French GCSE

Exam Board: Pearson Edexcel

What is the GCSE about?

The Edexcel IGCSE (International GCSE) in French is an excellent qualification for developing further the skills pupils have already learnt, helping them to produce impressive spoken and written French. It forms a very good stepping stone to A level. The IGCSE is highly respected by universities as a challenging benchmark qualification.

What does the GCSE consist of?

The final examination (taken at the end of the Fifth Form) consists of three papers:

  • Paper One (Listening - 35 minutes - 25% of overall marks);
  • Paper Two (Reading and Writing - 1 hour and 45 minutes - 50% of overall marks);
  • Paper Three (Speaking - 10 minutes - 25% of overall marks).

These papers test the appropriate skills in the context of five topic areas:

  • Home and abroad;
  • Education and employment;
  • Personal life and relationships;
  • The world around us;
  • Social activities, fitness and health.

Do I need to have studied the subject before?

Pupils should have at least three years’ experience of learning French before embarking on the IGCSE course.

Whom does the subject suit?

French is a language which can open up many doors in the future: it is therefore particularly suited to pupils who see themselves as global citizens. Studying French will ensure pupils broaden their horizons beyond these islands. It is important to note, however, that French is a challenging subject and it may not suit everyone. To succeed in the subject, pupils will have to work hard and need to take responsibility for reviewing and practising their language skills outside lesson and prep time. Like playing a musical instrument, speaking a foreign language only improves through practice and performance.

What skills should I have?

Pupils will need to be good communicators already. There is a high degree of having to 'think on your feet', so quick thinkers should definitely consider taking the subject. Pupils will also have to have a keen eye for detail and be willing to learn from their mistakes.

What might the subject lead to?

Studying French can lead you anywhere. For pupils who already have an idea of their future career, a language can only help them secure their dream job and allow them to do it in a wider range of places across the world. It is obvious that careers in translating and travel are clear destinations for linguists, but some of the most impressive linguists go on to hugely stimulating jobs in the intelligence and secret services.

Universities always look kindly on applicants who have studied a modern language: they consider it a distinct advantage over other candidates in the application process.

What trips are involved?

There are regular cultural trips to watch French films or plays in London or Oxford as the opportunities present themselves. We have good contacts when it comes to work experience placements during the summer holidays: a month spent working in a seasonal post in a French-speaking country can do wonders for practising the language and will always be an advantage for any pupil getting involved.

What else should I consider before choosing?

Consider if you can afford not to know another language well: the opportunity may not present itself again!

What books should I read?

Pupils will benefit from reading anything they like in French. It should be borne in mind, however, that reading for pleasure in French can be challenging to start with. Short story dual readers (where the facing pages tell the same story, but one side is in English, the other in French) are generally a good place to start. How to Speak Any Language Fluently, by Alex Rawlings is a good read for pupils who want to challenge themselves.

Who will teach me?

IGCSE French is taught by Miss Harris and Mr Williams (Head of Languages).

Mr Williams (Head of Languages – BA Manchester) has over twenty years’ experience teaching modern and classical languages in leading independent schools. He has lived in France and works as a First World War battlefield guide in his spare time. He is also a Mastermind grand finalist.

Miss Harris (Teacher of French - MA Edinburgh) has a passion for teaching French, having previously lived and taught in Belgium. She says she loves the “lightbulb moment” when pupils understand how to translate a sentence or pronounce a new word. Outside school she plays netball competitively, having represented her region in basketball when she lived in Belgium.