Submitted by’s director Elizabeth Hayes:

Elizabeth Hayes holds a first class honours degree in French Literature from the University of Limerick. She was the recipient of the College Medal for achieving first place overall in the University.
She has also lived in France for 10 years.
She is a registered member of the teaching council in Ireland, and works in The CBS Sexton Street, Limerick.




Remember that the French Oral exam for 2016 takes place in April and that you will have achieved a maximum of 25% before the official Leaving Cert begins in June.

So, to the exam…

On the morning of the French Leaving Cert exam, you will be sitting two papers. The first is a written paper which is worth 220 marks or 55% of the total exam. There are two sections to this paper, the first of which is the Compréhension Écrite which is worth 120 marks or 30% of the total paper. The second section is the Production Écrite and is worth 100 marks or 25% of the total paper. 

The Compréhension Écrite  120 marks (30%)

This section involves the reading and comprehension of two texts; a journalistic piece and a literary piece. The journalistic pieces found in the French Leaving Certificate Honours paper, usually come from popular publications in France such as; Le Parisien, La Croix, Le Monde, France-Soir, Le Figaro, Femme Actuelle, Le Point, Paris Match, Challenges, Le Journal du Dimanche, L’Express.

The literary pieces are taken from notable writers in France such as Colin Thibert, award-winning author,  Delphine de Vigan, Sophie Vadhra, Marie NDiaye (winner of the Goncourt Prize in 2009).

The Production Écrite 100 marks (25%)

This is the part of the exam that fills most candidates with absolute dread! You are given 4 questions of which Q1 is compulsory.  You have to answer a total of 3 questions, so you have a choice between questions 2, 3 and 4. Within each Question, there is a choice between (a) and (B).

Question 1. 40 marks. (90 words approximately) The (A) option of the question is generally topical and will often make reference to the reading texts. Option (B) often asks students to tell a real or imaginary story.

Question 2.30 marks (75 words approximately) This question is generally a choice between a diary entry, an email, a message or a letter, either formal or informal. The diary entry is a very popular choice, but you will not get away with filling the 75 words with stock phrases and idiomatic language. You must use grammatically correct French, and be able to personalise the question to gain maximum marks.

Question 3 or 4. 30 marks (75 words approximately).   

These are usually questions, which require the students to give their reaction to a given topic or their opinion about a certain issue.

After the exam!

The examiners take your papers and mark them in the following way:

50% of your marks is for COMMUNICATION & 50% of your marks is for LANGUAGE.




La Compréhension Écrite  120 marks (30%)

A lot of students say to me, “How am I meant to study for French?” Well, be clever about it…your exam is divided into 4 parts; reading, writing, listening & speaking.  You must allot your time accordingly.

I would suggest that at this stage, you look for articles from the following publications on the internet: Le Parisien, La Croix, Le Monde, France-Soir, Le Figaro, Femme Actuelle, Le Point, Paris Match, Challenges, Le Journal du Dimanche, L’Express.

All these publications have excellent websites with plenty of reading material to browse. My number one recommendation for students wishing to attain maximum marks in French is to READ, READ, READ and did I mention READ! From now to the morning of the exam, you have approximately 90 days! That is a lot of time for reading about 10-15 minutes of French every day. You cannot scrimp on this. You must put the time in or you will be left behind.

Pick a reading comprehension from the papers and try and do it. Give it to your teacher and ask (nicely!)  that he/she corrects it for you.

How to approach the reading section.

Take a typical reading comprehension and a highlighter:  I always suggest that my students use a highlighter, as they then divide the piece into manageable sections, which will give them a psychological advantage!

  1. Go to the questions and go directly to question 6. This is the only English question on the paper, and it may give you an idea as to what the text is about.
  2. Read the heading & the sub-heading for more clues. (amazing how many students ignore this!)
  3. Go to the first section and box off the section with your highlighter  and only deal with questions to do with this section.
  4. Proceed to the second section and box off the section you are dealing with. Only deal with the questions pertaining to the section.
  5. Do the same with the remaining sections.
  6. Words that are used to ask questions:

“Citez” – State. “Cherchez” – Look for “Relevez” – Pick out “Expliquez- Explain. “Trouvez”- find. “Selon” – According to “Donnez” – Give.

NB: On the morning of the exam, you will not have the luxury of reading every bit of text, as you have approximately 30 minutes per comprehension. Reading cleverly is what it is all about!

Regarding the second reading comprehension, which uses a more formal language, look at the bottom of the reading, and you will see the name of the author. Take their name, look them up on Google, and read extracts from their work.

Remember that you must be able to recognise the Past Historic or Past Simple, and be comfortable with the subjunctive  in order to do well in the Leaving Certificate Honours French paper. 

The Second paper for the Leaving Cert French exam is the Listening test or aural component. This exam takes place 10 minutes after the end of the first paper. It is a test that usually lasts approximately 40 minutes and is divided into 5 sections. (It was 4 up to 1997). At Honours level, the Listening component accounts for 80 marks or 20% of the total exam. We will be dealing with tips concerning the listening component of the exam in the coming weeks.

Next week, we will be looking at the written section: LEAVING CERTIFICATE FRENCH EXAM – HONOURS / HIGHER LEVEL.