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Advice for students attempting HSC languages examinations

This guide has information, advice and tips about sitting your HSC Language oral and written examinations.Use the syllabus and related assessment and reporting materials when preparing for your exam.

The oral examinations are held on Saturdays in August and September.

Oral examinations

Make sure you:
  • know how to get to your examination centre (note there is only limited parking onsite at most examination centres)
  • arrive at least 30 minutes before your session time (you can only attend your allocated session time)
  • do not wear your school uniform
On the day you may consult study materials in the waiting area but you cannot take them into the exam room. It is also a good idea to bring food and drink with you as some exams may not finish until mid-afternoon.

Read more about illness/misadventure for information about what to do if you are ill or absent on the day of your oral exam.

The oral examination in Beginners and Continuers languages

  • Consists of a conversation between you and the examiner.
  • The Beginners oral examination is five minutes in length.
  • The Continuers oral examination is 10 minutes in length.
  • The CCAFL Continuers and Modern Hebrew and Vietnamese Continuers oral examinations are made up of two parts – Conversation and Discussion:
    • the Conversation is approximately seven minutes in length
    • the Discussion is approximately eight minutes in length.

Remember:

  • questions will be about the candidate’s personal world as it relates to the prescribed topics in the syllabus
  • answer each question ONLY with information related specifically to the question asked
  • you may be asked questions that relate to past, present and future experience
  • if you don’t understand a question, ask for the question to be repeated, clarified or rephrased in the language being examined
  • you should NOT ask the examiner to translate words or questions
  • you should NOT identify yourself, your teachers or your school to the examiner
  • if you make a pronunciation or grammatical mistake, it is perfectly acceptable to correct yourself
  • you are required to demonstrate your ability to respond to whatever is asked. Giving a prepared response is unlikely to effectively answer the question that has been asked.

The Discussion in CCAFL and Modern Hebrew and Vietnamese Continuers oral examinations

  • In the Discussion, the examiner will ask you a series of questions relating to your in-depth study.
  • The aim of the Discussion is to determine how well you have researched your topic but also to see how well you are able to discuss what you have learned.
  • The examiner will want to know what resources you have used. One of your resources must be a literary text such as a novel, play, poem or a film. You may not bring objects such as photographs, posters and pictures to the examination.

The oral examination for In Context languages

  • Consists of a 10-minute interview between the candidate and the examiner.
  • In this interview, you are expected to explore with the examiner the subject of your Personal Investigation, which includes reflections on your findings as well as references to the texts and resources used.
  • You will be assessed on your ability to:
    • reflect on ideas and experiences
    • refer to texts studied
    • present a point of view
    • communicate using appropriate intonation, pronunciation, grammar, language structures and vocabulary.

  • To assist the examiner in directing the interview, you are required to provide a brief summary of your Personal Investigation.

  • Download the HSC In Context Languages Interview Sheet from Schools Online, complete the form (you can ask your teacher to help you with this) and then upload it to Schools Online two weeks before the scheduled examination date.

The oral examination in Extension languages

  • Consists of a monologue.
  • You need to respond to one question from a choice of two questions.
  • You will have seven minutes’ preparation time. During this time, you can make notes on the paper provided.
  • You should speak for approximately three minutes.
  • After two and a half minutes, you will  hear a warning bell. There will be a final bell at three minutes.

Remember:

  • read both questions carefully before deciding on the choice of question
  • write only key words/notes on the paper – use your notes as a guide – do not read directly from your notes
  • state the question number you are attempting at the beginning of your monologue
  • support your argument with a range of examples
  • where a question has two parts, address both parts in order to provide a complete response
  • use a variety of linking words to connect your ideas in order to present a coherent, logical exposition
  • stick to the time limit that is specified for this examination, which is two and a half to three minutes.

Written examinations

It is important to remember that questions may ask you to identify the tone, purpose, context and audience of texts, or to interpret, analyse or evaluate information. You may also be required to draw conclusions, justify opinions and/or infer points of view, attitudes or emotions from language and context.

Simply translating segments of texts that relate to the question without responding specifically to the requirements of the question will mean that you will not be awarded full marks. Make sure you answer the question that is being asked rather than simply retelling the text.

Dictionary use

You need to consider the context when selecting the meaning from the choices given in the dictionary. When you are looking for an English word or phrase, make sure you choose the correct part of speech as well as the most appropriate meaning. You are reminded to cross-reference a word from the English-[language] dictionary with its translation in the [language]-English dictionary.

Self-identification

You must not identify yourself, your school or your teachers in your written responses. If the question asks you to thank a teacher, describe a school or draft a letter to a friend, you should not include any identifying details. It is acceptable to make up these details. It is acceptable to make up these details.

Answering the question

The mark value and the number of lines in the short-answer questions provide you with an indication of the length of the required response. Questions will sometimes require the direct translation of material.  Other questions will ask for information to be interpreted in some way. In every case, make sure you answer the question asked and do not include unnecessary or irrelevant material.

Word limits

It is important to keep to the word limit for a writing task. Answers that are longer than necessary often contain irrelevant material, are poorly structured or repetitive and do not gain extra marks.

Use of prepared material

Be very careful when using material that has been prepared beforehand. All the material must be relevant to the task’s purpose, context and audience.  It is a waste of your time including material that is irrelevant as it will not gain extra marks.

Responding to different sections of the written examination

Listening

Remember:

  • read the questions in the reading time allowed before listening to the item
  • as you listen, make notes in the Candidate's Notes section. Remember – anything you write in the Candidate's Notes section will not be marked
  • write all answers in English, unless otherwise stated in the question
  • select only ONE box in a multiple-choice question
  • use any time at the end of the examination to read over your answers to ensure they are meaningful and not contradictory.

Remember:

  • read all parts of the questions carefully before responding
  • read the stimulus text carefully and more than once to ensure you have understood both the general message and the finer detail
  • take time to plan your complete answer to ensure it is well structured and the ideas flow logically
  • highlight key words from a question as well as the sections of the text that are most relevant to a question before answering
  • provide evidence from the texts that is relevant and paraphrased or translated
  • use your dictionary effectively to assist with understanding and accuracy
  • express yourself clearly and concisely, and provide links to the texts and support answers with appropriate examples
  • don’t just transcribe sections of the text but respond to the task using your own words and expressions
  • learn key phrases in [Language] such as ‘to agree/disagree’, ‘to be of the opinion’, ‘to make a decision’ and ‘to have a discussion’
  • develop a response which clearly addresses the requirements of audience, purpose and context
  • ensure your response is the required length
  • refer to the stimulus text for the correct gender and spelling of key words
  • take time to review and edit your response, ensuring that both language and spelling are as accurate as possible, including fundamentals of the language such as subject/verb agreement, tenses, past participles and word order.

Writing

Remember:

  • read the questions carefully more than once to ensure you have understood the specific  requirements of the task
  • consider the context, purpose and audience
  • plan your response before you start writing
  • stay within the word limit
  • use a range of vocabulary and a variety of sentence structures
  • use correct grammar and appropriate tenses
  • take time to review and edit your response, ensuring that both language and spelling are as accurate as possible
  • ensure that your response is the required length
  • practise the range of text types outlined in the syllabus as much as possible in preparation for the examination.

Know what to expect in the exam room and what equipment you can and can’t take with
you.


  • To assist the examiner in directing the interview, you are required to provide a brief summary of your Personal Investigation.
  • Download the HSC Heritage Languages Interview Sheet from Schools Online, complete the form (you can ask your teacher to help you with this) and then upload it to Schools Online two weeks before the scheduled examination date.
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