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HSC Languages oral examinations – advice to teachers

This document provides general advice to teachers of Stage 6 Languages courses about the nature and conduct of the Higher School Certificate oral examinations.

Teachers should be familiar with the following documents that are available on the Board’s website at www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/syllabus_hsc/languages.html:

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

General information

  • For all examinations, examiners will not correct students or assist with sentence construction or vocabulary. Students should not ask the examiner to translate words or questions.
  • Students should not identify themselves, their teachers or their schools to the examiner.
  • Except for the examination paper in Extension courses, students may not bring any pictorial, print-based or handwritten materials into any examinations.

Beginners courses

In the oral examination, the examiner will ask the student questions about his or her personal world 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, students can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to a previous response made by the student or they may introduce a new topic.

Students should answer each question only with information related specifically to the question asked. Students are encouraged to respond in such a way that they demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Students are strongly advised not to attempt to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues. In the interest of students, such monologues will be interrupted by the examiner at an appropriate moment. If students do not understand a question, they may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased in the language being examined.

Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, students will be asked no further questions. Generally, the examiner will bring the examination to a close, but if necessary students will be requested to draw their final response to a conclusion.

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

Continuers courses

Conversation

In the oral examination, which is known as the Conversation, the examiner will ask the student questions about his or her personal world (for example, his or her 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, students can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to a previous response made by the student or they may introduce a new topic.

Students should answer each question only with information related specifically to the question asked. Students are encouraged to respond in such a way that they demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Students are strongly advised not to attempt to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues. In the interest of students, such monologues will be interrupted by the examiner at an appropriate moment. If students do not understand a question, they may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased in the language being examined.

Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, students will be asked no further questions by the examiner. Generally, the examiner will bring the examination to a close, but if necessary students will be requested to draw their response to a conclusion.

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

Conversation and Discussion

The oral examinations 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 will consist of two sections: the Conversation and the Discussion.

In the Conversation, the examiner will ask the student questions about his or her personal world (for example, his or her 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, students can expect to be asked a range of questions sampling the content of the course. The questions the examiner asks may relate to a previous response made by the student or they may introduce a new topic.

Students should answer each question only with information related specifically to the question asked. Students are encouraged to respond in such a way that they demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a range of structures and vocabulary, but not through the inclusion of material irrelevant to the question asked. Students are strongly advised not to attempt to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues. In the interest of students, such monologues will be interrupted by the examiner at an appropriate moment. If students do not understand a question, they may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased in the language being examined.

In the Discussion, the examiner will ask the student a series of questions relating to the student’s in-depth study. Students should be prepared to discuss issues related to the study as well as the texts/resources studied. Students must not bring objects such as photographs, posters and pictures to the examination. No questions will be asked after the allocated time for the examination has elapsed. Generally, the examiner will bring the examination to a close, but if necessary students will be requested to draw their response to a conclusion.

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

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

Extension courses

In the oral examination, students respond to one question from a choice of two printed on the examination paper. Students have 7 minutes’ preparation time during which they may make brief notes in the space provided on the paper. Students may refer to these notes during the examination but must not read directly from them.

Students 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 students must bring their response to a conclusion.

Heritage courses

Interview

The Personal Investigation is the basis of the HSC Heritage oral examination, which consists of an Interview conducted by the examiner with the student.

In the Personal Investigation, students choose their area of interest from one of the following Issues:

  • Young people and their relationships
  • Traditions and values in a contemporary society
  • The changing nature of work
  • The individual as a global citizen
  • [Language] identity in the international context.

Teachers should support and guide students in their choice of topic and texts. The topic chosen by the student should be one that will enable the student to develop and substantiate a point of view in the oral examination.

Texts form the basis of the Personal Investigation and may include, for example, 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. A range of different texts in [Language] should be studied. Note: Appropriate English language texts may also be included, but should be limited in number.

In the Interview, the student is expected to explore the topic of his or her Personal Investigation with the examiner. Students will be assessed on their ability to:

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

Students should be prepared to actively participate in the Interview and engage with the examiner, presenting and substantiating their points of view, based on the research they have undertaken through the texts studied.

Students are advised not to dominate the conversation with long, pre-learned monologues. Such monologues will be interrupted by the examiner at an appropriate moment. If students do not understand a question, they may ask for it to be repeated, clarified or rephrased in the language being examined. Once the allocated time for the examination has elapsed, students will be asked no further questions by the examiner. Generally, the examiner will bring the examination to a close, but if necessary students will be requested to draw their response to a conclusion.

To assist the examiner in conducting the Interview, students are required to complete the HSC Heritage Languages interview sheet, which is also available to teachers on Schools Online. Teachers must upload this sheet to Schools Online at least two weeks before the scheduled examination.

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

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