How to prepare for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam – Advice from a student

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Spanish, like any other modern foreign language, is a difficult GCSE to take. After all, there are four components you have to be competent in to do well! These include reading, writing, listening and speaking in the language. Many students find the speaking element extremely difficult. This is because not only do you have to know and understand a range of vocabulary, you also have to have good pronunciation. As the speaking exam also takes place face to face with an examiner, nerves can often get the better of students!

Before the GCSE Spanish speaking exam, you will be given 12 minutes supervised preparation time. In this time, you need to make sure that you are writing down Spanish vocabulary relevant to the questions on the exam materials. However, when thinking about preparing before the day of the exam, it is best to focus on active recall revision methods, such as flash cards.

If you want to find out more about how to prepare for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam on the day of the exam and weeks before, check out the rest of this article!

What do you need to prepare for in the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

There is no hiding the fact that the GCSE Spanish speaking exam is difficult. This is because it is a comprehensive exam, which requires you to have a real understanding of the language.

Many students believe that all they have to do is memorise. However, this is definitely not the case! This is because the speaking exam has three main components, which require a deep level of understanding.

The first is known as the ‘role play’ section. This requires students to respond to unknown questions and statements by the examiner in Spanish, to maintain a conversation. They must speak in the correct register and also ask a question of their own.

The second section is known as the ‘photo-card’ element. Students will have to describe a picture they have never seen before in Spanish. They will have to use different time frames, to show their narration skills.

The last section is general conversation, requiring students to initiate conversation and discussions, whilst providing different points of view. Together, these sections of the speaking exam will cover all taught themes.

However, there are different levels of difficulty between the foundation and higher papers. You can check out which GCSEs have higher and foundation papers if you check out this Think student article.

If you want to find out more about the different sections, check out the GCSE Spanish specification from the AQA website or this document from Pearson Edexcel.

Therefore, it is important that you prepare for all these sections! Just before the exam, you will be given a supervised preparation time, 12 minutes long. This allows students to view some of the role-play and photo card materials, allowing them to prepare and make notes.

How do you prepare for the role play section of the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

During the role play section, you will have to prepare five interactions. Just before the exam, you will be shown the role play card, describing a situation, which will have 3 statements on, a question mark and an exclamation mark.

You can use your preparation time before the exam to make notes on the three sections. In my experience, I found it easier to write full sentences when responding to the statements.

If you just write random words, this could lead to confusion during the exam! The exclamation mark on the card symbolises an unknown question the examiner will ask you. The question mark means that you have to ask the examiner a question. You can find out more about the role play section if you check out this article from the How to unlock Spanish website.

As each role play is only based on one theme, it is best to write down key phrases related to that theme. Then, you could think of a question also related to it.

If you use your supervised preparation time wisely, this means that you will be fully prepared! However, to use this time wisely, you need to make sure that you know key vocabulary, such as question words and phrases related to the different themes.

Preparing this knowledge will be discussed further in the article.

How do you prepare for the photo card section of the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

As your preparation time is also for the photo card task, you need to ensure that you use your time wisely. For the photo card task, you will always be asked to describe the photo in Spanish.

There will be two other questions written on the photo card and you will also be asked two unknown questions. Therefore, during your preparation time, write down the answers to the known questions.

Then to prepare for the unknown questions, study the photo and write down as much vocabulary as you can that relates to it. However, to get the top marks, you need to use different tenses and give your opinion.

Therefore, it can be useful to know different opinion phrases in Spanish and be familiar with all the different tenses. Conjugation is essential in Spanish, so make sure that this is prioritised in your revision!

If you want to find out more about the photo card, check out this page from the How to unlock Spanish website.

How do you prepare for the conversation section of the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

The good thing about the conversation section is that you will only be assessed on two themes and you get to choose what one of these themes are!

Consequently, the best way to prepare for this part of the speaking exam is to memorise phrases and questions about your chosen theme. Anticipate what you could be asked about this theme and have answers ready.

Preparing answers for the unknown theme is trickier. However, my teacher advised that we memorise answers to questions that could come up.

This took up a lot of time, as memorising many potential answers is no easy task! Therefore, it may be best to just familiarise yourself with key vocabulary and take time to really understand how the language works.

This will allow you to speak spontaneously and answer questions you may have never been asked before. Of course, saying that you will familiarise yourself with key vocabulary is easy, however actually doing it can be problematic!

Below will outline the best way to do this.

How do you prepare your vocabulary knowledge for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

I found that the best way to revise for GCSE Spanish was to use a language app. Personally, my teacher recommended a website called ‘Memrise’, which you can download as an app on your phone.

It tests you on vocabulary and all the different tenses, but in a fun way! Flash cards are also good ways to learn vocabulary, as they require active recall. You can check out an effective way to make flash cards if you check out this Think Student article.

However, apps can motivate students to learn more because there is often a leaderboard which sparks competition between peers. You can find out more about ‘Memrise’ if you check out their website here.

You can even use this app to check your Spanish speaking ability and listen to native speakers. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with how Spanish should really sound.

How do you prepare your pronunciation for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

The main point of the GCSE Spanish speaking exam is to assess student’s vocabulary and understanding of Spanish. Pronunciation is important, however, it isn’t the be all and end all.

After all, not everyone can roll their r’s. This was great news for me, as I find this very difficult! However, pronunciation can be somewhat important when pronouncing certain words.

This is because words can have different meanings if they are pronounced in different ways. Consequently, it is best to have pronunciation as close to a Spanish speaker as possible!

This will most likely impress your examiner, as they are probably used to students saying Spanish words but in an English accent. The best way to do this is to record yourself.

Film yourself saying common Spanish phrases, as this will allow you to see how you really sound. Consequently, you can adapt or change how you speak depending on your success. If you are struggling to say certain pronunciations, there is no shame asking your teacher!

They are there to help after all. Language apps also have features which allow you to speak into the microphone and you will be graded on your pronunciation. This could be extremely useful for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam!

How do you practice for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

The best way to prepare for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam is to speak as much Spanish as possible! As already stated, recording yourself can be extremely useful.

This is especially the case when you are producing your memorised answers to potential questions. I personally found it a great method, as I could replay my answers and see where I was making the same mistakes.

However, another great way to practice speaking is to just keep speaking Spanish to your family members! If you casually start speaking Spanish whilst having a conversation with your mother, she probably will give you a strange look. However, it will allow you to get used to spontaneously speaking in Spanish!

Try out different techniques to find the best way to practice for you. Hopefully you want to do well in the GCSE Spanish speaking exam. After all, modern foreign languages have been voted some of the best GCSEs to take, according to this Think Student article.

When should you start preparing for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam?

The simple answer to this question is – as soon as possible! GCSE Spanish isn’t like other GCSE subjects, where you could potentially memorise everything you need to know for the exam a week before.

This is because GCSE Spanish requires an immense amount of understanding and application, as you will need to understand how verbs change when they take on different tenses. The amount of vocabulary you have to know is also quite daunting.

Therefore, you probably won’t be able to learn it all a week before the exam. The best thing to do is to review new vocabulary and processes after every Spanish lesson.

This means that each week, you will have learnt new words and you can build on this knowledge as you do more lessons. Consequently, when it comes to exam season, you may not have to do as much revision, as you have been revising in small chunks the whole time.

What can make preparing for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam easier?

Being told the best ways to revise can be useful. However, knowing how to revise isn’t the hardest part. The actual difficulty is being motivated enough to revise! After all, Spanish is a difficult GCSE. It was even ranked as one of the hardest GCSEs according to this Think Student article.

Preparing for the GCSE Spanish speaking exam can be difficult because it requires a lot of repetition, which often means that you need a lot of will power! In my experience, preparing for the GCSE Spanish exam can be made easier by finding a study buddy.

Reach out to a peer who is also doing GCSE Spanish and maybe suggest speaking to each other in Spanish at random points in the day. I found this really fun because me or my friend would randomly start speaking Spanish and the other one would have to respond in Spanish spontaneously.

This definitely kept us on our toes and turned revision into a game! However, as with every GCSE, you just need to remind yourself that revision doesn’t last forever.

Every time you have done a little preparation, treat yourself and be reminded that GCSEs will be over one day! As soon as that GCSE Spanish speaking exam is over, you may never have to speak Spanish again!

That is unless you picked it as an A-Level!

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