French 12 Provincial Exam
Note: this guide was written for the 2004-2005 provincial exams and will not be updated.
As most of you know, French is the one of the official languages of Canada (The other one being English for the people who don’t know) and the French 12 course is probably the most popular second language course for students here in BC. Most post-secondary institutions don’t really require French 12 for admission, but some students take the course in order to continuing learning French, which may be their second, third, or even fourth or after language.
French in secondary schools is available from grade 8 to 12. French 8 is a required course while French 9 and above are all electives. You need to have taken French 11 in order to take French 12, unless if you completed the language challenge exam which can give you credit for French 12. All the French courses are designed for students who don’t speak French natively and want to learn another language. French 12 is similar to the other French courses. Through the year you’ll learn some units from the textbook, practice some grammar and vocabulary exercises in the cahier, have (or least try to) some conversations in French and do some projects. There is a fair bit of homework, quizzes, and tests in French 12. Surprisingly, there is not much new material in French 12 except some new vocabulary. The only new tense you will learn in French 12 is the subjunctive and that’s it for new grammar stuff. Overall, French 12 can be described as more of a review course that prepares you for your French provincial.
Course Analysis and Tips
As I have said in the course overview, French 12 isn’t much different than French 11 or even French 10, except maybe for the homework load. You don’t learn anything really new except for some words and one tense of verb. I think I already forgot what I learned in French already. It is like a blur to me. I have to admit that I didn’t pay too much attention in class, because I was always sleepy due to an early morning class on those days. Unless you are really interested in French the language and other French-related items, you will probably find French 12 to be a fairly boring course. Of course, you might get an instructor who makes the course exciting, but your run of the mill French teacher usually won’t have that kind of power. Most classes are spent going over vocabulary and grammar. When I was in the lower grades, French used to be one of my best subjects, but not anymore, due to the fact that there is a bit more of a vocal component in higher level French courses. The fact is that I suck at speaking French, due to my bad pronunciation, and therefore I get pretty low marks when it comes to a verbal evaluation. There were also some art projects which also brought my mark down, because art is not one of my interests. I mostly got my marks from homework, quizzes, and tests because I do have fairly good memory so I can usually remember the words and grammar rules. French 12 is by no means a hard course. To a native speaker of French, this course will seem pretty laughable. After learning French at school for over 5 years, I still can’t write or speak better than a 5-year-old in French. BC probably has the easiest French courses in all of Canada. I used to live in Ontario and the French taught there in elementary school was more advanced than the stuff I learned in BC during grade 8 or 9. This is probably due to the fact that BC is geographically the furthest province from Quebec. There probably aren’t many francophone people in this province either. Heck, there are probably more Chinese and Indo-Canadian people in BC than francophone people, so therefore French isn’t really that prominent in British Columbia. If you study your vocabulary and grammar and practice speaking once in a while, then you’ll go through the course just fine.
Like all other provincials, the French 12 Provincial Exam is only a paper exam and doesn’t test your speaking and listening skills in French. The French exam, like English and all other language exams, doesn’t just test you on stuff you’ve learned in French 12; the exam evaluates how well you can read, understand, and write French and you’ll need all the skills you’ve learned from grade 8 to 12 in order to complete the exam. The first section contains two paragraphs, each with five blanks in them. Each blank is numbered and you choose the correct answer from the choices at the bottom corresponding to those blanks. Next up is a section with 3 passages. After reading each passage, there are about 8 multiple choice questions in French that you’ll have to answer. Out of the three passages, there should be at least one magazine/newspaper article and one prose selection (story). Section 3 contains two authentic documents, which are usually brochures, flyers, ads and such. Of course all the documents are in French. You have to answer a few questions based on the content of the documents. The questions in this section are in English and you also answer in English. The last section or the last two sections contain two written response questions. The first written response is shorter (the exam recommends at least 90 words). You are given a topic to write a narrative passage. This response is worth about 16 marks. The second piece of writing is longer (120+ words) and you have to write a descriptive passage based on a given topic. This section is marked out of 24 marks. The exam is out of 80 to 90 something marks in total and is designed to be completed in two hours. You have an extra 30 minutes if you need it. Visit the Ministry’s website for official exam specifications.
Exam Analysis and Tips
Since the French exam is divided into so many sections, I’ll go over the exam section by section. The first section with the fill-in-the-blanks primarily tests your grammar, vocabulary, and word choice. By word choice, I meant that you have to be familiar with common French expressions that are different in construction from English. For example, “I am hungry” in French is “J’ai faim”, which, when translated word for word, means “I have hunger”. The point is that you have to choose the word that a French speaking person would use rather than the word that fits the English expression. For all these fill-in-the-blanks, you should carefully read the whole sentence before deciding on the answer, because other words in the sentence will probably determine which answer is correct, especially on questions that are about subject-verb agreement. The paragraphs are not written in a very complex way, so you should have no difficulties understanding the words. If you don’t understand a certain part in a paragraph, try to guess its meaning by looking at the sentences before and after that part. You should also looks for words that you know in the part you don’t get and look for words that look like English words, which in most cases have the same meaning as the English words (but not always though). All the general advices for multiple choice questions (don’t leave answers blank; don’t take too long on one question) apply here. A last piece of advice for this section is that make sure you are looking at the right set of answers when answering each question. The answers are printed in a weird order and sometimes people look at the wrong set of answers and therefore mark down the wrong choice. In order to prepare for this section, make sure you look over all the grammar you have learned and go over common French words and expressions, especially words and expression that you tend to forget. You can also practice for this section, and all the sections other than the written parts, by downloading and completing old provincial exams.
The second section (with the three passages) tests you on your reading comprehension skills. The passages can be fairly long, and chances are that there will be some words or phrases in there that a lot of you won’t understand. If you happen to be one of those exceptional French students who understand every word, then you’ll have no trouble at all with this section. For the rest or you, don’t worry too much either, since you can usually guess the meaning of those words or phrases by looking at the sentences and words nearby and also by looking at words you do know and words that look like English. Finding where the answers are shouldn’t be too hard, because the questions corresponding to a passage will always be ordered so that the answer to one question will be found earlier in the passage than the answer to the next question. Since the questions are also in French, you can use the words in the questions to help you find the answer in the passage. Just scan the passage for the keywords in the question and you should be able to find the answer. As always, read the passages carefully before answering the questions. Most of the questions are pretty straight forward due the fact that the average French 12 student doesn’t know a lot of French at all, but there also may be some trick questions which, in my opinion, are very unfair. Unless you are really good at French, which is pretty hard since the school don’t really teach you that much stuff, you won’t be able to answer those trick questions correctly. When you write this section, don’t forget about the general M/C strategies (read above paragraph).You can prepare for this section by reading the passages in your textbook or go borrow and read some simple (like children’s) French books. If you can read simple French books, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble with this section.
The third section is perhaps the easiest marks to get in the exam, at least for me. All the authentic documents are basically, ads, brochures, posters or really short informational articles ripped off from somewhere. These documents don’t contain much text, and are usually written in a pretty simple way because of their nature (ex. no one would read an ad written completely in medical jargon). Best of all, all the questions are in English, and all your answers are supposed to be in English as well. It’s pretty easy to get all the questions. Make sure you read all the text on the documents very carefully, especially on non-articles since the text may be everywhere and you don’t want to miss any vital information. Most of questions are pretty straight forward but like section 2, there will be some trick questions, but these are easier to deal with since the questions are in English. Other tips for this section are make sure your writing is clear and legible; make sure you answer the question in the appropriate space on the exam paper; and remember that you don’t have to answer in full sentences, but make sure that your answer is specific and clear enough to get the full mark. If you get an A or a B in school, then you don’t really have to study for this section. For those you who want a bit of practice, you can always do old exam questions.
In contrast to section 3, the written section(s) are probably the hardest part of the exam. Both pieces of writing are marked on a 6 point scale similar to the one used in English, although I’m not sure how the markers can use a 6 point scale on the first writing response, which is worth 16 marks. The format might change later when they notice that “6” doesn’t divide into “16” very well. The writing parts are harder than the rest of the exam because you can’t really practice writing by yourself and get any improvement, due to the fact that you need to find someone else who is knowledgeable enough to mark your writing pieces and give you suggestions. Your French teacher may offer workshops after classes have ended, so if you really want to practice your writing, show up at those workshops for your teacher to mark your writings. Even though the responses are marked using the 6 point scale like the tough English 12 exam, these responses are nowhere near as hard as the English responses. First of all, you only have to write very little for each response. The recommendations are 90 words and 120 words for the two responses respectively, which mean that you can probably write each of your responses in one paragraph. The markers also don’t require you to write at a very high level at all. You can probably get a 4 by writing a bunch of simple sentences without having too many mistakes (spelling, grammar, word choice, etc.). If you use some complex sentences, hard words, different (and correct used) tenses, and most importantly, idiomatic French, you should have no problem getting a 5 or even a 6. Before the exam, I suggest that you review your grammar, vocabulary, and French expressions so that you’ll be able to use them for these written responses.
Overall, the French 12 provincial is not all that difficult. If you have paid attention in class and prepared appropriately, then you should have no trouble getting an A or B. I managed to get an A even though I can’t speak or write very well in French. I got my mark because I know the strategies for taking exams and I knew what to prepare for. Of course, it would have been even nicer if I actually knew French well, but that’s all in the past. The exam takes a fair bit of time but you should be able to finish before time is up. Good luck.