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The Leaving Cert French Written Exam - A guide

June 9, 2016

The Leaving Cert French Written Exam: A guide

Get better prepared for your French exam with these tips in your Leaving Cert

The French Written Exam

Now that your French exam is drawing closer, it is time to concentrate on the written part. Do not forget that all the vocabulary and grammatical structures you have learned for your oral will be useful for the written part. Keep all your notes in order to go over them when needed.

The written part is divided in 2 sections:


You will have to answer 2 comprehensions.
If you refer to the state examination marking scheme; here are the penalties:

1. Excess material: -1 or -2 marks.
e.g.: Nommez un avantage du covoiturage. (Section 3) 2013
If you give more than 1 advantage to car sharing, you will lose 1 or 2 marks even if your answers are correct.

2. All other errors to be penalised minus 1 max. per question/segment. 

- Inappropriate quotation.

- Manipulation when not required.

 - Language/grammar errors in manipulation.

- When manipulation is required and not attempted.

- Answers given in the wrong language, e.g. answers in Irish/English when French required as in Compréhension Écrite; q.6 segments answered in French.


1. Obligatory : Q. 1 (a) or (b) (40 marks)
Communication 20 marks
Language 20 marks    

2. Answer two of Qs. 2, 3, 4
Q. 2 (a) or (b) (30 marks)
Communication 15 marks
Language 15 marks

Q. 3 (a) or (b) (30 marks)
Communication 15 marks
Language 15 marks

Q. 4 (a) or (b) (30 marks)
Communication 15 marks
Language 15 marks

To succeed in your written exam, you will need to acquire specific techniques and use them efficiently. I would advise you to practice by doing as many comprehensions as possible.

You will find in our French Unseen Exam Papers the perfect way to get practice for your exams. The articles you will be working on deal with topics you will need to master for the production écrite such as cyberbullying, unemployment... Remember to call on the vocabulary you learned for your oral when doing the comprehensions and written section.

12 Key Guidelines for the Written Comprehension

1.    Always read the title and the subtitle.

That will give you a clue about what the text is about. Before you start reading the article or the novel extract, skim over the main features: the title, the small introductory text, the heading, the vocabulary tips and the year the text has been written. 

All this will give you clues:

  • Does the action take place in France?
  • Is it set during WWII? Is it a contemporary text?
  • What does the title tell you?
  • Who are the characters?

2.    Read the date and the author name.

 It will tell you in which year the novel/ article
was written. For example, a novel written in 1929 won’t describe a scene that happened during World War II.

3.    Note carefully the names of the characters.

 Make sure to grasp if the author talks about a boy/man, a girl/woman or about himself (autobiography) (In this case, make sure you know if the author is a man or a woman).

4.    Before you even start reading your text, always read the English question number 6 on your paper. 

It will always give you some clues on the context.

5.    Read the first question before reading the 1st paragraph. 

Why? Because while youread your first paragraph, your brain will already be working on that question.

Do the same for all the questions: read them before reading the paragraph.Translate them; check the different tenses and the key words. Make sure to know if you have to look for:

  • a word  un mot
  • a sentence  une phrase
  • an expression une expression

6.    For the grammatical questions, you need to make sure that you master the French grammar as well as possible.

You will have to practice by doing some exercises.

You might be asked to find in the text a preposition, an adjective, an adverb, a verb in the subjunctive tense or in the passé-composé tense. It is an easy question to answer and you can easily get the points if you study the specific grammatical points.

By revising with the Grammar Booklets, and practicing the exercises at the end of the booklet, you will be able to target all the necessary grammatical points.

It is a very simplified study plan where only the essential is taught. Grammatical elements will be explained from questions my students have asked me over the years and also you will have access to a summary of the French grammatical rules.

7.    Example:  you are asked to find un verbe au passé composé.

From the specific section,you pick “penser” in « j’ai pensé à toi ». Make sure you write the conjugated verb « ai pensé », not the whole sentence (by including the personal pronoun you will be docked a mark.) You want to avoid confusion. Be clear and concise and you will get the full mark.

8.    Before answering in English the question 6, read the text fully. 

While doing that,write on your draft paper the vocabulary, some words and expressions that may be useful for you when you are going to write your essay.

Write your answer in English and make sure it is written in properly without any spelling mistakes. Remember just because it is your primary languages do not be careless - pay attention to what you are writing. Be consistent!  Give a top level in both languages.

9.    All your answers are to be given with FULL sentences.

10.      Do not forget the inverted commas when you quote a sentence from a text.

11.      If you are being asked to find ONE expression, only give ONE or you will lose 2 marks.

12.      If you decide to answer with your own sentence (without quoting the text), make sure your sentence is properly formed. Check the pronouns, adjectives, verbs and subjects.

The day of the exam, just bear in mind that:

  • the written comprehension is worth 30% of the total marks of the whole examination
  • each question is worth 5 marks.
  • you need to be able to answer one comprehension in 35 minutes...

Good luck in your exam!

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