How to Prepare for GCSE Spanish Exams

Many young students do not fully understand what is required of them to demonstrate their ability in Spanish examinations. This article gives tips for exam preparation at GCSE level.

The four main skills required are reading, writing, listening and speaking. Some of these skills may be more difficult to acquire than others, for instance, most students find speaking the hardest. However, the truth is that to be proficient in any of these skills, the student needs to get to grips with the following:

Verb tenses

At GCSE level, at least three different verb tenses are required: the present, the past, and, the future. While there is only one present tense, there is more than one past tense. You should attempt to use the imperfect tense (ongoing events in the past) and the preterite tense (one-off events in the past) in both the written and oral exam. To speak or write in the future, you could use not only the future tense but the construction Ir + a + verb infinitive. Students who have mastered the tenses I have just mentioned could also include the perfect (another past tense) and the conditional tense. And a present subjunctive would be good too…

Grammar

In order for your written or spoken piece to flow, you must follow basic grammar rules. This includes not only conjugating your verb according to the person doing the action but employing words such as “but”, “and”, “therefore”. Also, exam questions often ask your opinion on a given topic. Use these types of words: “opino que”, “pienso que” and “creo que” and you could also say “a mi ver” and “en mi opinión” to introduce what you want to write or say. Ensure that there is agreement! By this I mean make sure all words agree with the noun. Supposing you want to say, “the small flowers”. Flowers in Spanish is “flores” and this is a feminine noun, so your other words need to agree, like this, “las flores pequeñas”. Note how this is both in the feminine and the plural. Also, see how the word for “small” has come after “flowers”, so word positioning is important too.

Pronunciation and Intonation

British students often struggle with the correct pronunciation of Spanish. While you may never be able to speak like a true native, you can make a huge effort to pronounce letters and particularly vowels properly in order that Spanish speakers can understand you! For instance, do not say “no” as you would in English. The vowel “o” should be pronounced as though you were saying the first two letters of the word “pot”. Likewise, watch out for the vowel “e”. This is similar to the way we say the “e” in “egg”. And note that the letters “b” and “v” are both pronounced as a “b” in modern Spanish. Remember that the letter ‘h’ is mute.

Finally, as with all exams, the Golden Rule is to be clear about what the questions are asking you, or a statement telling you, and ensure that whatever you write or say you respond with that in mind. What I am saying here is stick to the point and think. But there is no need to panic, the examiner is not out to get you! Conversely, he or she wants you to do well, as I do.

¡Suerte!