How I got a 7 in the IB Chinese B HL Individual Oral

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As someone who was able to achieve 19/20 marks on the Chinese B HL individual oral, on behalf of MeeOpp I would like to share with you how you can achieve a similar (if not better) grade for a challenging and uncertain part of the Language B HL assessment.

  1. Understanding the assessment format in depth

The first and most obvious thing is to know the format inside out. How long you get to prepare (15 mins), how long the presentation is (3-4 minutes) and how long the discussion with your teacher is (5-6 minutes). This is important to note while you’re planning, as you would like to be able to use the maximum amount of time as efficiently as possible to respond the best you can.

Not only that, but go through the assessment criteria. The 9-10 markband for Criteria A: Productive Skills states:

  • “The production of language is fluent and generally authentic” 
    • “Fluent” here means that your speech has to be smooth and without filler pauses like “ums” and “ahs”. One small trick to get around this is to stretch the previous word if you’re still thinking, but this can only be used to some extent before it becomes obvious!. For example, you can stretch the “后” in “然后” while you consider your words for the following sentence
    • “Authentic” here means that you’re not constantly looking at your notes or reading from a script. Instead, you can glance down every now and then to make sure you’re on track or to jog your memory, but don’t be reading examples or be facing down the whole time.
  • “Language is varied and idiomatic
    • “Varied” here means you use a wide breadth of vocabulary when describing a topic. As when you’re talking about the stimulus, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same phrases over and over again. To avoid this, you can write a few options for words that will come up frequently on the side of your notes, so that if you are struggling to create such variety you can glance down.
    • “Idiomatic” here simply means the use of idioms or 四字词 and 成语. Prepare a list of idioms beforehand for each topic that can be used in a variety of scenarios, this way you can then apply them in your presentation or discussion in a natural and flowing manner.
  • “Intonation enhances communication”
    • “Enhances” here means that your intonation shouldn’t be dull and simple, but rather help to convey the relevant connotations that come with the sentences you say. This way, you come across as even closer to native speaker level. This means being more emphatic with your tone, and so a little bit of exaggerated intonation here will help
  • “Command of spoken language is excellent”

The 9-10 markband for Criteria B: Interactive and receptive skills states:

  • “Complex ideas and opinions are presented clearly, coherently, and effectively.
    • “Coherently” here means that your expression of ideas and opinions is logical and follows a clear structure of reasoning. In other words, don’t jump from topic to topic, introduce and conclude each idea with a sentence or two, and raise examples when making a point.
    • “Effectively” here means using the limited time you have to respond to each statement or question in the best possible way. Covering answers in some detail but without droning on and wasting precious time.
  • “The conversation flows coherently in a natural manner
    • “Natural manner” here means in a flowing and smooth manner. Yet again, without filler words or extended breaks between sentences.
  • “Complex ideas are understood very well and interaction is excellent:

  1. Prepare relevant vocab and 成语

One key piece of exam technique you can prepare easily is to collect relevant 字词 and 成语 prior to the assessment for each of your chosen themes. Either have these memorised or known off by heart so once you pick you stimulus, you can write down these phrases and idioms onto your notes, and use them to develop your plan, or save them for the discussion following. This will also help you with your Writing exam.

2.Prepare rough structures

Prior to the exam, if you want you can prepare presentation structures that will cover a breadth of topics within each theme. This way, even if the specific stimulus that you prepared for doesn’t come up, you can adapt your existing structure to the new topic. This, together with your prepared vocab and idioms, should help you nail your exam technique.

3. Practice

This can’t be stressed enough. Practice using assessment format as much as you can within your IB schedule. Practice with your teacher, with your classmates, and with native chinese speakers. You can do this either by asking your teacher for practice stimuli, or looking up pictures online yourself. Time your preparation time and your actual assessment, so that you’re comfortable with the format by the time the big day comes.

One big thing that is helpful is then recording these practice sessions and listening for mistakes, filler words, intonation, fluency, amongst other things that will affect your mark.

4. General Chinese Practice

Last but not least, one big thing that will support your overall preparation for the Individual Oral is practicing your Chinese generally. Whether it is through conversations with native speakers, or watching programmes relevant to your chosen themes, or describing ideas or topics to your relatives in Chinese, these activities will help develop your confidence in speaking in Chinese, as well as your fluency, and your vocabulary, and apart from hard exam technique is probably one of the best things you can do in advance.

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