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Secondary English Oral Part 1: Overview & Reading Aloud


Secondary English Oral O-Level: Overview & Reading Aloud

At Thinking Factory, every component of the English Language is important. We make the time and effort to help our students score in all their English components, especially in major examinations such as the PSLE and the GCE O-levels. While Secondary 3 students are in the midst of their end-of-the-year examinations, the following academic year for them will be a crucial one.

As such, Teacher Rachael, our Sec 3 & Sec 4 teacher has started focusing on ways to prepare students for their English O-level next year. She has begun with the Oral component because it requires consistent practice over a period of time for the students to build up confidence.

If you would like more practice in oral and other English components, do join our GCE O-level English classes on Sundays 3.30pm-5.30pm. Over to Tr Rachael now for her advice on the oral component.

For some of you, words may come easily in daily conversation. Talking is your forte. For others, words simply escape you. Talking is just dreadful. Whether you identify with the first or second category of people, or are somewhere in the middle, speaking under examination conditions can be unnerving for all of us.

As a teacher having to stand in front and address a crowd many times a day every single day, it used to be stressful for me. But doing this for five years has helped me learn to compose myself and made me more comfortable. While some fears remain, I have definitely improved from when I first became a teacher. While the Oral paper is unlike public speaking, it should not be underestimated – speaking well and learning to express yourself clearly, coherently (logically) and convincingly is a skill that is developed over time. It is an asset for life! Think about a job interview, a business pitch, an oral presentation, and the like.

In this first post of two about the Oral examination, I will give an overview of the paper, including the grading criteria, and provide some tips on the Reading Aloud section with a demonstration.



3 Facts about Paper 4 Oral Communication

1. It carries a total of 30 marks (out of a total of 170 marks from all 4 papers)
2. It comprises 2 components:
  • Reading Aloud 10 marks
  • Spoken Interaction 20 marks
3. It has the shortest duration: 10 minutes of preparation time + 15 minutes of examination time = 25 minutes to determine nearly 20% of your total English Language mark.


Reading Aloud Grading Criteria*

  • Pronunciation & Articulation: Very clear pronunciation and articulation that conveys meaning effectively
  • Rhythm & Fluency: Reads with appropriate pace and fluency using appropriate rhythm and stress to good effect
  • Awareness of Purpose, Audience and Context (PAC):Reads with full awareness of PAC



Spoken Interaction Grading Criteria*

  • Personal response: Offers well-considered personal responses which are coherent and well-developed
  • Clarity of Expression: Express ideas clearly using a wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures, and supported by good pronunciation
  • Interaction: Engages actively with the Examiners to sustain the discussion, introducing new ideas, opinions or issues where appropriate

* Source: 1128/04 ‘O’ Level English Assessment Rubrics from UCLES & MOE 2011




Criteria for the Reading Aloud section

We will focus on the criteria for the Reading Aloud section first. I will illustrate them with an excerpt from an ‘O’ level passage shown below:

Context: You are a member of the school orchestra and your Principal has asked you to give a talk to new students to encourage them to pick up a musical instrument.

Have you ever noticed that soothing music makes you feel more relaxed? Playing an instrument can do that for you and more. Nobody’s saying that it isn’t hard. When I was a beginner, learning to play the flute was a frustrating experience. But once I’d mastered my first pieces, the satisfaction was immense.


*Source: 2016 Day 3 Reading Passage



Learn about how you can address each of the criteria by listening to the respective audio clips.

PAC

  • Purpose: Since your role is to enthuse or encourage new students to learn a new instrument, you should sound lively and excited.
  • Audience: They are fellow students so you may adopt a less formal tone. Given they are new and may be apprehensive, it would help to sound warm, friendly and inviting.
  • Context:Your talk is probably situated in a less formal setting, unlike a talk addressed to the entire school which includes all staff and perhaps guests in which you would have to adopt a more restrained and formal tone.

Refer to the entire excerpt as you listen to the recording.

PRONUNCIATION & ARTICULATION

There is a tendency not to pronounce the ending consonant sound in words like the following:

  • noticed
  • relaxed
  • instrument
  • hard
  • first

Make sure to accurately pronounce the ‘th’ sound in the word, ‘soothing’.

Articulate your words – Don’t swallow your words or its some of its syllables. This applies to words with more syllables like ‘frustrating’ and ‘satisfaction’.

INTONATION & EXPRESSIVENESS

Intonation: Vary your tone and volume to capture your reader’s attention. Avoid monotonous reading as it’s a sure way to bore your reader. Compare the two recordings.

When I was a beginner, learning to play the flute was a frustrating experience. But once I’d mastered my first pieces, the satisfaction was immense.

Which would you rather listen to? Reading 1 is an example of monotonous reading, while Reading 2 shows that the reader is interested in what she wants to tell the reader and means what she says.

Expressiveness: Take advantage of certain words which convey an emotion, and inject emotion into words such as:

  • frustrating
  • immense

PACE & FLUENCY (Affects rhythm)

Chunking: Group words together by mentally dividing sentences into meaningful units (see groupings separated by ‘/’. Observe just a very slight pause in between these units.

Have you ever noticed / that soothing music / makes you feel / more relaxed? Playing an instrument / can do that for you / and more.Nobody’s saying / that it isn’t hard.

STRESS

Stress is basically placing emphasis on certain syllables in a word. This also helps in creating rhythm and conveys your meaning more effectively. Listen out for the syllables that are stressed in the following words:

  • soothing
  • relaxed
  • instrument
  • Nobody’s
  • beginner
  • frustratingr
  • satisfaction
  • immense

Practise stress for these words, then once you’re ready, read the whole sentence aloud and remembering to stress them in the right places.


Check the second ppst which covers tips to help you in the Spoken Interaction section!

Would you like to read more of such posts?