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Tips for O Level English Oral Exam, Singapore

by | Jan 31, 2023 | 0 comments

1. Introduction to O Level English Oral Exam

1.1 Format of O Level English Oral Exam

Paper 4 Oral Communication of the new O Level Syllabus 1184 comprises two parts which may be thematically linked. The approximate duration of Paper 4 is 20 minutes, including 10 minutes of preparation time. The Oral Component makes up 20% of the entire O Level English Paper.


Part 1: Planned Response [15 marks]

Candidates plan and deliver a response of up to 2 minutes to a video clip and accompanying prompt presented on a computer screen. Candidates are assessed on their ability to present their ideas and opinions fluently and effectively to engage the listener. This is a new section that replaces the Reading Aloud section in the old syllabus (1128).

During the 10-minute preparation, candidates can make notes on the paper provided. They may refer to these notes during the examination. The notes will not be assessed.

During the examination, candidates have up to 2 minutes to present their planned responses. If they stop before 2 minutes, the Examiner will inform that they still have time and ask whether they have anything to add.

Once the 2-minute time limit is reached, the Examiner will indicate that time is up, and candidates should conclude their responses then. If candidates continue at length beyond the 2 minutes, the additional portion will not be considered for assessment.


Part 2: Spoken Interaction [15 marks]

Candidates engage in a discussion with the Examiners on a topic broadly related to the video clip used in Part 1. They will not be asked any questions about what people say in the video clip. This section is similar to the Stimulus-Based Conversation section in the PSLE English Oral Exam.


1.1.1 Question Prompts

Planned Response

1st prompt: This is usually a personal response or view on a theme based on the video stimulus. This prompt will be shown to candidates during their preparation time.


Spoken Interaction

2nd prompt: This is usually a discursive response on a theme linked to the video.

3rd prompt: This is usually a discursive response on broader issues stemming from the theme.

Both prompts may invite candidates to consider other perspectives (e.g. social groups, the larger community or institutions). Prompts for this section will not be made known to candidates during their preparation time.

An example taken from the Specimen Paper can be found here. Video stimulus here.


1.2. Assessment Criteria / Mark Scheme


Overall assessment objectives for O Level English Oral Exam:

  • Present ideas and opinions fluently and effectively to engage the listener
  • Engage in a discussion and communicate ideas and opinions clearly

Part 1: Planned Response Assessment

Assessment Criteria for Response (Content)

  • Development and organisation of ideas
  • Expression of ideas

Candidates are graded out of 10 for this section. To achieve the highest band (9 to 10 marks), candidates should have:

  • A well-considered response which is well-developed and organised
  • A wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures

Assessment Criteria for Delivery with Awareness of Purpose, Audience and Context

  • Pronunciation
  • Fluency
  • Intonation

Candidates can score a maximum of 5 marks for this section. The delivery of a 5-mark response is one that is fluent with clear pronunciation, and intonation varied to good effect.


Part 2: Spoken Interaction

Assessment Criteria for Spoken Interaction

  • Communication of perspective(s)
  • Engagement in a discussion

For this section, candidates are graded out of 15 marks. A response will be awarded the highest band (13 to 15 marks) if it:

  • Offers well-considered responses with coherent and well-developed perspective(s)
  • Uses a wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures; clear pronunciation
  • Engages in a sustained discussion, sometimes moving beyond the prompts


2. Tips to Score A1 | O Level English Oral Exam

2.1 Acquire knowledge from a wide range of sources


When students lack the necessary knowledge and understanding of a topic, it will be challenging for them to craft thoughtful and well-rounded responses. They may not be able to effectively develop their ideas or engage the Examiners meaningfully. This can negatively impact their performance in the examination.

One way for students to gain knowledge is to read widely, from a variety of sources. This can include reading books, magazines, or articles. These sources provide in-depth coverage of various topics and can help students develop a deeper understanding of the topics. For example, books can provide a comprehensive overview of the material, while articles and magazines can offer insights into current events and recent developments in a certain field.

Watching videos or documentaries can also provide students with a visual representation of a topic, which can aid them in their understanding. This can be especially useful for students who are visual learners. Those who are looking for a new perspective on a familiar subject can also benefit from watching videos and documentaries. Some videos that students can consider exploring include educational channels like TED-Ed, or specialised channels like the Discovery Channel or National Geographic. Video streaming services like YouTube or Netflix can also be used to search for a wide range of videos or documentaries.


2.2 Use personal experiences in elaboration


One challenge that students often struggle with is the lack of elaboration. Students often lament that they are not able to expand on their answers beyond two or three lines. They do not know how to further elaborate on an answer.

To overcome this problem, students can include personal experiences in their responses. Using personal experiences can help to make a response more engaging and relatable. This can be achieved by incorporating specific anecdotes or real-life examples that demonstrate the student’s understanding of the topic. These personal experiences can also add a unique perspective to the response and help to differentiate the student from others.

When using personal experiences, it is important, though, to make sure they are relevant to the topic. Students should also be able to articulate how they are connected to the broader issue. Additionally, it will be helpful to use concrete details and vivid language to bring the experience to life and make it more memorable for the Examiner (and earn more marks!)


2.3 Ensure that responses are authentic


When using personal experiences to elaborate on points, it is important for the students to ensure that their responses are authentic. This means that their experiences should be genuine and reflective of their own thoughts, feelings, and observations. Students should generally avoid making up experiences or stretching the truth just to impress the Examiner. (That said, this does not apply to students who can pull off using made up experiences, especially for those who would otherwise have nothing to add to their responses).

Authentic responses are more likely to engage the Examiner and demonstrate the student’s knowledge and understanding of the topic. It is also important for the students to consider the appropriateness of their personal experiences and how they relate to the theme of the examination. This will help to ensure that their responses are relevant and meaningful.


2.4 Practise, practise, practise!


Practising for the oral examination involves more than just reading widely, or simply knowing that personal experiences should be included in the responses. To be truly effective, students need to actively engage with the themes they will be discussing in the examination. This means that they need to think critically about a topic and consider different perspectives and opinions. They also need to be able to articulate their thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise manner. Practising with the PEEL structure can help students to organise their thoughts and develop a strong, well-supported response or argument.

Additionally, students can practise with a partner or in front of a mirror. By doing so, students can gain a better understanding of their delivery and become more confident in their ability to speak in front of others. Practising this way allows students to receive feedback on their speaking skills and make necessary adjustments to improve their performance. The more they practise, the more comfortable they get, and the more confident they will feel during the actual examination. This can lead to a more successful performance and a better overall outcome.


2.5 Practise under exam conditions


While practising is no doubt a good way to prepare for the oral exam, students should ensure that they stimulate exam conditions during the practice. Students can time themselves and practise under similar conditions, akin to taking mock exams. This includes setting a timer during practice sessions, especially during the 10-minute preparation time, and the 2-minute time limit for Planned Response. This mimics the actual conditions of the exam and will help them to become more familiar with the time constraints. It will also give them the confidence they need to perform well during the real examination.

It is also important to simulate the examination conditions such as a quiet room, with no access to phones or the internet.


3. Conclusion | O Level English Oral Exam

In conclusion, the O Level English Oral Exam can be effectively prepared for through a combination of gaining knowledge from a variety of sources and practising the skills necessary for success. Students who wish to receive further support can consider joining our classes, where they will receive expert guidance. Not only are our teachers MOE-certified, but we also have experience as O Level Oral Examiners. As such, we know exactly what it takes for students to score A1 in the oral exam. With hard work, preparation, and the right guidance, your child can definitely be successful in the oral exam.

Want a hands-on and interactive session on how to achieve A1 for the oral component? Join our intensive booster workshop!

Learning Gems is a premium tuition centre that provides quality online English tuition classes to PSLE and G3 / GCE ‘O’ Level students in Singapore. Our teachers are well-versed with the latest MOE syllabus and have taught at various schools in Singapore. Be it the primary or secondary level, we possess the relevant experience and are fully qualified to help your child.

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