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HSC Languages oral examinations – advice to students

This document provides general advice to students about the nature and conduct of the Higher School Certificate Languages oral examinations.

In preparing for an examination, the following documents available on the Board’s website at www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/languages.html will assist you:

  • Stage 6 syllabuses
  • Assessment and Reporting in Stage 6 documents
  • past HSC examinations and rubrics (Extension courses only)
  • marking guidelines
  • past Notes from the Marking Centre.

In addition to these documents, the Board has developed a short video with information, advice and tips for students who are sitting a Languages oral examination. The video is available to students through Students Online, and to teachers through Schools Online.

General information about dates and times

  • The oral examinations are held on Saturdays in August and September.
  • The Languages Oral Examinations Timetable is available at www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/events/. Specific information about your examination will be made available to you approximately three weeks before the examination.

General information for all courses

  • Examiners will not correct you or assist you with sentence construction or vocabulary. You should not ask the examiner to translate words or questions. The examiner will not give you any feedback about your performance after the examination.
  • It is important that you do not identify yourself, so be careful not to mention the name of your school or the names of any teachers during the examination. For this reason, you are also asked not to wear your school uniform on the day of the examination.
  • Except for the examination paper in the Extension courses, you may not bring any pictorial, print-based or handwritten materials into your examination.

Beginners courses

If you are doing a Beginners course, the examiner will ask you questions about the topics you have been studying from the syllabus, as they relate to your personal world. Neither the number of questions nor the number of topics covered by the examination is predetermined. However, you can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to something you have just said, or they may introduce a new topic.

You should be careful to answer each question only with relevant information. You should respond in such a way that you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Attempting to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues is not a good idea and will not enable you to achieve better marks. It is in your interest that the examiner interrupts such monologues. If you do not understand a question, you may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased, but you should do this in the language being examined.

Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, you will be asked no further questions. You will be given enough time to respond to the last question, but if you draw out this last response past the allocated time for the examination, you will be asked to bring your response to a conclusion.

The duration of the Beginners oral examination is approximately 5 minutes.

Continuers courses

Conversation

The oral examination for Continuers courses is known as the Conversation. The examiner will ask you questions about your personal world (for example, your life, family and friends, interests and aspirations) as it relates to the prescribed topics in the syllabus. Neither the number of questions nor the number of topics covered by the examination is predetermined. However, you can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to something you have just said, or they may introduce a new topic.

You should be careful to answer each question only with relevant information. You should respond in such a way that you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Attempting to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues is not a good idea and will not enable you to achieve better marks. It is in your interest that the examiner interrupts such monologues. If you do not understand a question, you may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased, but you should do this in the language being examined.

Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, you will be asked no further questions. You will be given enough time to respond to the last question, but if you draw out your response past the allocated time for the examination, you will be asked to bring your response to a conclusion.

The duration of the Continuers oral examination is approximately 10 minutes.

Conversation and Discussion

The oral examination for Continuers courses in Armenian, Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, Hindi, Hungarian, Khmer, Macedonian, Maltese, Modern Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi*, Russian**, Serbian, Swedish, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese consists of two sections: the Conversation and the Discussion.

In the Conversation, the examiner will ask you questions about your personal world (for example, your life, family and friends, interests and aspirations) as it relates to the prescribed topics in the syllabus. Neither the number of questions nor the number of topics covered by the examination is predetermined. However, you can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to something you have just said, or they may introduce a new topic.

You should be careful to answer each question only with relevant information. You should respond in such a way that you demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Attempting to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues is not a good idea and will not enable you to achieve better marks. It is in your interest that the examiner interrupts such monologues because the examiner understands that only relevant material will be considered by the markers. If you do not understand a question, you may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased, but you should do this in the language being examined.

In the Discussion, the examiner will ask you a series of questions relating to your in-depth study. It is important that you do not just deliver a report about what you have learned, because the point of this section of your examination is not only to determine how well you have researched your topic but also to see how well you are able to discuss what you have learned. The examiner will want to know what resources you have used. These should include a range of resources, not just documents or materials from the internet. You may not bring objects such as photographs, posters and pictures to the examination.

As with the Conversation, once the allocated time for the Discussion has elapsed, you will be asked no further questions. You will be given enough time to respond to the last question, but if you draw out your response past the allocated time for the examination, you will be asked to bring your response to a conclusion.

For examinations that include a Discussion, the duration of the oral examination is approximately 15 minutes: the Conversation is approximately 7 minutes and the Discussion is approximately 8 minutes.

* Effective from the 2016 HSC examination.
** Effective from the 2015 HSC examination.

Extension courses

In the Extension course oral examination, you are required to respond to one question from a choice of two questions on the examination paper. You will have 7 minutes' preparation time. During this time, you can make notes in the space provided on the paper. It is a good idea to try and structure what you want to say using some key words, rather than trying to write out a monologue. Remember that this is a speaking examination and it is a good idea to try and engage with the examiner. You should refer to your notes but not read directly from them.

You should speak for approximately 3 minutes. After 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the examiner will ring a warning bell. The examiner will ring a final bell at 3 minutes, at which time you must bring your response to a conclusion.

Heritage courses

Interview

The oral examination for Heritage courses is known as the Interview.

In the Interview, you are expected to explore the topic of your Personal Investigation with the examiner. Note: The topic you have chosen should be one that will allow you to develop and substantiate a point of view in the oral examination.

You will be assessed on your ability to:

  • reflect on ideas
  • apply research findings from the texts you have studied
  • present a point of view
  • communicate using appropriate intonation, pronunciation, grammar, language structures and vocabulary.

You should be prepared to talk about the range of texts from which you have drawn your research. These texts may include films, newspaper articles, songs, documentaries, short stories, extended interviews, extracts from works of fiction and non-fiction, electronic texts or oral history, either in their original form or adapted. You may also refer to English language texts, but these should be limited in number.

You should be prepared to actively participate in the Interview and engage with the examiner, presenting and substantiating your point of view, based on the research you have undertaken through the texts studied.

Your examiner will interrupt you if you try to dominate the Interview with a long, pre-learned monologue. If you do not understand a question, you may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased, but you should do this in the language being examined.

Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, you will be asked no further questions. You will be given enough time to respond to the last question, but if you draw out your response past the allocated time for the examination, you will be asked to bring your response to a conclusion.

To assist the examiner in conducting the Interview, you are required to complete the HSC Heritage Languages interview sheet. You must give the sheet to your teacher to upload on to Schools Online at least two weeks before your scheduled examination.

The duration of the Heritage oral examination is approximately 10 minutes.

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