Oral exam tips for primary school

Oral exams are an important part of a primary school student results as they contribute 25% to the overall score. With such a strong weightage, it is surprising to find very little discussion or help on how to improve for oral examinations in primary school.  Hence, we have come up with X tips to help parents better prepare their children on their primary school oral exams.

oral exam tips

Types of oral exam questions

Before going into the tips, it is important to know the basic structure of an oral exam. In essence, there are 3 parts to the test.

Part 1: oral reading passages

Students are required to read the passage that were prepared for them. This is to test the child in the following:

  • vocabulary
  • pronunciation
  • articulation
  • fluency
  • rhythmn
  • expressiveness

Part 2: oral picture discussion

Students are required to describe a picture presented before them.

Part 3: oral conversation topics

Teachers will select from a list of oral conversation topics to start conversing with students. This is to test their usage of the language and how well they can converse in real life.

Oral exam tips for reading passages

Tip 1: This section is the easiest section to score points. All the child needs is more practice. It is easier now then ever to let your child practice more using technology. There are a couple of good iPhone apps that comes with passages for the child to practice on the iPad. Get the one with the voice recording so that your child can send their reading to you or their tuition teacher for evaluation.


Oral exam tips for oral picture discussion

Tip 1: The tricky part about oral picture discussion is not having a proper structure to think about how to describe a picture. This can be easily overcome by following a systematic process to look for things to describe. Of course, the child must always answer the examiner’s question first but the structure helps to enrich the answer given.

A) Start with describing the physical background

  • Make a guess on where this place could be
  • Describe the background and/or foreground of the picture
  • Describe what is at the centre of the picture

B) Next step is to describe the people in the picture based on the following

  • Emotions: are the people happy, sad, angry etc based on their facial expressions
  • Activities: what are the people doing in the picture?  Pick a few to describe their actions.
  • Relationships: how are the people related to one another? Are they friends, families or passer-by?

C) Finally, use personal experiences related to the picture. Some examples below.

  • Past experience: the child have encountered some of the similar activities being conducted in the picture
  • Visits: the child have visited a similar place before and what did he or she do that
  • Past memories: some of the people might remind your child of past friends or family members


Tip 2: Prepare a list of words and phases

Besides knowing how to describe a picture, a child also needs to prepare a vocabulary list that he or she can used.  As a parent, you can help by looking at the structure above and prepare a list of useful words for each section. For example, you can prepare description words for emotions. You can also prepare a list of words to describe a background such as quiet, peaceful, noisy, warm, etc.


Tip 3: Prepare some potential questions that will be asked

In oral picture discussion, there are always some common questions that will be asked. It will be beneficial to practice some of the oral questions beforehand to increase the chances of your child doing well.

  • What do you think is happening in the picture
  • What do you think happen before or after the picture
  • What do you think the person is thinking about or doing using his or her facial expressions or actions


Oral exam tips for oral conversation topics

Tip 1: Have good body language

In any normal conversation, body language takes up a huge part of the initial impression. We can instill good body language in our child so that he or she start off on the right foot. Here is what you can do:

  • Simile at the examiner and greet them
  • Look them in the eye and be confident
  • Nod the head to acknowledge what the examiner has spoken
  • Sit straight and have a body posture


Tip 2:  Prepare some common words and phrases

There are some common phrases that can come it very useful, be it for stalling time or when connecting ideas during conversation. Below are some samples:

  • For stalling time: “Well…”, “If that is the case,,,,.”, “As a matter of face…..”
  • For expressing a view or opinion: “I agree that..”, “I strongly believe that…”, “I doubt that…”, “I confer that…”, “In my view….”
  • For giving examples:”Personally, I…”, “As an example….”, “I have seen…”


Tip 3: Learn to use structure in conversations

Structure is a very useful way of framing an answer so that the child knows how to continue with the conversation as well as to give a more in-depth opinion. There are a couple of easy ways to frame a conversation:

  1. Breaking answers into points or part: “3 ways”, “3 examples”, “3 reasons” etc.
  2. Breaking answers into short and long run:
  3. Breaking answers past and future: “I used to do that in the past… but in the future, I think …..”


Hope you find these oral exam tips useful in preparing your child to sit for his or her oral exams!


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