When students choose Modern Foreign Languages (French, German, Spanish or Italian) as one of their subjects for their Junior Cycle in Secondary School, they must complete a number of assessments as well as a final examination in order to achieve their Junior Cycle Profile of Achievement (JCPA). These assessments are designed to test students’ comprehension of their chosen language as well as their appreciation of language in a variety of contexts, including personal, social, vocational and educational.
The Modern Foreign Language curriculum replaced the individual syllabuses for French, German, Italian and Spanish language courses, the last examination of which was in June 2019. Unlike English and Irish which are compulsory subjects for all students, Modern Foreign languages is an optional subject.
In this article, we'll explain what students should expect from the Modern Foreign Languages final exam for Junior Cycle and share tips on how to prepare for it.
The Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages exam
The Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) curriculum is built on three key learning strands: communicative competence; language awareness; and sociocultural knowledge and intercultural awareness. The aim of the course is to nurture students’ awareness and appreciation of a language that is not their mother tongue, and to support students who are native speakers of one of the four MFL languages to apply their skills.
To determine a student’s competence across the three strands, there are a series of assessments throughout the three-year Junior Cycle.
Firstly, there are two Classroom-Based Assessments that do not contribute to students' final marks but are instead used by teachers to assess development. The first is an oral communication task, which can be done individually or in pairs. The purpose of this is to allow students to demonstrate a level of fluency and accuracy in French, German, Spanish or Italian. This usually takes place in the second year of the Junior Cycle. The second assessment is a student language portfolio which is created over the course of three years of Junior Cycle study.
Students will then complete an Assessment Task after the second Classroom-Based Assessment. This is a formal written task completed in the classroom that is set and marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). It accounts for 10% of the marks used by the SEC to determine a student's grade for MFL.
Finally, students must sit a formal written MFL examination paper, set and marked by the SEC, at the end of the third year. Studied at the Common Level, this final exam is two hours in duration. A range of stimulus material is provided which students are expected to engage with to demonstrate comprehension. There is an aural component to the exam which accounts for 35% of the marks used to determine the final grade for MFL.
What to expect in the Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages exam
Modern Foreign Languages exam papers are designed to assess students' ability to listen, read, comprehend, engage and respond to their chosen languages. For example, to assess listening skills in French, students might be asked to listen to a conversation entirely in the French language and provide a written response to it or answer questions about the themes and content of the conversation.
To assess reading skills students may be asked to match images with sentences, to insert correct words or sentences into a text, or to answer questions about a text. To demonstrate an ability to engage and respond, students might be given information about a specific topic and asked to write a short piece of text about that topic.
Some questions might ask students to write their answers in English, and some might ask for answers in the relevant foreign language. This will be made clear in the instructions for each question.
How to revise for the Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages exam
Completing past papers and sample papers is a brilliant way to revise. It helps students become familiar with the exam format, practice time management and question length, and identify areas of weakness to guide revision priorities. It's a good idea to complete sample papers under exam conditions, which means in a quiet space with no talking, no reference to revision materials and sticking to the two-hour time limit.
One of the best ways to develop language skills is to simply immerse oneself in a language by reading, listening and watching as much media in this language as possible. This enables students to understand a language in context and interpret it in a more meaningful way.
It's also recommended to engage with the culture of the foreign language in a context beyond the language itself, for example by learning about the history or traditions of a particular country, as this forms the ethos of the MFL curriculum.
Practising spoken language is really important for the final exam because it can support the ability to listen and respond to the aural portions of the paper. Students should be encouraged to attempt conservations with friends, family or teachers in a language other than English or Irish.
Edco exam papers
Edco exam papers are collections of past and sample papers that students can practice while revising their target language for their final written exam. Each one includes an official SEC final examination sample paper and eight sample papers created by Edco in line with the SEC sample.
These packs include revision support tools, guidance on how to achieve better grades, progress maps and access to an online study hub. Access to a mobile audio app is also provided for students to listen to the sample aural comprehension questions. Solutions to the exams can be found online, which means students can check their work and identify areas needing further study or practice in readiness for the exam.
Other resources for revising Modern Foreign Languages
Yuri's Grammar Study Cards are a handy resource for studying MFL, English and Irish. They serve as a quick and convenient reference guide to support studies either in the classroom or at home. They cover various aspects of grammar, including definite and indefinite articles, personal pronouns, possessives, adjectives, verb tenses, and much more, all laid out in simple, colour-coded tables. They are available in basic to intermediate and intermediate to advanced level options.
Less Stress More Success revision guides provide condensed and organised course content to support revision. They're available in Spanish, French and German and include in-context exam questions to reinforce learning along the way. Key information is highlighted, and a CD is included for students to practice listening comprehension. The guides cover all elements of aural, written and reading development in the relevant language and include a grammar section with exercises and tables to make revision as effective as possible.