If you find language exams scary, it’s usually the oral parts that make them so. Speaking a foreign language can be a stressful experience even in the best of circumstances but having someone grade you while you do it really exacerbates the situation. Nevertheless, half of the victory when taking an oral language exam is showing up confident.
So, we’ve prepared a few tips that can help you feel a lot more secure in your speaking skills. You can find more tips on how to succeed in any language exam here.
Practice with Native Speakers
The oral part of language exams is often very difficult to prepare for. Especially, if you don’t live in a country where your target language is spoken. In this case, language exchanges can be a great substitute. You can attend language exchange meetings or find people to practice with online. As with other skills, speaking a language is something that you need to practice to get better at. Knowing perfect grammar won’t help you if you don’t open your mouth and speak.
If you happen to favour passive language learning, just focus on speaking practice more intensely before the exam and take solace in the fact that the oral part usually just lasts for 15-20 minutes. Another great way to impress your examiner is to learn a few idioms and a bit of slang that native speakers can teach you.
Native speakers can also teach you how they mumble. Things like saying “umm” in English, “pues” in Spanish, or “ääh” in German can make all of the difference. Practice using these filler words before to make the disfluencies look and feel natural.
Stick to True-to-Life Language
These days, a lot of the proficiency tests pride themselves in using as natural language as possible. In English and Spanish tests, you are more than likely to come up against the various ways the languages are spoken on different continents, for example. Also, the higher level language tests also like incorporating street and slang language to their exams which you should be prepared for.
So, don’t only use your textbook to get ready. Instead, learn how your target language is actually used. Blogs are, again, a great tool for this, as are TV shows and other native language media. For your oral part, learn a few stock sentences that you could slip into almost any topic and be sure to use the colloquial street language to impress your examiner.
Get a Professional Teacher to Help You Prepare
Even Benny, the self-learning polyglot, prefers getting professional teachers to help him when taking language proficiency tests. There’s simply no substitute for the expertise of a professional teacher who has experience in preparing people for the exam you are about to take. They can point you to the best preparation materials and help you prepare for the oral part with all the expertise of a native speaker. They will most certainly help you overcome your personal obstacles and give you constant feedback on what and how you need to still improve.
The good news is that you don’t even need that many hours with a private teacher to help you prepare. Most of the work you can do yourself, just schedule a meeting once a week for a month or so before taking your exam to see how you are progressing.
Feel (or Act) Confident
The great difference between written and oral tests is that during the speaking part, you are facing your examiner. Although this can make the situation a bit more stressful, you can also use this to your advantage. Sure, your examiners have been trained to listen to only your spoken language but they are only human and prone to the biases we all suffer from.
If you feel confident, and greet the examiner with a smile, it will more than likely turn things in your favour. Sit upright and look them in the eye, don’t cross your legs or arms, and just imagine that you’re speaking with your best friend. If you notice a mistake you made when speaking, either smile and correct yourself, or keep going like nothing happened.
While it is obviously what you say that is being evaluated, taking care of how you say it, can only work in your favour.
Conclusion – Focus on Real Life Language Before Your Oral Exam
Although language proficiency tests can seem intimidating at first and many of us would avoid them altogether, there are ways to make the event more pleasant. Just remember to keep your end goal in mind to keep yourself motivated and use the previous tips to feel more confident.
Practice with your private language teacher or take part in a language exchange where you can learn some idioms and colloquialisms that native speakers use to give your spoken language that extra edge. Go to the exam brimming with confidence, or, if you don’t – just fake it.