While Emily in Paris may not be the best example of life in France, sitting scholarship demonstrates that you have the ability to integrate and live in a French-speaking country as well as your skill level. Foreign exchanges during your university studies can help push you to the next level. What better way to practice (and potentially get some money towards it) by attempting the NCEA scholarship French exam. This guide gives you an overview of what to expect and different ways you can prepare.

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Scholarship exam layout

The NCEA French scholarship exam is rather strange as it is three hours but broken into two sections. One 2 hour slot and then one 1 hour slot. Very strange indeed. The two-hour slot is where you will listen to a segment and write a response in French to a related question. The second question is a response to a written article in French. Your response to this question is written in te reo Māori or English. C’est un peu bizarre, non? It does seem a little strange, but that is because the questions are built differently. One is to test your knowledge of French grammar and your abilities to express an opinion. The second question is geared more towards reading comprehension with a dash of French customs and culture (and a bit of history thrown in for good measures). While it may not seem particularly evident, you are also being tested on your listening and reading comprehension. To give an opinion you have to know what the subject is about.

The last section is speaking. While it is set within an hour timeframe, there is no need to panic. This section should take around 15 minutes to complete. So why is it an hour then? The way in which this section is composed, you will all move into a second space during this one hour. The hour will be the last of the three. Then it becomes a waiting game, you will wait for the examiner to call your name so you can do the final section. The examiner will stay in the recording space with you where you will be given a card with a subject on it. You have 10 minutes to prepare a response and then have to speak for a maximum of 5 minutes. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs if you mess up, only if there is a problem with the equipment.

Here is a complete guide to NCEA French exam.

Hand holding clock
The French scholarship exam is only 3 hours. Time is ticking!

Le prémiére question: Listening comprehension in the scholarship exam

The layout of the first question is designed to test your skills in listening and writing. You will listen to a segment three times. As it plays through the first time, you will listen to the entirety of it. The second and third times, the segment will be broken into smaller sections. If you look at the 2020 French scholarship exam, the way this section is designed is that you need to note down information you listened to and incorporate it into your written answer. The question itself is pretty straightforward. ‘Do you agree with the speakers? If you had the same opportunity, what would be your reaction and why?’ The tricky part is to integrate the information you listened to into your writing. The word justify is important here. Explain why you agree or disagree with the speakers then support your explanation with statements they said. This is where the organisation within your response plays an important role in relation to the question. The structure is pretty clear, explain why you disagree or agree (maybe even both?) and then explain and justify your reaction if you were in the same situation.

Through the listening section, it is a good idea to listen through the entirety of the first recording and take notes for the second and third. They don’t have to be word for word, but they do have to accurately represent what was said. Connecting their ideas to your ideas is a key component of this question. It demonstrates that you have understood what was said and can connect your own ideas to theirs in French. The NCEA French scholarship exam is about demonstrating what you are capable of achieving. Luckily te reo Māori and English share a similar writing style so the organisation of your ideas should be a familiar concept. Statement, Explanation, eXample, and Your opinion. You know, keep things SEXY or DEXV in French (Déclaration, explication, exemple, votre opinion). If you are not so familiar with these terms, read our guide on tackling French questions. From the question, you can see they are asking you to demonstrate you know and can use L’expression de l’hypothèse with the littlest of words, si. The focus is on making your points clear as there is a bit of leeway with minor errors if they don’t affect understanding.

Find out more on NCEA French study guide here.

Woman listening to a device
Be prepared for the listening section in the NCEA scholarship French exam.

Le duexième question: Reading comprehension in the scholarship exam

The second question is built around a piece of writing. This section is different as the article given is written in French, but your response is to be written in te reo Māori or English. For a majority of students, this section is completed in their native language. This means you are expected to be able to discuss and justify your response to this question at a higher level than your response in French. You should allow an hour for each section. Easier said than done as just trying to figure out if it is le or la can chew into your time, let alone the more complex grammar rules. Do try to stick to it though. You will have to read an article and then give a response to it. For example, the 2020 exam question is How are the two generations contrasted in this text? Do you agree with the author’s conclusion? Respond in English or te reo Māori, and refer to the reading text to support and justify your discussion.

Here we see a similar style of question where you connect key ideas and information in the text to your own opinion and knowledge. You are following a similar format to the question before, so keep it SEXY. It is an exercise to see how well you understand the information in one language and can then apply it correctly and with a sense of purpose in another. Before you start writing, plan out your response so you can be as clear and purposeful as you can. Add in relevant information from outside of the article. This will strengthen your writing and help to justify how you came to your decision.

Search for NCEA French past exam papers here.

Make sure you read the information carefully in the NCEA French Scholarship exam.

Le troiséme question: Speaking in the scholarship exam

The shortest and most nerve-racking is the third section. With only 15 minutes to show off your mastery of the spoken French language, planning is key. You will be given a card. This will most likely be a question following a similar format of giving your opinion. With only 10 minutes to organise your ideas, it is tough but doable with the right tools. When it comes to planning, you will be given a pen and a piece of paper by the examiner. Here you want to organise your section into three parts, beginning, middle, end. Within these sections, you should bullet point what you want to say. It can be tempting to write full sentences, but you don’t really have the time. You are being examined for your fluency so how you talk is important. You really need to revise the speaking section before the exam. Practice at home so you can get a rough idea of what 5 minutes feels like. You do not want to exceed the time limit. Nor do you want to finish after 1 minute. 5 minutes isn’t that long so practice, practice, practice.

Different ways to practice for the French scholarship exam

Netflix! Yes, that is right, programmes can really help you to develop your listening skills. Watch a series or movie you are already familiar with and put the audio and subtitles in French. Unfortunately having one in French and the other in English is not overly helpful. Cartoons and animated series are the easiest to adapt to, so start with them. Reading books are another great way to improve both reading and writing skills. Look for books that are called livre d’occasion and have B1 written on them. This is around the same level as level 8 of the New Zealand curriculum. Unfortunately for the grammar, it is rote learning your irregular verbs. Make sure you know common irregular words like aller, être, avoir, faire, pouvoir, etc by heart in their different modes. High-frequency words are the best place to start memorising. The trickiest of the skills to practice independently is speaking. Superprof can help you out with that. With a wide range of tutors from all over New Zealand and all over the world, you can find a French tutor to fine-tune your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills at the touch of a button.

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