The Arabic GCSE: Tips and tactics for learners preparing for the oral exam

Mar 13, 2024

By F. Saeed

Preparing for Arabic language exams, particularly the GCSE speaking assessments (usually taken in Year 10 or Year 11 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland), presents a considerable challenge for both students and educators.

These assessments necessitate students to showcase their comprehension and proficiency in the Arabic GCSE curriculum by constructing coherent sentences in Modern Standard Arabic (اللغة العربية الفصحى).

The oral exam typically lasts under 12 minutes, with an additional 12-minute supervised preparation time. Dictionaries are not permitted during this period. The assessments comprise four distinct types: a role play, a picture card (an image students must describe), and two conversation sections.

Below are some tips to help students to achieve higher marks in their assessments:

Familiarise yourself with the course content:

Understanding the assessment criteria is crucial for success in your Arabic speaking exam. Focus on key areas such as fluency, pronunciation, vocabulary range, and grammar accuracy. Ensure that your revision is aligned with these criteria to adequately prepare for the exam. Keep practising in Modern Standard Arabic, as this practice will equip you for the spoken elements of the exam.

Learn in fun ways:

While studying for exams may not be inherently enjoyable, you can incorporate fun activities into your preparation. Engage in language apps, flashcards, or language-based board games with friends and family. If possible, immerse yourself in Arab culture, such as practising buying items from a shop, ordering food in Arab restaurants, or asking for directions. Such activities will not only make learning enjoyable but also strengthen your language skills, fluency, and confidence.

Get regular feedback:

Practice speaking in Modern Standard Arabic regularly with your teachers, friends, and family if they speak Arabic. Request constructive feedback to identify areas for improvement. Embrace feedback as a tool to track your progress and fine-tune your language skills. Listening to others' perspectives can provide valuable insights into enhancing your vocabulary, grammar, and overall speaking proficiency. You can also record yourself speaking in Arabic and listen to the recordings. This self-assessment allows you to identify areas for improvement in pronunciation, fluency, and grammar. It's a valuable tool for tracking your progress and refining your speaking abilities.

Practice cultural integration:

Using a diverse array of Arabic proverbs can demonstrate that you have gone the extra mile in your learning journey. Embrace the opportunity to use them creatively, incorporating them into your conversations as you practice. Make connections between the chosen proverbs and your speaking themes to illustrate your linguistic proficiency effectively.

Below are some proverb examples that can be used for various themes in the exam (such as ‘Schools’ and ‘Future aspiration, study and work’):

  • Knowledge is light

العلم نور

This proverb underscores the enlightening and empowering nature of knowledge and can be used to describe the importance of knowledge.

  • He who strives finds

من جَدَّ وَجَد

This proverb means that persistence and continual efforts lead to success and can be used to imply importance of working hard.

  • Knowledge at a young age is like engraving on stone

العلم في الصغر كالنقش على الحجر

This indicates that the knowledge gained during youth stays with a person forever, much like an engraving on stone remains permanent without fading or erasing. This proverb can be used can be used to imply the benefits of learning at a young age.

  • Knowledge is not what is memorised, but knowledge is what benefits.

لَيْسَ العِلْمُ مَا حُفِظَ، إِنَّما العِلْمُ مَا نَفَعَ

This proverb emphasises the practical application and utility of knowledge rather than simply retaining information and suggests that true knowledge is demonstrated through its beneficial impact on actions and decisions.

Go on to find more proverbs that are related to your selected themes.

Yallah, you are ready!

Oral exams can be intimidating, but it's essential to stay calm. Take your time when speaking, do not rush, and if you make a mistake, don't panic. Instead, pause, correct yourself, and continue. If you're unsure about a question, politely ask the examiner to repeat or rephrase it. You can say:

“من فضلك أعد السؤال”

“أنا لم أسمع جيدا فضلا أعد السؤال”

Remember that seeking clarification won't result in a lower score and can demonstrate your ability to self-correct.

By incorporating these additional strategies into your language learning routine, you'll not only excel in your exams but also develop practical, authentic Arabic speaking skills that extend beyond the academic setting.