It seems difficult to get better at languages, especially when exams start coming up close and you start to feel like you’re running out of time. But you can get better if you learn to familiarise yourself with the language.
Try to expose yourself to a little bit each day, for example by reading the news, listening to podcasts, watching TV shows, or even listening to music in the language. Find something you enjoy so you’ll keep doing it every day. See what you can find and let your brain get used to the language so it doesn’t freak out when it sees a whole exam paper written in it.
During your studies / before your exam:
- Use past papers. Do the same thing you do with other subjects: create an exam-like environment and practice timing. The one thing you can do differently is highlighting any words you don’t know, especially if they keep popping up. Once you’ve finished a past paper, take a break then come back to it to make a list of words you didn’t know, including their meaning.
- Try to spend 5-10 minutes every day reading over the list. You don’t have to sit down until you’ve memorised the words completely, but simply becoming familiar with them will be helpful. Similar words come up in exams every year, and it’s very likely the words you learned will come up.
- Do the same during class and highlight or make note of any words you don’t know. Make a different list with these words. You don’t need to prioritise them as much as words from past papers, but they’ll still be useful to know.
- In Paper 2, similar topics come up again and again, so find a pattern and practice questions that come up often but that you also feel confident with. Your actual exam will feel much more familiar and comfortable, and you’re likely to have answered a similar question during your practices.
During the exam:
- Before you start answering any questions, read over all the texts first and underline words you don’t know. You might be able to remember some of them later on.
- Your answers will be within the text. Find them directly in the text before answering your questions.
- As you’re reading texts, don’t assume the meanings of words you don’t know. When a question asks for material related to the word, read your answer options first then carefully think about what the word might mean. Think logically and don’t jump to conclusions.
- With Paper 2, read all questions and topics first and pick some you feel confident with. Make a quick outline for each before you decide the one you want to choose.
- Once you find a topic you like, make a more detailed outline while also taking note of the word count. Plan approximately how many words you can afford to write in each paragraph. The word count will also be useful for timing your exam.
- As you write, it might be useful to count your words after each paragraph to keep track of how many words you still have to write while also checking your timing. Check if your actual word count aligns with your planned one.
- When you’re finished writing, make sure you’ve left enough time to read it over. Look for mistakes, especially grammar ones. Read over each word carefully to check if the verb form/gender of noun/preposition is used correctly. Also, make sure you have not exceeded the word count.
Written assignment (HL):
- Summer’s the best time to read books. In those few months you have, pick your books, try to finish reading them and make a decision on which one you want to write about.
- Make notes while reading. Write down quotes or specific details that you think might be important for your assignment.
- Try to think about possible topics and themes related to your book. Keep several in mind and try to think about how you could potentially expand on each of them.
Internal assessment (oral):
- If there’s anyone you can practice speaking to, use the opportunity and practice as often as you can. You don’t have to spend hours in a single day, but try to meet them as often as possible to have short conversations.
- It might be difficult or even impossible to find someone to speak the language to. Don’t worry and focus on practising listening instead. Find podcasts or shows that interest you and listen to them on the bus or while relaxing at home. You don’t have to understand everything you hear, but get your ears used to listening to the language.