xoxofearlessgirl
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I begin a levels in a couple of weeks and about a month or so ago I started wondering if I'd like to do a level French as I love the language. I hated the GCSE though but it turns out I managed to get an A in it (A* reading, A* writing, A speaking and a D in listening - I can't hear French for the life of me). I keep thinking about it now as I really want to learn the language but I have no idea what the a level is like so could someone explain it to me? Do you think it's worth doing it? It would bring me up to four a levels though and I won't be able to drop at the end of year 12 but I'm not sure what to do as I love the language and did weirdly enjoy the GCSE despite it killing me with all the stress.

Help!
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Reality Check
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(Original post by xoxofearlessgirl)
I begin a levels in a couple of weeks and about a month or so ago I started wondering if I'd like to do a level French as I love the language. I hated the GCSE though but it turns out I managed to get an A in it (A* reading, A* writing, A speaking and a D in listening - I can't hear French for the life of me). I keep thinking about it now as I really want to learn the language but I have no idea what the a level is like so could someone explain it to me? Do you think it's worth doing it? It would bring me up to four a levels though and I won't be able to drop at the end of year 12 but I'm not sure what to do as I love the language and did weirdly enjoy the GCSE despite it killing me with all the stress.

Help!
One of the harder A levels. The D in listening is worrying - the listening at A level is significantly more difficult, and you'd need to be prepared to do an awful lot of work to bring that up to scratch.

I totally recommend doing a MFL but you need to be prepared for it to be a long hard slog. The thing with languages is that they're only learnt little and often - you can't 'cram' for them, or have a big study session on them a few times a week. Ideally, you should be taking every opportunity you can to listen, speak, write or read some French every day, even if it's writing a shopping list, writing an email in French before deleting it and rewriting it in English, reading a news article in French rather than English, etc etc.
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username2571271
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Hey Sadly the spec has changed so its unlikely to be the same when I did it (I finished my A-levels this year ) but hopefully it still helps you :yep:

AS

The topics were quite straightforward, for example we studied television, music, fashion, family relationships etc.

There were 2 exams: the Listening, Reading and Writing exam and the Speaking exam. The Listening section is similar to that of GCSE just with longer passages. The Reading part is split into 2 sections, first there are questions similar to those at GCSE, but there is also a grammar section (also known as a cloze test). There were 10 sentences with gaps in and you would be asked to conjugate a verb, use the correct form of an adjective etc. The writing section required you to write an essay, if I remember correctly, there were 3 possible essay questions on 3 different subjects (so you could have an essay on advertising, one on health and the other on cinema). You chose which one you wanted to write and answered it :thumbsup:

The Speaking exam is very different to how you do it at GCSE. It was split into 3 parts. The first part is a stimulus card (you get a choice of 2) which is about a specific topic and asks you several questions which you are expected to prepare (for this part of the speaking exam, you get 20 mins to make notes on these questions) and then your examiner would ask you the questions and you can look at your notes to answer them, if you wish. The 2nd part is the same as at GCSE, you can prepare questions on a topic that you can choose. The 3rd part was the difficult part which was a discussion about 2 more topics, you cant prepare for this bit and you have to think of responses of the top of your head and keep a conversation going.

A2

The topics here are a lot more challenging and complex but more interesting :yep: The first topics was about pollution, energy and protecting the planet. The 2nd topic was about multiculturalism, racism, integration and the 3rd topic was about contemporary social problems which foucsed on poverty, crime and science/technology.

You also have to learn 2 cultural topics (e.g. a historical period, an area of France/French speaking area, literature, film, art etc.) Where I studied, we did a French director (Matthieu Kassovitz and we focused on the film La Haine) and a French poetry (Prevert)

Again 2 exams, the same as at AS. The Listening section is the same as AS and GCSE but you're only asked about core content (not the cultural topics). The Reading section is again in 2 parts but the 2nd part is translation instead of grammar. The translation section itself is split in 2, there is a paragraph that you translate from French to English and then 5 sentences to translate from English to French. Again, this was on core content (not cultural topics). The Writing section again was an essay but about one of the cultural topics you studied. For each cultural topic, you get a choice of 2 questions and you only answer 1 question (and only 1 cultural topic, in my case, I opted for the film instead of peotry)

The Speaking exam consisted of 2 sections. The first bit was a stimulus card but was a debate. You were presented with an argument (core content only) which could be about racism, nuclear energy, death penalty) and there would be 2 contrasting opinions on the card, you picked which one you want to support and came up with aarguments to back up this opinion. The examiner would counter argue your points. The 2nd part looked at both your cultural topics where you would be asked questions about them and you answer back (like the last part of AS speaking)

Sorry that this is long but this should help. I know that the new spec will probs be deifferent but some parts of this may stay the same

And to asnwer your other question, I think its definitely worth taking French A-level, it was by far my favourite A-level and I just found it really interesting especially at A2 where you got to discuss controversial subjects and learn a language at the same time. The speaking parts I did find difficult but that was a confidence issue rather than a French one and I have deifnitely been boosted in confidence by taking A-level French. In fact I'm going to be continuing French at uni along with Beginners Spanish and Translation :gah:

Hope this helps, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask me, I'm very happy to help
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xoxofearlessgirl
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(Original post by IKEAPanda37)
Hey Sadly the spec has changed so its unlikely to be the same when I did it (I finished my A-levels this year ) but hopefully it still helps you :yep:

AS

The topics were quite straightforward, for example we studied television, music, fashion, family relationships etc.

There were 2 exams: the Listening, Reading and Writing exam and the Speaking exam. The Listening section is similar to that of GCSE just with longer passages. The Reading part is split into 2 sections, first there are questions similar to those at GCSE, but there is also a grammar section (also known as a cloze test). There were 10 sentences with gaps in and you would be asked to conjugate a verb, use the correct form of an adjective etc. The writing section required you to write an essay, if I remember correctly, there were 3 possible essay questions on 3 different subjects (so you could have an essay on advertising, one on health and the other on cinema). You chose which one you wanted to write and answered it :thumbsup:

The Speaking exam is very different to how you do it at GCSE. It was split into 3 parts. The first part is a stimulus card (you get a choice of 2) which is about a specific topic and asks you several questions which you are expected to prepare (for this part of the speaking exam, you get 20 mins to make notes on these questions) and then your examiner would ask you the questions and you can look at your notes to answer them, if you wish. The 2nd part is the same as at GCSE, you can prepare questions on a topic that you can choose. The 3rd part was the difficult part which was a discussion about 2 more topics, you cant prepare for this bit and you have to think of responses of the top of your head and keep a conversation going.

A2

The topics here are a lot more challenging and complex but more interesting :yep: The first topics was about pollution, energy and protecting the planet. The 2nd topic was about multiculturalism, racism, integration and the 3rd topic was about contemporary social problems which foucsed on poverty, crime and science/technology.

You also have to learn 2 cultural topics (e.g. a historical period, an area of France/French speaking area, literature, film, art etc.) Where I studied, we did a French director (Matthieu Kassovitz and we focused on the film La Haine) and a French poetry (Prevert)

Again 2 exams, the same as at AS. The Listening section is the same as AS and GCSE but you're only asked about core content (not the cultural topics). The Reading section is again in 2 parts but the 2nd part is translation instead of grammar. The translation section itself is split in 2, there is a paragraph that you translate from French to English and then 5 sentences to translate from English to French. Again, this was on core content (not cultural topics). The Writing section again was an essay but about one of the cultural topics you studied. For each cultural topic, you get a choice of 2 questions and you only answer 1 question (and only 1 cultural topic, in my case, I opted for the film instead of peotry)

The Speaking exam consisted of 2 sections. The first bit was a stimulus card but was a debate. You were presented with an argument (core content only) which could be about racism, nuclear energy, death penalty) and there would be 2 contrasting opinions on the card, you picked which one you want to support and came up with aarguments to back up this opinion. The examiner would counter argue your points. The 2nd part looked at both your cultural topics where you would be asked questions about them and you answer back (like the last part of AS speaking)

Sorry that this is long but this should help. I know that the new spec will probs be deifferent but some parts of this may stay the same

And to asnwer your other question, I think its definitely worth taking French A-level, it was by far my favourite A-level and I just found it really interesting especially at A2 where you got to discuss controversial subjects and learn a language at the same time. The speaking parts I did find difficult but that was a confidence issue rather than a French one and I have deifnitely been boosted in confidence by taking A-level French. In fact I'm going to be continuing French at uni along with Beginners Spanish and Translation :gah:

Hope this helps, and if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask me, I'm very happy to help
Thank you so much, this was so helpful! I'm so interested in the a level but I never considered it as I had vowed to not do it when I was looking at a level courses back in September-October. I'm not sure if it would be wise to do four a levels, especially considering I am so bad at the listening aspect. I would love to study French so badly but it did stress me out so much but I'm so conflicted as I didn't actually enjoy it. If I don't do the a level I might consider doing an EPQ in French but I'm again not sure. I'm considering maybe doing French at university as I believe you can do different ability courses of a language alongside another subject.
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username2571271
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(Original post by xoxofearlessgirl)
Thank you so much, this was so helpful! I'm so interested in the a level but I never considered it as I had vowed to not do it when I was looking at a level courses back in September-October. I'm not sure if it would be wise to do four a levels, especially considering I am so bad at the listening aspect. I would love to study French so badly but it did stress me out so much but I'm so conflicted as I didn't actually enjoy it. If I don't do the a level I might consider doing an EPQ in French but I'm again not sure. I'm considering maybe doing French at university as I believe you can do different ability courses of a language alongside another subject.
Glad you found it helpful

May I ask what A-levels you are considering atm?
I do see what you mean about taking 4 A-levels, luckily I was able to drop one of mine (i didnt want to take 4 in the first place but was pressured into it )

Even if you dont choose it as an A-level, you could always pick it up in your spare time. And yes you are correct about uni, you can do joint honours degrees with a language at beginners (altho you will need to check with the uni to make sure first). Also, many unis do a language learning programme in which you can learn a langauge alongside your degree regardless of what your studying.

So even if you dont pick A-level French, there are still many ways to keep it up, especially as you say you enjoy it so much.

Btw, I was the same in terms of listening skills, but as long as you keep working on it, theres no reason why you should not do well at it I improved so much during the 2 years :yep:
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Retired_Messiah
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Simultaneously better and worse than GCSE

Better:
-You actually learn it properly (less memorising, more feeling of fluency, you actually understand for the most part when your teacher randomly starts full on speaking french)

Worse:
-hella workload
-The topics are AIDS

If the GCSE stressed you out you'd maybe better just learn bits of french here and there in your own time. Of all the AS levels I did, French had the most amount of sheer stuff with it and then I only got a C anyway. With regards to your D in listening, it's actually pretty mad how much of the listening skills you pick up over time. I wouldn't really factor that in the decision making if I were you, as weird as that sounds.

I did French AS and found it ok but unnecessarily stressy for what it was, and while my french was improving it seemed to be going off in a weird direction (could give the benefits and drawbacks of advertising fine but couldn't order a pizza to save my life, as the latter wasn't covered but the former was). After my AS exams my school made people attend A2 lessons before actually getting their AS results to make sure ya could be up to scratch after summer, and I hated the A2 french with a passion. Ended up dropping it in favour of keeping a subject I'd actually got a D in at AS, disliked it that much. That said, it seemed to be only me that did that in the entire class. Only 1 other person dropped it and that was because they got a D in it. I got an A in the GCSE, for the record.

(Original post by xoxofearlessgirl)
I'm considering maybe doing French at university as I believe you can do different ability courses of a language alongside another subject.
Lots of unis let you start languages at beginner level, the good unis tend to have language learning facilities so you can take it up alongside your degree, and some scottish unis straight up let you take 3 subjects for a spin in your first year so you could pick up french or whatever other languages they're offering there with your actual degree choice.
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xoxofearlessgirl
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(Original post by IKEAPanda37)
Glad you found it helpful

May I ask what A-levels you are considering atm?
I do see what you mean about taking 4 A-levels, luckily I was able to drop one of mine (i didnt want to take 4 in the first place but was pressured into it )

Even if you dont choose it as an A-level, you could always pick it up in your spare time. And yes you are correct about uni, you can do joint honours degrees with a language at beginners (altho you will need to check with the uni to make sure first). Also, many unis do a language learning programme in which you can learn a langauge alongside your degree regardless of what your studying.

So even if you dont pick A-level French, there are still many ways to keep it up, especially as you say you enjoy it so much.

Btw, I was the same in terms of listening skills, but as long as you keep working on it, theres no reason why you should not do well at it I improved so much during the 2 years :yep:
I've officially enrolled doing history, English Lang/Lit and photography. I'm hoping to go to uni, particularly a Russell Group and I had emailed them a couple of weeks ago about the different subjects I was considering and what would be good for what I want to go into (film/media with maybe some sort of history) and had mentioned French and in the response they said the joint language honours don't need a level I believe. I think I'm going to try learning as much French as I can on my own, I think. If I really don't like one of my subjects I think I'll change but for now I'm going to stick to what I chose. Thank you so much for the help! A level sounds so much better than GCSE but I can't take four subjects easily.
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xoxofearlessgirl
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(Original post by Retired_Messiah)
Simultaneously better and worse than GCSE

Better:
-You actually learn it properly (less memorising, more feeling of fluency, you actually understand for the most part when your teacher randomly starts full on speaking french)

Worse:
-hella workload
-The topics are AIDS

If the GCSE stressed you out you'd maybe better just learn bits of french here and there in your own time. Of all the AS levels I did, French had the most amount of sheer stuff with it and then I only got a C anyway. With regards to your D in listening, it's actually pretty mad how much of the listening skills you pick up over time. I wouldn't really factor that in the decision making if I were you, as weird as that sounds.

I did French AS and found it ok but unnecessarily stressy for what it was, and while my french was improving it seemed to be going off in a weird direction (could give the benefits and drawbacks of advertising fine but couldn't order a pizza to save my life, as the latter wasn't covered but the former was). After my AS exams my school made people attend A2 lessons before actually getting their AS results to make sure ya could be up to scratch after summer, and I hated the A2 french with a passion. Ended up dropping it in favour of keeping a subject I'd actually got a D in at AS, disliked it that much. That said, it seemed to be only me that did that in the entire class. Only 1 other person dropped it and that was because they got a D in it. I got an A in the GCSE, for the record.

Lots of unis let you start languages at beginner level, the good unis tend to have language learning facilities so you can take it up alongside your degree, and some scottish unis straight up let you take 3 subjects for a spin in your first year so you could pick up french or whatever other languages they're offering there with your actual degree choice.
Thank you so much! I think my current plan will be to learn as much as I can on my own and try and build up some sort of accent (mine is appalling and it took a lot of effort and copying of a French accent to do well in speaking GCSE) as well as practise listening skills before hopefully doing some sort of combined degree as I would love to study it at a level but I can't easily take four subjects. If I hate one of my options then I might switch as a level does sound better overall than GCSE but the stresses scare me a little.
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