4 surefire tips to impress your O-level English Oral examiner

Depending on a student’s personality and deposition, the O-level English Oral Examination will feel like an ice cream sundae for some and a Monday afternoon in hell for others.

That said, no matter if your child is outspoken or has the tendency to blend into the crowd, knowing the key areas to work on is a surefire way to boost their chances of locking down that easy 30 marks.

Therefore, we’ve put together a short guide you can use to better prepare your child for the big day.

What examiners are looking for

In order to ace the O-level English Oral Examination, your child has to master four main components:

  • Pronunciation and enunciation 
  • Tone of voice and expressions
  • Pace and rhythm of reading
  • Ability to provide personal responses

#1 Pronunciation and enunciation

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

We don’t know the answer to that. What we do know is that the right sentence when unheard or heard incorrectly by the examiner leads to groans of regret. Therefore, it’s important that your child learns to read in a clear and accurate manner that gets them the points they deserve.

Here are a few practical tips:

Pronounce the end consonants clearly

eg. ‘s’ at the end of “boys”, ‘t’ at the end of “cart”, and ‘k’ at the end of “stack”

Watch out for words with tricky endings

eg. gasp (gas-p), physicists (physicis-t-s)

Know the difference between short and long vowels.

Short vowels give off a shorter sound while long vowels say the name of the alphabet.
Take ‘orange’ and ‘open’ for example. While ‘open’ is the shorter word, it’s actually a long vowel due to the sound the ‘o’ makes, which resembles the name of the letter. But in the case of ‘orange’, the ‘o’ makes a much shorter sound, thus it’s a short vowel. 

Eg. Short vowels - ‘Fat’ and ‘Bed’. Long vowels - ‘Fate’ and ‘Wheat’

#2 Tone of voice and expressions

Intonation injects feelings into your reading. By ensuring that your voice goes up and down, you add a cadence that keeps the examiner hooked and engaged.

Stress on certain words for emphasis

Eg. Susan felt hungry, sleepy too. Without a second thought, she ran all the way home.

When you read the italicised words louder, you highlight Susan’s feelings of hunger and tiredness, which resulted in her eagerness to get home. In short, stressing on the correct words can help you convey key information and bring the passage to life.

Change your voice to convey emotions

Eg. As soon as Peter began tearing open the boxes underneath the Christmas tree, he began shouting, “Mom! Dad! It’s the toy car I’ve always wanted!”

When it comes to direct speech, changing your voice allows you to better express what the subject is currently feeling. As a child who’s just received his long-awaited toy car, changing your voice lets you highlight his excitement in the present moment.

To get more practice on this, we recommend listening to short stories online with your child and exposing them to quality narrations that make stories come alive. On top of that, have them read a short text aloud every day before going to bed to put what they learnt into practice.

#3 Pace and rhythm of reading

We’ve all been there. Seated at the back of a cab while the driver tears through the streets to relive his unfulfilled Formula One dream.

Floor the pedal, brake.

Accelerate, brake again.

Swerve left, red light.

It’s uncomfortable to say the least, and the same goes for reading. When it's well-paced and all the pauses are in the right place, reading becomes a pleasant experience for both listener and reader. When your child reads too quickly, they risk tripping over their words. But when a text is read too slowly, each syllable drags its feet on the floor, lulling its listener into a post-meal stupor. 

Most importantly, interspersing your reading with well-timed pauses can add clarity to the meaning of the passage, as well as provide you with the chance to catch a breath before turning blue.

#4 Ability to provide personal responses/opinions

To make a stellar impression during the spoken-interaction section, it’s important that your child is prepared to provide great personal responses or opinions. For this, we recommend structuring your answers using the PEEP format: Point, Explanation, Examples, Personal experience/opinion.

Here’s how it works.

For instance, the examiner asks: “Do you think children should do chores and help out around the house?”

Using PEEP, you can easily structure a response as shown below.

Point: “Yes, I think children should do chores and help out around the house.”

Explanation: “The reason for that is because it teaches them responsibility from a young age, and contributes to their growth as individuals. Also, it helps them to better appreciate the work their parents and older siblings put into maintaining a clean and comfortable home.”

Examples: “For example, if a child is taught to do the dishes every other day, he’s less likely to take that task for granted now that he knows how much work it can be. This helps him to develop a sense of responsibility and ownership which will be carried over into his adult life.”

Personal experience/opinion: “Personally, I enjoy helping out around the house, especially folding clothes. It makes me feel like I’m contributing to the family. Also, it makes me realize that when each family member does his or her part, the home becomes a very comfortable place.”

Last but not least, be sure to smile during the conversation, and thank the examiner before leaving the table. This helps to show your appreciation for the examiner’s time and attention, and lets you leave them with a good impression.


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