.OH NO, here come the English oral exams at the EOIP...!
Michael McGrath (English Dept. EOIP).







Those of you who are currently studying another language but can understand English are welcome to read these lines because you might pick up some useful tips. I would like to point out, however, that you should never believe everything you read.

Well. As the exam period is drawing near, perhaps, it’s a good idea to remind our students –or future candidates, if you like– of several things which may come in useful in order to take on a more realistic and practical attitude when facing one of life’s greatest challenges. Of the four skills, it is oral expression which produces the most nervous tension in the students (well, it’s followed very closely by listening comprehension).Thus, I have decided to concentrate on speaking.
Firstly, well before the exam, you should go on a course involving mental control which gives a lot of importance to breathing in the correct fashion. If you haven’t got time for that kind of nonsense, I’d recommend that on the day of the exam you drink a few cups of herbal tea, though you should substitute your sugar intake, which, we all know, is bad for your fragile health, with a handful of Valium tablets. That should do the trick. Those veterans among you have probably noticed that exams corresponding to the other three skills are done with random numbers, "con plicas" in Spanish which comes from the English word "complicate" which, in turn, comes from the Latin "complicare, complicatum" which roughly means something like "making the language teacher’s life a misery". This is done to maintain the anonymity of the candidates but, for better or for worse, this is not possible in the oral exam. We cannot ask the candidates to wear disguise and use false names but, in the future, it might make the exam more fun to do! Imagine. "So Homer Simpson, which topic have you chosen"? "Mickey Mouse, eh? Is that with "ey" or "ie"? I have no idea if this possibility is on Mr. Perez-Nievas’ agenda.
This brings me to my second point. Although we can see all your faces and know all your names, and despite the fact that everyone in Pamplona knows everyone else, the teachers’ evaluation will not be affected. Mind you, the temptation is there, isn’t it? Imagine! "This is the poor lad whose dentist father forgot to give me anaesthetic the day he did a demolition job on my back molars." Or "Ah! Ah! So here comes that civil servant who refused to let me register an extremely urgent and important document in some government office because it was exactly 34 seconds before closing time." "Well. Well. Well. Who have we got here? What a coincidence! Here’s the guy/woman who stole my girlfriend/boyfriend." No. No. We are not influenced at all. You can be assured of that.
And another thing: When you walk into the examination room with your partner, it is a good idea to be familiar with the instructions we are going to give you. For example, "Could you switch off your mobile phone, please?" This is a normal request. Just like in the aeroplanes. However, we won’t be telling you where the emergency exits are or where your life-jackets are stored. I mean, after all, you do want to do the exam, don’t you?
You will notice that our great professionalism demands that we teachers record all the oral tests. Don’t worry when, at the start of the first task, we press the recording button on our discreet little recorders and the sound of workers’ drilling fills the room. This is simply some quirk of science. Switching on any electronic device in the EOIP inevitably sets into motion all workers’ drills and booming voices. Curious, isn’t it? Just treat it like alternative New Age background music.
Oh. I’m forgetting yet another important piece of advice. For the purpose of identifying the candidates, at the beginning of the exam you have to introduce yourselves, giving your names and some pieces of personal information (e.g. job, hobbies and so on). It is always a good idea to have this part very clear and well learnt, because the better you speak at the beginning, the more confident you’ll be. Something like: "Hello. My name is Francisco/a Gonzalez Goñi Garratea Ganuza Gomez Guerendian Grandes Garayoa and I was born in a little village Piedramillera, which is about 21 and a half kilometres from Estella, which is a big town to the West of Pamplona, the capital of this autonomous region, Navarra. I am 32 years old and I have three children, Iñigo 9 years old, Maite 7 years od and Javitxo 2 years old. My husband/wife is 39 and he is from a village called Lacain Apezborro which is near Menditxorrotz. I used to work in one enterprise which makes different shapes in metal under intense heat and this process has many applicat…." "Thank you, Francisco/a, I think it’s time to start the exam. Well, first, we’d better wake up your partner."
During the exam you may see some teachers writing furiously. You might think "Why are they writing so much if they’re recording the whole bloody exam?" Good question. First and foremost, don’t worry! It is not a dictation. Nor are they noting down all your mistakes. ("Oh Lord! That final "s" on the third person singular!") No. It’s just that some poor teachers get incredibly nervous during oral exams and writing helps them to relax- besides, they write down the good things you do, too. Well, apart from their shopping lists, their lists of things to do before going on holiday, their guest-lists for end-of-term parties and so on. By the way, those teachers who write absolutely nothing and stare at you all the time are simply reading your mind.
Another important thing to take into account is the moment your partner starts to speak. Some candidates really panic because they can’t understand a single word the other student says. If you have the impression that your partner is speaking so fast it sounds like German or Basque, it might be a good idea to ask the examiners if he/she is in the right examination room or, for that matter, if you are. The information in the school during the exam period is checked and double-checked but, as you know, nerves often make us vulnerable, and like or memories, our sense of hearing and sight become highly selective.
And finally, (well almost), you must be conscious of the fact that the higher level you go, the more phrasal verbs and idioms you have to put in your oral production and not only that. You also have to have an informed opinion on everything under the sun. So, if you have any spare time after your mental control course, get a little bit of light reading done. UNESCO’s reports from the last decade; research papers on global warming, gender violence, the human metabolism, near death experiences, you know, that sort of thing).
And to finish, an infallible way of doing well is to take your favourite lucky charm to the exam with you. Charms such as a frog, a smiling cat, a rabbit’s foot or even a leprechaun. Good luck!


Take on: adoptar
To do the trick: hacer funcionar
To make someone’s life a misery: amargarle la vida a alguien
Mind you: Ojo
Lad: mozo, chico
Quirk: peculiaridad, rareza