ISA ORAL ENGLISH EXAM

ORAL ENGLISH EXAM

EXAMINATIONS

ISA members during the summer of 1994 discussed the possibility of creating a new set of oral English examinations. These examinations would emphasize expressive and fluent communication in English and not simply the acquisition of grammar and vocabular.

INTRODUCTION

During the summer of 1994, members of the International Schools Association in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Jacqueline McLellan of Calgary, Canada, developed a new set of oral English examinations specifically targeted towards students studying English as a second language.  Based on a contemporary understanding of English acquisition, voice, speech and drama technique, the ISA Oral English Examinations emphasize expressive and fluent communication in English and not simply the acquisition of grammar and vocabulary.

These examinations are geared to developing outstanding oral communication in English.  Through speaking literature, relating of personal experiences, developing organizational strategies for formal presentations, as well as learning ease of impromptu speaking, candidates gain many valuable skills.  Candidates build self-confidence and learn fluency, effective delivery techniques, and artistic expression of ideas.  Personality, confidence, correct pronunciation, and vocal technique are strengthened through this experience.

The ISA Oral English Examinations were used for the first time in Argentina in October 1994 and in Uruguay in 2004.  The examinations have seen steady growth, and challenging objectives and goals are in place.  The teachers as well as their students have been trained as to what is expected from the examinations.  The fourth level of examination, Advanced, was implemented in 2002.  Much progress has been made, and many students now successfully complete all four levels of the ISA exam.

The vision for the future is to promote the use of these examinations in more schools throughout the world.  Currently, all examiners are Canadian with professional accreditation in English, voice, speech arts, drama, and public speaking.  New examiners are being trained and standardized to meet the expected growth of the ISA Oral English Examinations.

CRITERIA OR ASSESSMENT

The purpose of these examinations is to discover how well candidates, who are learning English as a second language, can speak and understand the language within the limits of each level.  What is said – content, how it is said – delivery, and willingness to share – individual characteristics, will be taken into consideration. 

The following skills will be considered:

  1. Expressive communication of ideas in prepared work and conversation
    1. Vocal Variety and Support
    2. Quality of Sound and Inflection
    3. Clarity and Articulation
  2.  Fluency
      1. Free of Hesitation
      2. Meaningful Phrasing
      3. Correct Pronunciation
      4. Appropriate Grammar and Vocabulary
  3.  Deportment
      1. Confident, Pleasant Manner
      2. Energetic Delivery
      3. Poised Posture and Appearance
  1.  

Each level of the ISA Oral English Examination focuses on three areas: prepared work, social conversation, and sight reading.  At the advanced level, candidates are also challenged with creating and delivering an impromptu speech. The examination involves mastering the tasks set for each level. 

 

As these examinations are not written or taped but on an in person, one-to-one basis, the personal and social interaction skills and involvement of candidates will be taken into account.  It is important to note that the most successful candidates are not always the most accurate with English grammar and pronunciation.  While these are important elements of the exam, the ability to expressively communicate thoughts and ideas is equally significant in the grading.

 

Following is a breakdown of the requirements for each level and section of the exam as well as the reasoning and benefits of each element.

EXAMINATIONS

This section outlines the four levels of examinations, and the required tasks and time limits for each.  Each examination focuses on three areas: prepared work, social conversation, and sight reading.  The examination should involve mastering the tasks set for each level.  As these examinations are not written or taped but on a “one-to-one” basis, the personal and social interaction skills and involvement of candidates will be taken into account.

 

Candidates should stand for all prepared work.  They may sit for the conversation portion of the examination.  The sight reading should be presented standing as though to an audience.  Questioning will take place at the examiner’s desk.

PRIMARY LEVEL

Examination time: 10 minutes

Candidates who sit this examination should be in the third year of English instruction. 

Prepared work (60 marks)

The prepared work is learning and performing a poem.  The poem chosen must be by a published author and be of literary and artistic merit.  The poem must be memorized.  It should be suitable to the grade level, age, experience, and personality of the candidates.  This prepared work is not merely a memorization exercise but should demonstrate candidates’ ability to use the words in a lively or dramatic manner.  Consequently, the poems chosen should be full of imagery and interesting words.  Fun “sound” or “rhyming” poems are fine for the classroom but are poor choices for the examination.

Correct pronunciation is essential, and all word meanings should be known.  The title and author’s name should be spoken.  Meaning should take precedence over rhythm.  The poem should not be acted out or over-gestured. 

Requirements

Memorized Poem by a published author

The poem is memorized by the candidate

Of literary and artistic merit

Suitable to the grade level, age, experience, and personality of the candidate

Contains imagery and interesting words

Provides an opportunity for the candidate to use the words in a lively and dramatic manner

Rationale

Memorization is an invaluable skill that is transferable to many other areas of learning – this is not rote but a personal and individual approach for each student

Poetry provides easy access to emotion

Emotion is essential in developing a free and expressive delivery

Expressive skills are more easily accessed through poetry than through public speaking

Learning to speak poetry with meaning – not just the rhythm and rhyme –  develops a deeper awareness and sensitivity to the use of language

Skills developed through speaking and exploring poetry are easily transferred to public speaking, conversation, and presentations

Good literature provides excellent examples of interesting ways of using English

Introducing good literature at a young age encourages future exploration of excellent writing and reading

Conversation (30 marks)

Candidates must participate in a short conversation led by the examiner.  They should be prepared to respond to questions about the poem, as well as to converse about general topics such as family, school, hobbies, travel, and the like.

Requirements

Short conversation led by the examiner

Respond to questions about the poem

Respond to general topics such as family, school, hobbies, and travel

Rationale

Communication is an essential skill

Candidates should understand all words and ideas presented in their poem

Explaining a personal connection to a piece develops a deeper understanding of the language

Topics such as family and school are familiar and easily accessible

Sight Reading (10 marks)

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose provided by the examiner.  Consideration will be given to candidates’ ability to pronounce words, to obey punctuation, and to demonstrate an understanding of the text.  Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following.

Requirements

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose provided by the examiner

Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following

Candidate will demonstrate an understanding of the text

Consideration will be given to  the candidate’s ability to pronounce words and obey punctuation

Rationale

Sight reading demonstrates comprehension of text

Accurate and engaging delivery of the text requires quick comprehension integrated with physical and vocal skills

Reading aloud with meaning and comprehension builds communication skills

Sight reading skills are easily transferable to presentations and conversations

JUNIOR LEVEL

Examination time: 12 minutes

Candidates who sit this examination should be in their fifth year of English instruction.

Prepared work (50 marks)

The prepared work is the relating of a past personal experience.  This should be prepared by candidates and presented in an extemporaneous manner.  The past experience should be between 3 and 4 minutes in length.  It should not sound memorized, and the language should retain a sense of clarity and spontaneity.  Structure of the prepared work is important, including an imaginative opening and an arresting conclusion.  A simple visual aid (picture or object) may be used to enhance the presentation.  However, the primary focus of assessment is on the spoken delivery.

Requirements

Past Experience | 3 – 4 minutes

Relating a past personal experience

Prepared by the candidate and presented extemporaneously

Should not sound memorized

Language retains a sense of clarity and spontaneity

Structure is important including an imaginative opening and clear conclusion

A picture or object may be included

Rationale

Relating a personal experience is an integral element of communication

This is a natural development in conversation and communication

A personal experience is immediate and easily accessible for a young speaker

The candidate develops the ability to speak English in the past tense

Expressive skills explored through speaking poetry continue to be developed

The extemporaneous delivery encourages active thought and participation in the presentation

Students display fluid thought and use of vocabulary with this presentation

It allows for a sharing of personal details

Conversation (40 marks)

Candidates must participate in a short conversation with the examiner.  This conversation should arise naturally from discussion of candidates’ prepared work, and may lead into discussion of other experiences and interests.

Requirements

Short conversation with the examiner

Conversation should arise naturally from discussion of the past experience

This may lead into discussion of other experiences and interests

Rationale

Communication is an essential skill

Exploring a wider range of ideas related to the past experience allows for a familiar topic as well as encouraging engaged communication

Discussion of other experiences and interests is a natural development in communication

Sight Reading (10 marks)

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a selection of prose provided by the examiner in which narration is a key element.  Consideration will be given to pronunciation, clarity, and the ability to understand and convey the meaning.

Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading, and may be asked questions following.

Requirements

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose in which narration is a key element

Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following

Consideration will be given to pronunciation and clarity of articulation

Comprehension of the text must be evident and the meaning conveyed in the delivery

Rationale

Sight reading demonstrates comprehension of text

Accurate and engaging delivery of the text requires quick comprehension integrated with physical and vocal skills

Reading aloud with meaning and comprehension builds communication skills

Sight reading skills are easily transferable to presentations and conversations

Candidates are required to interpret the text and make decisions regarding vocal variety and delivery

INTERMEDIATE LEVEL

Examination time: 15 minutes

Candidates who sit this examination should be in their eighth year of English instruction.

Prepared work (40 marks)

The prepared work is an original speech four to five minutes in length, which may be informative, persuasive, or entertaining in style.  Topics may be of candidates’ choice and should be connected to their age and interests.  Correct format is important and the topic should be organized and developed in a logical manner.  Attention should be paid to introduction, body, conclusion, and effective use of transitions.  Cards with key words may be used; however, delivery must be extemporaneous in style and not read.  The speech should sound spontaneous and not memorized.  Good posture and stance, facial expression, vocal production, and expressive communication of ideas should be evident.  Vocabulary should be of high standard and correct pronunciation and articulation are expected.

Requirements

Extemporaneous Speech | 4 – 5 minutes

An original informative, persuasive, or entertaining speech

Topic is of candidate’s choice and should be connected to their age and interests

Prepared by the candidate and presented extemporaneously

Should not sound memorized

Cards with key words may be used

Delivery must be extemporaneous and not read

Attention should be paid to  introduction, body, conclusion, and transitions

Good posture, facial expression, vocal production, and expressive communication of ideas

Vocabulary should be of a high standard

Correct pronunciation and articulation

Rationale

Candidates build on the skills explored with the past experience

The topic is of the candidate’s choice and provides a wide scope for presentation and discussion

Practical skills in researching, writing, and preparing a formal speech are developed and refined

Students learn the benefits of structure in public speaking

Extemporaneous delivery develops flexibility in thought and presentation

Integration of physical and vocal skills with research skills leads to a strong and compelling delivery

A convincing presentation depends upon good vocabulary, articulation, and pronunciation

Conversation (40 marks)

Candidates must participate in a brief conversation with the examiner, which will arise from the prepared speech, but may lead to other topics.  Candidates should be able to develop conversation and be eager to share. 

Requirements

Short conversation with the examiner

Conversation should arise from the prepared speech and may lead to other topics

Candidates will be able to develop the conversation

Candidates should be willing to share ideas

Rationale

Communication is an essential skill

Exploring a wider range of ideas related to the prepared speech  allows for a familiar topic as well as encouraging engaged communication

Discussion of other experiences and interests is a natural development in communication

Conversation involves participation on both sides

The ability to develop the conversation and to share ideas demonstrates a strong ability to think and communicate in English

Sight Reading (20 marks)

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a selection of prose chosen by the examiner, in which dialogue exchange is a key element.  Consideration will be given to pronunciation, clarity, and the ability to interpret the text.  By this level, candidates should be able to lift the words off the page, and employ eye contact with the audience.  Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading, and may be asked questions following.

Requirements

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose in which dialogue is a key element

Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following

Consideration will be given to pronunciation, clarity of articulation, and the ability to interpret the text

Candidates will be able to lift the words off the page and employ eye contact with the audience

Rationale

Sight reading demonstrates comprehension of text

Accurate and engaging delivery of the text requires quick comprehension integrated with physical and vocal skills

Reading aloud with meaning and comprehension builds communication skills

Sight reading skills are easily transferable to presentations and conversations

Candidates are required to interpret the text and make decisions regarding vocal variety and delivery

Pronunciation, clarity of articulation and interpretation are necessary in all presentations

The ability to connect with the audience with eye contact and maintain a smooth flow of words demonstrates a high level of skill and understanding

ADVANCED LEVEL

Examination time: 20 minutes

Candidates who sit this examination should be in their eleventh year of English instruction.

Impromptu Speech (25 marks)

At this level, candidates will prepare and present a well-organized impromptu speech of approximately four minutes in length.  Candidates will choose one topic from five which will be provided by the examiner.  A preparation time of twenty minutes immediately before the examination will be given.  Candidates may prepare short notes, and use them for delivery, but must not attempt to write out the talk in full, and read it.  Candidates should deliver the speech in an interesting manner, expressing ideas clearly and coherently.  The information given, the enthusiasm and conviction of candidates are of foremost importance.  Correct pronunciation and grammar are expected, but the impromptu nature of the speech will be taken into consideration in assessment.  By this level, candidates should demonstrate a well-rounded presentation, including deportment, fluency, and effective communication skills.

Requirements

Impromptu Speech | 3 minutes with 20 minutes preparation

Candidates will prepare and present a well organized impromptu speech

Candidates will choose one topic from those provided by the examiner

Preparation time of 20 minutes will be provided immediately before the examination

Short notes may be prepared and used for reference during delivery

Delivery must be extemporaneous – the speech is not to be written in full and then read out

The speech will be delivered in an interesting manner, expressing ideas clearly and coherently

Correct pronunciation, grammar, and articulation are expected; however, the impromptu nature of the speech is taken into consideration

The organization of the speech and supporting information are important considerations

Enthusiasm, vocal and facial expression, and conviction are also important considerations

Rationale

At this level candidates demonstrate a well rounded presentation including deportment, fluency, and effective communication skills

Impromptu speaking develops the ability to quickly organize and develop ideas

At this level, candidates are experienced and confident sharing thoughts and opinions in an organized and compelling manner

Excellent English skills are essential and demonstrated in the ability to order thoughts and deliver the speech with confidence

Candidates develop and display strong presentation skills including good posture and stance, vocal variety, phrasing and pause, vocal and facial expression, and eye contact

Prepared Piece (35 marks)

Candidates will be required to prepare, memorize, and present a passage of approximately 3 minutes in length.  This passage should be of their own choosing and may be either a poem, a prose passage, a monologue or scene from a play, or a portion of a famous historical speech.  Material chosen should be of a high enough standard to allow candidates to demonstrate a wide range of skills and expression in English and personal connection to the piece.  Students are encouraged to be creative in their choices. 

Requirements

Memorized Poetry, Prose, Scene | 4 minutes

Prepare, memorize, and present a passage of candidate’s choice – poem, prose passage, monologue, famous historical speech

Material should be of a high standard that allows candidate to demonstrate a wide range of English skills

Physical, vocal, and facial expression should be appropriate to the piece

Performance choices should be thoughtful and motivated from a personal connection with the piece

Students are encouraged to be creative in their choices

Vocabulary should be of a high standard

Correct pronunciation and articulation

Rationale

This should not be a new concept that has just been re-introduced for this exam

Reading, memorizing, and appreciating literature should be an integral part of learning to speak English

Skills that have been practised since the primary level will be fully integrated, internalized, and natural feeling

Knowledge of the full text from which the piece is taken broadens the candidate’s experience and appreciation for English literature

Skills developed in performing poetry, prose and drama are easily accessed and transferable to public speaking

Conversation (20 marks)

At this level, candidates are expected to converse freely and easily on a variety of topics.  The discussion may arise from but not be limited to the impromptu speech.  Social interaction is essential, and candidates should show eagerness to share ideas, to offer opinions, and to participate actively.

Requirements

Candidates will converse freely and easily on a variety of topics

Discussion may arise from but is not limited to the impromptu speech

Social interaction is essential

Candidates are expected to show an eagerness to share ideas, offer opinions, and actively participate

Rationale

Communication is an essential skill

Exploring a wider range of ideas related to the impromptu speech allows for engaged communication regarding an immediate experience

Candidates have an opportunity to discuss the challenges and successes of the impromptu speech

Candidates have an opportunity to discuss their interpretation, connection and understanding of their prepared work

Candidates are able to develop more complex connections

Conversation involves participation on both sides

The ability to develop the conversation and to share ideas demonstrates a strong ability to think and communicate in English

Sight Reading (20 marks)

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose provided by the examiner.  All elements of sight reading delivery should be demonstrated, including pronunciation, pause, phrasing, as well as vocal variety, eye contact, and the ability to interpret the material and bring the words to life.  Candidates must recognize main ideas and be able to convey meaning and mood. Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following.

Requirements

Candidates will be asked to read at sight a passage of prose provided by the examiner

Candidates will be allowed a moment to scan the selection before reading and may be asked questions following

All elements of sight reading delivery should be demonstrated including correct pronunciation, pause, and phrasing

Candidates will use vocal variety and eye contact, and demonstrate the ability to interpret the material and bring the words to life

Candidates must recognize main ideas and be able to convey meaning and mood

Rationale

Sight reading demonstrates comprehension of text

Accurate and engaging delivery of the text requires quick comprehension integrated with physical and vocal skills

Reading aloud with meaning and comprehension builds communication skills

Sight reading skills are easily transferable to presentations and conversations

Candidates are required to interpret the text and make decisions regarding vocal variety and delivery

Pronunciation, clarity of articulation and interpretation are necessary in all presentations

The ability to connect with the audience with eye contact and maintain a smooth flow of words demonstrates a high level of skill and understanding

Utilizing all elements of good speech skills reveals a strong and confident presentation

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