Skip to main content

Irish State Commission Exam paper archive

I know that teachers are not short of resources these days, what with course books, free shared materials online, subscription sites and the rest. In fact, my department used to talk of "resources panic" as they contemplated the huge range of stuff there was to choose from when approaching a topic. We've moved a long way since "turn to page...".

However, I've only just come across the large archive of past examination papers from the Irish State Examination Commission.

In French they have papers going back to 1996 (1995 only offers one sound file for the leaving Certificate).

There are two types: the Junior Certificate is like the English and Welsh GCSE and it has two levels, Ordinary and Higher Level. These correspond well with Foundation and Higher Tier in England and Wales.

The equivalent of the English and Welsh A-level is called Leaving Certificate, also at two levels - Ordinary and Higher. Listening, reading and writing are tested. Sound files are available, as they are at Junior Certificate level.

It is always interesting to compare assessment styles across countries. What you notice with the Junior Certificates is that they separate out skills by exclusively using questions in English. (I wonder whether this affects teaching methodology?) The listening sections use multi-choice with options in English, note completion in English and question-answer in English. The reading sections use matching, ticking boxes, questions in English and multi-choice. The writing assessment is similar to what we used to have at GCSE, namely bullet points in English to develop into mini essays. The Higher paper is two and a half hours long.

As far as the Leaving Certificate papers are concerned, at Ordinary Level, questions in English and French are the order of the day, along with some gap fill, note completion and short form writing (the latter is much easier than AS Level in England and Wales). The language content and difficulty level is similar to that found in English and Welsh papers. At Higher Level, there are two major source texts, one of which resembles those found at A2 level, but the second is literary - a significant difference. There are numerous questions in French, some short paragraph writing and three long paragraph questions (only 75 or 90 words long) on areas of topical interest. These appear less daunting than their equivalent on English and Welsh papers, but encourage candidates to be concise and to use a similar level of language. Students need not worry about essay structure. (I question why we hang on to the essay assessment format in English and Welsh MFL exams - what are we assessing, language or essay writing?)

All in all, teachers will find a wealth of useful material for teaching or assessment and I recommend this archive wholeheartedly.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

Delayed dictation

What is “delayed dictation”?

Instead of getting students to transcribe immediately what you say, or what a partner says, you can enforce a 10 second delay so that students have to keep running over in their heads what they have heard. Some teachers have even used the delay time to try to distract students with music.

It’s an added challenge for students but has significant value, I think. It reminds me of a phenomenon in music called audiation. I use it frequently as a singer and I bet you do too.

Audiation is thought to be the foundation of musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. You can audiate when listening to music, performing from notation, playing “by ear,” improvising, composing, or notating music. When we have a song going round in our mind we are audiating. When we are deliberately learning a song we are audiating.

In our language teaching case, though, the earworm is a word, chunk of l…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…

Responsive teaching

Dylan Wiliam, the academic most associated with Assessment for Learning (AfL), aka formative assessment, has stated that these labels have not been the most helpful to teachers. He believes that they have been partly responsible for poor implementation of AfL and the fact that AfL has not led to the improved outcomes originally intended.

Wiliam wrote on Twitter in 2013:

“Example of really big mistake: calling formative assessment formative assessment rather than something like "responsive teaching".”

For the record he subsequently added:

“The point I was making—years ago now—is that it would have been much easier if we had called formative assessment "responsive teaching". However, I now realize that this wouldn't have helped since it would have given many people the idea that it was all about the teacher's role.”

I suspect he’s right about the appellation and its consequences. As a teacher I found it hard to get my head around the terms AfL and formative assess…

Five great advanced level French listening sites

If your A-level students would like opportunities to practise listening there are plenty of sources you can recommend for accessible, largely comprehensible and interesting material. Here are some I have come across while searching for resources over recent years.

Daily Geek Show

I love this site. It's fresh, youthful and full of really interesting material. They have an archive of videos, both short and long, from various sources, grouped under a range of themes: insolite (weird news items), science, discovery, technology, ecology and lifestyle. There should be something there to interest all your students while adding to their broader education. Here is one I enjoyed (I shall seriously think about buying tomatoes in winter now):




France Bienvenue

This site has been around for years and is the work of a university team in Marseilles. You get a mixture of audio and video material complete with transcripts and explanations.This is much more about the personal lives of the students …