sit and ask you the questions.

The Night Before

before the exam, preparation, night

It is common for students to become somewhat nervous on the night before any exam, but there are things you can do to try to limit the stress and make the whole experience a little bit easier. The following steps should help you to navigate the tricky night before the big day:

  • Practice your answers again and run through any key vocabulary a few hours before bed;
  • Plan out what you are going to wear and how you are going to get to the exam location;
  • Take at least half an hour to relax and unwind before going to bed;
  • Try to get plenty of sleep so you are fully refreshed before your speaking exam.

On The Day

You will almost certainly feel rather jittery on the morning of your exam, but again there are certain steps that can be taken to try to minimise this and help you to give the best possible performance. On the day of the exam, before beginning the test, make sure you:

  • Have something to eat, even if it is just a very light breakfast;
  • Try to adopt a positive mental attitude, knowing you have prepared to the best of your ability;
  • Aim to arrive at the test centre with plenty of time to spare, in case you encounter any problems;
  • Avoid any last minute cramming if at all possible.

preparation, exam, speaking practice

Useful Phrases

Finally, during the actual exam itself, it often helps if you have a few phrases to fall back on if you get stuck, need to buy time, or need the examiner to clarify something. Below, we have compiled a list of useful English phrases, separated into categories based on when you might use them:

 

Useful Phrases in English

 

Seeking Clarification

  • “I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?”
  • “You mean to say…?”
  • “Sorry, I don’t quite follow you.”
  • “To clarify, are you asking…?”
  • “I beg your pardon…”

 

Buying Time to Think

  • “Let me see…”
  • “That’s an interesting question…”
  • “Personally, I think…”
  • “I suppose I would have to say…”

Agreeing With a Statement

  • “I would have to agree…”
  • “You are absolutely right…”
  • “I think that’s right…”
  • “Yes, I believe that’s correct.”
  • “I would tend to go along with that…”
  • “Yes, I agree…”

Disagreeing With a Statement

  • “No, I disagree…”
  • “I’m not so sure about that…”
  • “Well, not necessarily…”
  • “No, I don’t think so…”
  • “I’m afraid I disagree…”
  • “No, I don’t think that’s true…”
  • “I actually think the opposite…”

Making a Point

  • “In my opinion…”
  • “The way I see it is…”
  • “As far as I can see…”
  • “To the best of my knowledge…”
  • “Personally, I think…”
  • “If you ask me…”
  • “Well, I suppose I would say…”
  • “From my point of view…”

 

Useful Spanish Phrases

 

Seeking Clarification

  • Disculpe, ¿podría repetir la pregunta?
  • ¿Quiere decir….?
  • Disculpe, no le he entendido bien.
  • Para clarificar, ¿está preguntando si…?
  • Le ruego que me disculpe…

 

Buying Time to Think

  • Déjeme pensar…
  • Esa es una pregunta muy interesante…
  • Personalmente, creo que…
  • Supongo que debería decir que…

 

Agreeing With a Statement

  • Tengo que estar de acuerdo en que…
  • Está absolutamente en lo cierto…
  • Creo que eso es así…
  • Sí, considero que es correcto.
  • Me inclino a pensar que sí…
  • Sí, estoy de acuerdo…

 

Disagreeing With a Statement

  • No, no estoy de acuerdo…
  • No estoy tan seguro de ello…
  • Bueno, no necesariamente…
  • No, no lo creo…
  • Me temo que no estoy de acuerdo…
  • No, no creo que sea cierto…
  • A decir verdad, opino lo contrario…

 

Making a Point

  • En mi opinión…
  • A mi modo de ver…
  • Por lo que yo puedo ver…
  • Hasta donde yo sé…
  • Personalmente, creo que…
  • Si me preguntas…
  • Bueno, creo que debería decir que…
  • Desde mi punto de vista…

 

Useful German Phrases

 

Seeking Clarification

  • Es tut mir Leid, können Sie die Frage wiederholen?
  • Sie möchten damit sagen, dass…?
  • Entschuldigen Sie, ich kann Ihnen nicht ganz folgen.)
  • Um es zu klären, fragen Sie, dass…?
  • Verzeihen Sie bitte…

 

Buying Time to Think

  • Lassen Sie mich nachdenken…
  • Das ist eine interessante Frage…
  • Persönlich denke ich, dass…
  • Ich muss wahrscheinlich sagen, dass…

 

Agreeing With a Statement

  • Da muss ich zustimmen…
  • Sie haben vollkommen recht…
  • Ich denke, dass das stimmt…
  • Ja, ich glaube, dass das richtig ist.
  • Ich wäre damit einverstanden..
  • Ja, ich stimme zu…

 

Disagreeing With a Statement

  • Nein, ich stimme nicht zu…
  • Ich bin mir da nicht sicher…
  • Nicht notwendigerweise…
  • Nein, das denke ich nicht…
  • Ich fürchte, dass ich widersprechen muss…
  • Nein, ich denke nicht, dass das wahr ist…
  • Ich denke in der Tat das Gegenteil…

 

Making a Point

  • Meiner Meinung nach…
  • So wie ich das sehe…
  • Aus meiner Sicht…
  • Nach bestem Wissen…
  • Ich persönlich denke, dass…
  • Wenn Sie mich fragen…
  • Ich würde wohl sagen, dass
  • Aus meiner Sichtweise heraus…

 

Useful French Phrases

 

Seeking Clarification

  • Pardon, pourriez-vous répéter la question ?
  • Vous voulez dire…?
  • Pardon, je n’ai pas suivi ce sue vous venez de dire.
  • Pour clarifier, me demandez-vous…?
  • Je vous demande pardon…

 

Buying Time to Think

  • Voyons voir…
  • C’est une question intéressante…
  • Personnellement je pense que…
  • Je suppose que ma réponse est…

 

Agreeing With a Statement

  • Je suis d’accord sur…
  • Vous avez tout à fait raison…
  • Je pense que cell est vrai…
  • Oui, je pense que cell est correct.
  • Je suis d’accord avec vous sur…
  • Oui, je suis d’accord…

 

Disagreeing With a Statement

  • Non, je ne suis pas d’accord…
  • Je ne suis pas certain de cela…
  • Pas nécessairement…
  • Non, je ne pense pas que…
  • Je suis désolé, mais je ne suis pas d’accord…
  • Non, je ne pense pas que cela soit le cas…
  • À vrai dire, je pense le contraire…

 

Making a Point

  • À mon avis…
  • De la manière dont je le vois…
  • Pour autant que je puisse voir…
  • D’après mes connaissances…
  • Personnellement, je pense que…
  • “If you ask me…” (« Si vous voulez mon avis… »)
  • “J’imagine que ma réponse serait…
  • De mon point de vue…
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