My tips for leaving cert oral exam

Here are Niamh’s top tips for a great result in the orals.

Written by Niamh NiMhaoileoin


Although they only count for a relatively small percentage of our overall results and are removed from the June hysteria, many would agree that the Orals are the most intimidating aspect of the Leaving Cert. In a regular exam if you forget something or get an answer wrong, you can take a few deep breaths and start over. 

In the oral exam, you’re more likely to end up speaking the wrong language. That said, the orals don’t have to be the scariest thing in the world. Here are a few pointers that may help you survive them:

Listen to the language

Try to keep your ear in tune whether it’s by watching TG4, listening to music, watching films or just listening to study CDs.

Speak the language

Brothers, sisters, friends, parents-anyone with the remotest knowledge of your language should be targeted as a study aid. Get as much practice as possible at answering questions and structuring sentences.


This isn’t so much a tip as an unpleasant truth. The best way to do well in an oral exam is to be prepared and have an answer ready for everything the examiner could ask you.

Learn your basics

While it’s important to prepare for everything, if you get the simple stuff right you have a sizable chunk of marks in the bag. Give due attention to the basics: name, age, family, pastimes, etc.

Plan the conversation

If you are in control and have lots of topics to talk about this makes it easier for you. You will be less likely to be caught out by being asked questions you don’t know the answers to; as you will be the one guiding the conversation.

Avoid silences

No matter what, don’t let there be long silences. A lot of marks go for communication so keep talking even if you’re not totally sure of what you’re saying.

NEVER speak English

It seems obvious but when you’re madly searching your mind for that vital word it does tend to just slip out in English. Tell the examiner you can’t remember, try to get him/her to prompt you but do it in the language you’re supposed to be speaking.

Wrong language

If you speak Irish in your French oral or Spanish in your Irish oral, don’t panic. It happens. Smile it off, correct yourself and keep going.

Sit up straight

Again, seems obvious but still deserves to be said. Not only will it make a better impression on the examiner, it will also keep your airways open and help with nerves.

Take a few deep breaths

Contrary to what I said earlier you can actually do this in your oral exam. The examiner knows you’re nervous so if you feel overpowered or if you make a mistake don’t be afraid to pause, take a breath and get your bearings.

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