(Original post by grainbb)
I took French A level and didn't do too well, after finishing A Levels in June 2018. I took a gap year, tried to get my head straight, but now (January) have gone back to college in order to retake French.
So, WHAT TIPS? I will do anything to get a good grade (B would be perfectly fine by me) I just am not sure exactly where to start after so many months. I take Edexcel exams
I am copying below some advice I wrote for a student in the past who asked a similar question. Do get back to me if any of this is not clear. And
For improvement from a fail to an A grade, there's quite a lot to look at but it is do-able if you take things step by step and make sure you learn things in the right order.
First and foremost, your basic grammar must be accurate. By this I mean:
- All verb conjugations must be correct - so learn them. Now. This is the most important thing you must do.
- Agreements of adjectives and past participles must be correct. Re-read all work you write in French to check specifically for this. Even if you get the gender of a noun wrong, make sure that all the adjectives agree with whatever gender you have given it.
- Make sure you use a range of tenses, as well as the subjunctive. Tenses you should know and should use are: present, passé composé, imperfect, pluperfect, future, future perfect, conditional and conditional perfect. Plus, of course, the subjunctive (which isn't a tense as such). Useful tricks for using a range of tenses include: using si-clauses; using depuis
; using the future tense after expressions of time such as quand
That's the basic grammar you need to demonstrate you know. On top of that, for an A grade you will need to:
- use more advanced pronouns correctly. These include the personal pronouns y
; relative pronouns like ce qui / ce que; dont;
demonstrative pronouns celui/celle/ceux/celles
- use negative structures with your verbs - not just ne...pas
, but particularly using rien, jamais, personne, aucun
as these are trickier.
- use the more difficult adjectives and adverbs like meilleur / mieux; mauvais / mal.
- try and use inversions correctly - either ask rhetoric questions, or use conjunctions like à peine
which trigger an inversion.
- use the passive voice.
For grammar practice I always recommend Essential French Grammar for the Sixth Form and Beyond,
which has really good explanations and a huge amount of exercises. The answer section is particularly good as it has further explanations and links back to the main text so that, if you've made a mistake, you can work out where you went wrong. https://www.amazon.co.uk/French-Gram.../dp/095706120X
Secondly, and almost as importantly: vocabulary. Again, you need to tackle this very systematically and, most importantly, work on it regularly as you will not be able to learn a massive amount all at once. There are various strategies you can use for learning vocab:
- Topic-based: make lists of vocab according to their specificity; group vocab together is smaller related groups. For example, if you're studying the topic of health, you can make various sub-groups: healthy food; unhealthy food; exercise; science (eg nutrition) etc. Just organising the vocab helps you learn it! Then you can try using words from each group in sentences.
- Families: when you learn a word, learn other derived words. For example, if you take the word "conduire
", go to a dictionary and get the other words that relate to it: le conducteur/la conductrice; la conduite
. Again, just doing that basic research will help fix the vocab in your mind but you will also find that your range of vocab suddenly expands massively with very little effort.
- Then there's the classic "Write, Look, Cover, Repeat" method. The physical act of writing down words helps you memorise them. Take a piece of paper, draw a vertical line down the middle and write the English word on the left and the French equivalent on the right. Memorise the list, then cover the French side and tick off all the ones you remember. Then repeat until you know them all. It is important to do this several times with each list so that the vocab goes into your long-term memory.
- There are various websites out there than can help you learn - Quizlet and Memrise are both popular. Be warned that pre-existing lists on these websites are not necessarily very accurate (I have come across a number of mistakes on Memrise) because they are not necessarily uploaded by people who are very good at French. In my experience it's better to steer clear of gadgets and use pen and paper.
And finally, on the basis that the more contact you have with French the quicker you'll make progress:
- Read, read and read. And then read some more. Not just about your topics, but anything. Any contact you have with French will help you build up your vocabulary and understanding of structures.
- Listen to some French - about 20 minutes to half an hour - every day if you can manage that. Le Journal en français facile
on the RFI website is really useful as there is a transcript in case you get stuck.
- Try to speak some French every day. If you can, have lunch with your classmates and agree to speak French then - even just ten minutes a day will build up fluency and confidence. The nearer you get to your exams, the longer you can make your now really useful lunch break!