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Is it me, or is the French GCSE a complete waste of time?

(70 Posts)
dollybird Tue 08-Dec-15 21:34:01

So DS is in year 9 fast-tracking his French GCSE and is sitting his speaking and writing exams this week. For the speaking he has been given four questions and has practiced his answers until he knows them off by heart, and similar for the writing, they have memorised what they are going to write and just write it in the exam (and are given a list of key words and allowed to have a dictionary)!

Is this really all that it takes to get a language GCSE (he's predicted a B)? I got a B 20+ years ago, and the speaking was having a conversation with the teacher, where you knew you would be asked about family/hobbies etc but you didn't know exactly what would be asked and a conversation would follow on from your answers. And similar with the writing, we didn't know exactly what we would have to write about. It seems to me it is more of a memory test than actually learning the language, and for those wanting to go onto A-level, I imagine leap would be absolutely huge.

Waitingandhoping2015 Tue 08-Dec-15 21:36:36


Like most GCSEs... dumbed down massively from O Levels years ago.

Have you seen that they give you the maths equations so you don't even have to learn them!

FlounderingTeacher Tue 08-Dec-15 21:36:59

Huge changes afoot with the new GCSE

IguanaTail Tue 08-Dec-15 21:38:09

The controlled assessments are just a memory test yes. Ridiculous.

mercifulTehlu Tue 08-Dec-15 21:44:47

Not only is it not a proper test of being able to speak or write in the language, it is also seriously biased in favour of kids with really good memories. I mean - obviously, people with good memories are going to do well in exams generally. But these MFL exams do no favours for the instinctive, communicative, feel-for-the-language type kids who would do brilliantly if you dumped them in the middle of France, but who can't learn big chunks of text off by heart. It's rubbish. (MFL teacher here).

dollybird Tue 08-Dec-15 21:45:21

Floundering I'll be interested to see the changes as DD is in year 8, not being fast-tracked (as they can't fit it in with the new curriculum) so will be doing German GCSE in 3 and a bit years time.

I'm glad it's not just me!

IguanaTail Tue 08-Dec-15 21:50:47

I can tell you what the differences are.
For AQA, In the speaking exam at the end of y11, they will be given a role play card and a picture and then have general conversation.
In the writing there's a structured task, a choice of one longer more open ended task and then a few sentences to translate.

emwithme Tue 08-Dec-15 21:56:14

That's bloody ridiculous.

We were given scenarios in our MFL GCSEs - but only immediately before the actual speaking part. We had 30 minutes in a separate classroom (still under exam conditions) with the scenario and paper/pen but not a dictionary.

One of my scenarios was having to go to a Tabac and buy a box of matches. I could not, for the life of me, remember what the word for a box of matches was, so I asked for "une boîte des petits peu de bois qui donnez-vous la feu" (little bits of wood which give you fire). The assessor looked at me, smiled, and said "ah, les alumettes". I got the mark and moved on (and no, I will NEVER forget the word for a box of bloody matches. If you want a fag somewhere Francophone, I'm your girl!)

DickDewy Tue 08-Dec-15 21:59:29

I agree it is rubbish and merely a memory test.

My ds got an A in his GCSE last year and couldn't order a cup of tea in French.

dollybird Tue 08-Dec-15 22:00:45

Em you have made me laugh - I like your thinking on your feet! grin

IguanaTail Tue 08-Dec-15 22:01:11

The new ones will mean they only have 10 mins to prepare.

Sparklycat Tue 08-Dec-15 22:04:27

I got a B in French GCSE years ago, went to France this year and can't speak a word of it. Totally useless unless you keep practising.

dollybird Tue 08-Dec-15 22:06:35

Iguanan hopefully, then it will be a GCSE worth having. Currently feels like a box ticking exercise to get a language GCSE and then forget all about it. Not very good if you did want to use languages later on (DS doesn't particularly, but DD is pretty good at German)

MuddhaOfSuburbia Tue 08-Dec-15 22:08:43

ds rang me from school when he went to pick up his results

he was crying laughing and could barely choke out 'got a B for Spanish'

he couldn't speak a. fucking. word

(I got a B for German o level. My spoken exam included a debate about politics in sport)

IguanaTail Tue 08-Dec-15 22:11:38

It's not a test of language, no. But you can teach well above the requirements. My classes can express themselves pretty well.

Jeelba Tue 08-Dec-15 22:15:57

I was asked how hydro-electric power was produced, in my O level French oral many moons ago (I'd vouchsafed the fact I had been to St Malo and the examiner asked me about the 'barrage' on the River Rance). I improvised wildly: 'l'eau tombe avec la grande force (yes, I did know it was a tidal power station) et les turbines vont comme-ci comme-ça et violà - électricité! The memory haunts me still...

balletgirlmum Tue 08-Dec-15 22:17:29

Emwithme - I had the scenario of having to go to the pharmacist to ask for medication for an upset tummy. I didn't know what the word for diarrhoea was so I said I want to go to the toilet a lot.

EBearhug Tue 08-Dec-15 22:20:03

I was the first year of GCSES, back in the '80s. For our first A-level class, the teacher gave us an old O-level paper to get us back in the swing of things, after a long summer. There was stuff then we hadn't covered at GCSES, which was in the O-level.

Obviously the syllabus has changed more than once since then, but you should be able to spontaneously speak some language, whatever the syllabus.

MuddhaOfSuburbia Tue 08-Dec-15 22:22:02

et violà - électricité!


clary Tue 08-Dec-15 23:58:41

It's a shame he's fast-tracking - if he was in a usual yr 9 situation he'd be doing the new GCSE (ie in 2018) and it's much better, CA is going thank goodness.

I agree with you and others OP that it's just about learning stuff, also totally open to abuse, and yes, not much of a prep for A-level. That's true of lots of GCSEs tho as far as I can see.

I teach MFL too btw. I hate CA soo soo much. Wastes so much time and doesn't teach anyone how to speak the language.

Millymollymama Wed 09-Dec-15 00:01:06

If it so easy, how come your DS is not predicted to get an A* then dolly? Or even 100%. You don't have to that good to get a B!

My DD managed to get to university to study Joint Honours MFL from taking GCSEs then A levels. But she didn't get Bs! It is like nearly every subject, if you are good at it, and work hard, a good teacher will help you extend your knowledge. Why do you not expect that of the school? Why do you think a B is good enough?

BackforGood Wed 09-Dec-15 00:04:19

Yup. The current one is a complete waste of time in terms of learning a language.
I did my o-level over 30 yrs ago (and it was always one of my weaker subjects) and yet I speak FAR more, and FAR better and FAR more useful french than either of my dc who recently took the GCSE rote learning test. Neither of them have the faintest idea of how to hold a really basic conversation.
I'm very glad it's changing.

balletgirlmum Wed 09-Dec-15 00:16:03

Why is he fast tracking if he's only predicted a B? Surely it would be better to wait & get an A?

There is a boy at dds school who is fast tracking but he previously lived in France & the intention is for him to get A* then take AS level.

Gwenhwyfar Wed 09-Dec-15 00:20:23

I go to a French conversation group. There are people there with O'levels, but nobody with just a GCSE as a GCSE is not enough to be able to have varied conversations.

CointreauVersial Wed 09-Dec-15 00:40:10

I'm astonished that they aren't taught how to decline verbs at all. Je suis, tu es, il est.....DS is in Y11 and has no idea. And I agree the CAs are an absolute joke.

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