How to Achieve a Top Mark in the Spanish GCSE Speaking Exam

The Spanish speaking exam at GCSE is quite a big deal. It contributes 25% towards the final grade and is always the first of the exams you do, normally in April so you need to be prepared for this one first. It is also the most nerve-racking of all the exams you do because you are ‘on the spot’ sitting in front of your teacher being recorded. There is less time to think because you have to respond then and there.

The good thing is, if you learn the right techniques to tackle this exam and prepare for this exam in the right way you will arrive at the exam calm and confident and therefore put yourself in the best possible position to get the best mark you can.

How does the Spanish speaking exam work?

  • You will be given a photo card and a role play card with a blank page. (You cannot use a dictionary or any notes/books.)
  • You have 12 minutes to prepare both tasks. Use the blank page to make as many notes as you like.
  • The teacher or examiner will turn on the recording equipment and give your details to begin with. They will then start with the role play task which will take about 2 minutes.
  • Once this is finished the teacher will introduce the photo card task which takes 2 minutes for the foundation level and 3 minutes for the higher level.
  • You can keep the role play card and the photo card as well as the blank page that you have written notes on during the exam and hand them back to your teacher after the exam.
  • Your teacher will then introduce the theme that you are doing your general conversation on.

Tips to get a top mark in the speaking exam

Here we will give you advice to help you achieve the best mark that you possibly can.

The AQA speaking mark scheme GCSE Spanish Specification Specification for first teaching in 2016 ( Here you can see the breakdown of marks available. Half of the marks come from the conversation part of the exam which you can prepare for in the weeks leading up to the exam.

Spanish oral exam criteria

You can see from the table above that you are awarded marks for communication, knowledge and use of language, range and accuracy of language, pronunciation and intonation, spontaneity and fluency.

AQA Role-play (2 minutes, 15 marks)

In the role play section of the exam you carry out a dialogue in a certain situation; this could be at a train station, booking cinema tickets, at the tourist office etc.

Tips to tackle the role play

• Read through the whole card – the instructions at the beginning and all of the 5 bullet points. 3 points are to ask or say something in particular. There is an unprepared question and also a question for you to ask the teacher/examiner.

• It is important that you understand exactly what you have to say or ask for as well as any vocabulary involved.

• Underline the key words.

• The question mark ? will mean that the teacher will ask something that you have not been able to prepare, so make sure you listen really hard. If you don’t understand the question fully there is no harm in asking them to repeat it, “¿Puede repetir la pregunta por favor?”

• Note whether the questions need to be in the (informal) or usted (formal) form.

AQA Role play rules

• Some tasks specify if you need to give one or 2 details. Make sure you stick to this. In the unprepared question it may not tell you how many points to give. The best advice is to give 2 details.
• The teacher can repeat the question if you have not understood it or do not give an answer first time.
• If you have given an incorrect answer, the teacher cannot repeat the question. However you can give an incorrect answer and then correct yourself by giving a better answer.
• If you do not answer a question as fully as is expected, your teacher may prompt you to add something else with a question such as “¿Algo más?”
• If you have given enough information the teacher will move on, so don’t worry if you get cut off.

Here you can see what is considered in the mark scheme. In the role play, you must be able to carry out the task and deliver the message or the question, whilst showing a good use of the language:

For the role play:

AQA Photo card – how to tackle! (15 marks)
(Foundation – 2 minutes // Higher – 3 minutes)

During your preparation time you will be given a photo with 3 questions. The first question always asks you to describe the photo, “¿Qué hay en la foto?” or a similar question.

The next 2 questions will be those that you prepared on the blank page that you wrote your notes on.

The teacher will then ask you further questions on the theme that you have not prepared. Remember the photo card will cover one of the two themes that you have not chosen for your conversation.

Tips to get top marks on the photo card

  • Write well developed answers backed up with reasons for your opinions.
  • Extend your sentences to make them as long as possible.
  • Use connectives such as; porque, dado que, ya que, por otro lado, entonces, a pesar de, puesto que etc.
  • Use different phrases to express opinions; para mí, creo que, pienso que, a mi modo de ver, lo que más me gusta/gusto, no aguanto, prefiero etc.
  • Try to use a mixture of tenses; present, past and future.

Here you see how the examiner decides the mark that you deserve:

General Conversation
(3-5 minutes foundation/ 5-7 minutes higher, 30 marks)

The teacher will carry out a conversation on the 2 themes. The first one is the one the student has chosen, the second one is the theme left (after using the chosen one and the theme on the photocard).

You must make questions, answer questions, develop a conversation explaining different situations, referring to the past, future, etc. using complex structures and being spontaneous.

Take note of the mark scheme below (Higher Tier):

You can find the full mark scheme for the speaking exam along with the reading, writing and listening exams here: AQA specification.

You may also be interested in the following blog posts:

Tips to Achieve a Top Grade in the Spanish Writing Exam.

Tips for GCSE / AS / A2 Spanish – sing connecting phrases.

Often students just need a bit of extra speaking practice to gain confidence leading up to the exam. We provide coaching sessions specifically for the Spanish Speaking Exam leading up to the April/May exams. Feel free to contact us to find out more or to book a session for your child.

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