Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Speaking Paper - Some Information

Here I would like to give you some information on the Speaking Paper: 800/2.  The Speaking paper is an assessment of your ability to speak in plain standard English. 
Candidates are assessed on their ability to make individual presentations and to take part in group discussions on a wide range of contemporary issues.
[MPM The National Examinations Council]

The examiners should have enough SAMPLES from the candidates. The examiners, as you know - there are two of them.  They sit at either end of the candidates seating arrangements.   Four candidates are being assessed, candidates A - D.  They will be admitted into the test room according to their turns.  Before that the candidates are placed in the quarantine room. 

Please address the examiners as "examiners" (with the /s/ at the end), not examinators (... terminators?) or some other outlandish names!  Candidates should know that.

As four candidates are seated at the examination table they are given one minute to look at the speaking paper.  After the one minute's reading they can ask the examiners whatever that they do not understand in the contents of the speaking paper.  When there are no more questions the candidates are asked to read their tasks and they are given two minutes to prepare for the individual presentation.  Now, you cannot ask any more questions regarding anything that you do not understand in the speaking paper!  Therefore, make full use of the time given for you to read and make queries.  Preparation time for Tasks A and B is a 'no talking' time, please note.

After the two-minute preparation the signal is given and candidate A will be called to make their presentation which will take two minutes.  Having finished with candidate A it is time for candidate B and so on until candidate D (two minutes each).

You should have eye contact with the examiner as you do your presentation.  While the individual candidate is doing their presentation the others can take/make notes for the group discussion (task B) later on.  Please note that each candidate has to follow the instructions down to the letter.  They cannot change their task as they like.  They will have no 'preference' in this task.  In task B they can change their task assignment and they can choose the task 'content' that is given to any of the other three candidates.  If the task that is given to the other candidates catches their fancy it is all right for them to talk about it and make it their new stand (in task B).

Preparation time is two minutes.  As usual, preparation time is "no talking time".  No discussion whatsoever is allowed, please note!  After the preparation time is up the discussion can start right away.  Duration for discussion is ten (10) minutes.

During the discussion please pay attention to the speakers.  Usually if there is any 'outstanding' candidate they will become the unofficial chairperson in the discussion.  That comes naturally.  The test emulates real life.  Anybody can start the discussion.  

Samples mean what the examiners get from the speaking candidates. If the candidates say nothing at all, then the examiners get not samples. How would the examiners give them marks?  If they speak a lot, then they supply a lot of "samples" to the examiners.  A lot of samples is good for the examiners as they can make an assessment which is "fair-and-square" as enough samples in themselves can justify the marks given whether they will bolster him high up or to drop him down, flat. Somewhere in between are the mediocre candidates with marks which are halfway up and halfway down!

Full marks for speaking is 45. Some really outstanding candidates can get full marks (yep, full marks ... no jokes!)

The examiners will  look into your content, i.e. do you satisfy the requirements of the instructions of the speaking paper?  If the paper tells you to discuss how to organise an education fair are you going to talk about your personal (important) role in that education fair?  You are surely going to lose marks with such a mistake! (... content wise) 

Your vocabulary and sentence structure are also assessed.  Obviously, in any language task, we should vary our choice of words. The use of for example can be varied with for instanceto illustratesuch asby way of illustration, and so forth.  If we use the same words over and over again our speech will lose its shine. Your listener will start to be restless, as they are fed-up with the repetitions.  It is like having the same dish for all our meals.  "Variety adds colour to your life" is very true indeed.  The next consideration is of course your grammar - should be correct!  What English is it that comes with wrong grammar - your presentation and discussion tasks will be lame duck.

The next thing that the examiners will look into is how you engage your listeners. Are you always pausing?  Are your pauses too long?  Are you able to keep the listeners' attention?  Good communication will ensure that your listeners maintain interest on your speech.  And they will, of course, understand what you are talking about.  Pausing at the right place and at the right time adds the necessary oomph! to your speech or discussions.  Do not pause too many times unnecessarily.

(psst ... to be continued, stay tuned!)