Exam Time

Let’s Talk About Oral Exams

Leaving Certificate Orals, three words that can strike fear in any secondary school student and give war flashbacks to those who have already gone through the daunting exam.

Almost all students in Ireland who sit the Leaving Cert have to go through at least two oral exams in their school life, a mock exam and the real thing. If a student decides to take on another language that’s another two to do.

For being such a small part of an entire exam the oral exam seems to cause the most distress and anxiety with students. You could always tell when the oral examinations were going on, you’d see students waiting outside the designated room with a look of fear and worry on their faces.

Oral exams are generally the same for all languages. You spiel off a paragraph about yourself that is riddled with lies to try get some more information and so you have more to say and you answer some questions that can be predicted or that are based from your paragraph.

With the exam being made so easy to pass as everything can be learnt off before hand, it should be the easiest part of the exam to pass but is still a hurdle that many students fall at. This could be because it is the first part of the exam that students take, it takes place around April, so students may feel they haven’t been able to prepare for long enough and there is the anxiety of the Leaving Cert is starting and there is so much pressure and stress that comes with it.

The hardest and most stressful oral exam to take is the Irish oral, at least it is for those who are not from the Ghaeltacht or speak fluent Irish.

It has the same structure as the others but with the addition of Sraith Pictiúrs, which are sheets that have a series of pictures on them and the student has to tell story using them.

These are one of the most dreaded aspect of the exam because there are twenty options and you don’t know in advance what one you are getting because you only pick at random, and without looking at them. This means that all Sraith Pictiúrs have to be learned off.

There is less pressure to know the other languages, including Spanish, French and German as students would have only been learning them for six years whereas Irish would have been learnt from the ages of four or five onwards (which says a lot about the Irish curriculum in primary and secondary school that even after learning the language for fourteen years most people can’t speak it.)

With Irish being a core subject, the majority of students have to do the subject, unless you get an exemption but these are only given out in certain circumstances.

There has been many debates in recent years about whether or not Irish should stay a compulsory subject. Personally I believe that it should stay compulsory but the curriculum should be changed.

Irish is taught to students as if it were English, but it needs to be taught in a way that the student are learning how to speak the language rather than answer English type questions but in Irish. This would be fine if students knew how to speak the language, but this isn’t the case for most of the country.

Over time the subject has been adapted to try to keep up with the level of fluency and ability, but hasn’t been changed in the way is needs to that will benefit the students. If they are changed to keep up with students ability maybe they would be as daunting as they currently are.