The Student Room Group

How hard is it to get an A/A* in A level french AQA?

Hi, I’m thinking of choosing a level french and wondered if anyone would give me some advice on whether it’s worth taking as a non-fluent person. I’m hoping for an 7/8 at gcse. I find it harder than most of my other subjects, but I really enjoy it and would love to learn a language! Is it worth doing or is it so hard to get an A/A* unless your naturally amazing/fluent? What was your experience like? Should I just do English lit a level which I enjoy and am better at? Thank you so much, any advice would be so helpful!
Original post by student12_34
Hi, I’m thinking of choosing a level french and wondered if anyone would give me some advice on whether it’s worth taking as a non-fluent person. I’m hoping for an 7/8 at gcse. I find it harder than most of my other subjects, but I really enjoy it and would love to learn a language! Is it worth doing or is it so hard to get an A/A* unless your naturally amazing/fluent? What was your experience like? Should I just do English lit a level which I enjoy and am better at? Thank you so much, any advice would be so helpful!

If you do not have a family member who is french i would not recommened
Reply 2
Original post by student12_34
Hi, I’m thinking of choosing a level french and wondered if anyone would give me some advice on whether it’s worth taking as a non-fluent person. I’m hoping for an 7/8 at gcse. I find it harder than most of my other subjects, but I really enjoy it and would love to learn a language! Is it worth doing or is it so hard to get an A/A* unless your naturally amazing/fluent? What was your experience like? Should I just do English lit a level which I enjoy and am better at? Thank you so much, any advice would be so helpful!

On the one hand it is hard. On the other, if you are very motivated and really want to learn the language maybe you wouldn't mind putting in the extra work needed? As you would definitely need to put in extra work.

There are lots of resources out there for French language learners. For example, I joined a website that matched up people for conversational practice. Once I found an online partner we met by by zoom once a week and did 40 mins French (for my benefit); 40 mins English conversation (for her benefit).

There are also lots of good grammar drill practice books - an exercise every evening (10 mins) for example would boost your written work. For listening practice, a French netflix series (initially with the subtitles in French on) a couple of times per week.

If you live in a city, is there an Alliance Française organisation nearby? They organise language and cultural events (many of which are free) Well, at least they did before covid :smile:

The secret would be to start at the very beginning of your A-level course with some of the above, as doing a little bit extra consistently over the 2 years will really have an impact and get you that A grade.

The nice thing about a French A-level is that it can be really useful after you leave school and open so many doors.
i feel like learning a language is hard anyways but if you really enjoy it, then honestly go for it! there's a lot of resources out there to help you and it can be beneficial in the long run. :smile:
I got an 8 at GCSE and ended up with an A* (and am now studying French at uni!). Like all A levels, it's tricky, but most people in my class didn't have any French family! It is a subject that you get better at over time, and so it can feel demotivating to get lower grades at the beginning. However, keep working at it and getting a top grade is definitely possible! I loved French A level, and if you like learning languages then hopefully you will too! I definitely am not a natural (I'm dyslexic apart from anything else, meaning that the spelling side can be interesting) but hard work is more important, I find.

Some tips:
- Listen to native-level podcasts and music regularly all the way through. To start with you'll probably understand very little, but eventually you'll start being able to pick out words and phrases that you understand. This'll make listening comprehension in the exam SO much easier.
- Learn the vocab lists, but also learn the extra vocab boxes in the textbook. I did this and then there was very little vocab in any of the papers I did that I didn't know. https://quizlet.com/gb/341560999/aqa-french-year-1-and-2-all-yellow-box-vocab-flash-cards/
- Practice translating regularly - this'll test your grammar and your vocab.
- I liked using apps like HelloTalk and Tandem to become more spontaneous in terms of language use, but different people have different opinions and experiences of these.
(edited 2 years ago)
I'm taking the AS this year after getting a 9 at GCSE, and I won't lie to you: it is hard. That said, the step up in difficulty is, IMO, comparable to the jump between GCSE and A Level with practically every other subject, and I think people overstate the importance of native/fluent speakers - there will be a few thousand or so fluent speakers entering nationally, but the majority of entrants (myself included!) are not, and it doesn't affect the grade boundaries as much as you might think. I will say that if you're already having to work harder at it than other subjects at GCSE, that 'effort gap' will most likely widen at A Level if you want to do well, unless every other subject you're planning on taking is a science. I have a longer post about it here, where I talk about the different parts of the AS/A level and my experience with it as a Year 12: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?p=94740774#post94740774

I take English Lit too, and while that's also different to GCSE, you probably will find it easier to get an A/A* if you're naturally better at it than French (not, of course, that it's easy to get a top grade at any A Level). Unless you have a course with specific subject requirements in mind, it's really just best to take what you think you'll enjoy most for the next two years - I picked all of my A Levels because they were my favourites at GCSE, and while it's not all sunshine and rainbows, I'm generally having a better time than the people who picked subjects because they thought it would be an easy A or would look good. I'd recommend finding out which texts your sixth form is planning on studying for English Lit next year to see if you're interested in any, and the same for French (you will probably do La Haine for the film, because it's very culturally relevent at the moment and is on the AQA spec, but that's not guaranteed). Remember also that English has a coursework component, and French doesn't; depending on your outlook, this is either a positive or a negative - it's less to worry about come exam season, but it is a long slog at the start of Year 13. The way my school teaches it, all of the English content is essentially covered in Year 12 with most of Year 13 being devoted to practice questions and revision, whereas French has a very obviously divided AS and A2-style course. If your prospective sixth form curriculum looks similar, this is probably also worth taking into consideration.

Nobody can tell you what to pick, and you can usually change your options around within the first half term or so if you think you've made a mistake - if French is your gut choice, then put it down, but you're not stuck with it forever if you hate the first week of year 12. Universities love both subjects, so that shouldn't be an issue. I will say, in general, sixth forms offer the French AS at the end of year 12 if you take 4 and decide you want to drop down to three - French is my fourth subject, and that is what I'm doing - but this is less common with English Literature because of the way the course is often taught. A Level options are hard, but I promise by Christmas Year 12 you won't be able to imagine having taken anything else! Best of luck with your GCSEs and your options :smile:
Original post by redmeercat
I got an 8 at GCSE and ended up with an A* (and am now studying French at uni!). Like all A levels, it's tricky, but most people in my class didn't have any French family! It is a subject that you get better at over time, and so it can feel demotivating to get lower grades at the beginning. However, keep working at it and getting a top grade is definitely possible! I loved French A level, and if you like learning languages then hopefully you will too! I definitely am not a natural (I'm dyslexic apart from anything else, meaning that the spelling side can be interesting) but hard work is more important, I find.

Some tips:
- Listen to native-level podcasts and music regularly all the way through. To start with you'll probably understand very little, but eventually you'll start being able to pick out words and phrases that you understand. This'll make listening comprehension in the exam SO much easier.
- Learn the vocab lists, but also learn the extra vocab boxes in the textbook. I did this and then there was very little vocab in any of the papers I did that I didn't know. https://quizlet.com/gb/341560999/aqa-french-year-1-and-2-all-yellow-box-vocab-flash-cards/
- Practice translating regularly - this'll test your grammar and your vocab.
- I liked using apps like HelloTalk and Tandem to become more spontaneous in terms of language use, but different people have different opinions and experiences of these.


Thank you so much, this is so helpful!!
Original post by amistandingstill
I'm taking the AS this year after getting a 9 at GCSE, and I won't lie to you: it is hard. That said, the step up in difficulty is, IMO, comparable to the jump between GCSE and A Level with practically every other subject, and I think people overstate the importance of native/fluent speakers - there will be a few thousand or so fluent speakers entering nationally, but the majority of entrants (myself included!) are not, and it doesn't affect the grade boundaries as much as you might think. I will say that if you're already having to work harder at it than other subjects at GCSE, that 'effort gap' will most likely widen at A Level if you want to do well, unless every other subject you're planning on taking is a science. I have a longer post about it here, where I talk about the different parts of the AS/A level and my experience with it as a Year 12: https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?p=94740774#post94740774

I take English Lit too, and while that's also different to GCSE, you probably will find it easier to get an A/A* if you're naturally better at it than French (not, of course, that it's easy to get a top grade at any A Level). Unless you have a course with specific subject requirements in mind, it's really just best to take what you think you'll enjoy most for the next two years - I picked all of my A Levels because they were my favourites at GCSE, and while it's not all sunshine and rainbows, I'm generally having a better time than the people who picked subjects because they thought it would be an easy A or would look good. I'd recommend finding out which texts your sixth form is planning on studying for English Lit next year to see if you're interested in any, and the same for French (you will probably do La Haine for the film, because it's very culturally relevent at the moment and is on the AQA spec, but that's not guaranteed). Remember also that English has a coursework component, and French doesn't; depending on your outlook, this is either a positive or a negative - it's less to worry about come exam season, but it is a long slog at the start of Year 13. The way my school teaches it, all of the English content is essentially covered in Year 12 with most of Year 13 being devoted to practice questions and revision, whereas French has a very obviously divided AS and A2-style course. If your prospective sixth form curriculum looks similar, this is probably also worth taking into consideration.

Nobody can tell you what to pick, and you can usually change your options around within the first half term or so if you think you've made a mistake - if French is your gut choice, then put it down, but you're not stuck with it forever if you hate the first week of year 12. Universities love both subjects, so that shouldn't be an issue. I will say, in general, sixth forms offer the French AS at the end of year 12 if you take 4 and decide you want to drop down to three - French is my fourth subject, and that is what I'm doing - but this is less common with English Literature because of the way the course is often taught. A Level options are hard, but I promise by Christmas Year 12 you won't be able to imagine having taken anything else! Best of luck with your GCSEs and your options :smile:

Thank you so so much!! :smile:
Original post by home ed
On the one hand it is hard. On the other, if you are very motivated and really want to learn the language maybe you wouldn't mind putting in the extra work needed? As you would definitely need to put in extra work.

There are lots of resources out there for French language learners. For example, I joined a website that matched up people for conversational practice. Once I found an online partner we met by by zoom once a week and did 40 mins French (for my benefit); 40 mins English conversation (for her benefit).

There are also lots of good grammar drill practice books - an exercise every evening (10 mins) for example would boost your written work. For listening practice, a French netflix series (initially with the subtitles in French on) a couple of times per week.

If you live in a city, is there an Alliance Française organisation nearby? They organise language and cultural events (many of which are free) Well, at least they did before covid :smile:

The secret would be to start at the very beginning of your A-level course with some of the above, as doing a little bit extra consistently over the 2 years will really have an impact and get you that A grade.

The nice thing about a French A-level is that it can be really useful after you leave school and open so many doors.

Thank you!!
Reply 9
Original post by redmeercat
I got an 8 at GCSE and ended up with an A* (and am now studying French at uni!). Like all A levels, it's tricky, but most people in my class didn't have any French family! It is a subject that you get better at over time, and so it can feel demotivating to get lower grades at the beginning. However, keep working at it and getting a top grade is definitely possible! I loved French A level, and if you like learning languages then hopefully you will too! I definitely am not a natural (I'm dyslexic apart from anything else, meaning that the spelling side can be interesting) but hard work is more important, I find.

Some tips:
- Listen to native-level podcasts and music regularly all the way through. To start with you'll probably understand very little, but eventually you'll start being able to pick out words and phrases that you understand. This'll make listening comprehension in the exam SO much easier.
- Learn the vocab lists, but also learn the extra vocab boxes in the textbook. I did this and then there was very little vocab in any of the papers I did that I didn't know. https://quizlet.com/gb/341560999/aqa-french-year-1-and-2-all-yellow-box-vocab-flash-cards/
- Practice translating regularly - this'll test your grammar and your vocab.
- I liked using apps like HelloTalk and Tandem to become more spontaneous in terms of language use, but different people have different opinions and experiences of these.

Its been almost two months that i've started AS level french and im really struggling especially listening. So with podcasts, do you have any recommendations or useful websites becuase i really need to start practing listening, but i have been starting to watch easily understandable cartoons in french and if you have any other useful links i would really appreciate that, thanks!

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