How to prepare for the AP Language and Culture spoken responses and the IB Individual Oral exam with Extempore

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Both AP and IB language exams are attractive assessment options for high school students to demonstrate that they are ready for college-level work. Universities use these standardized tests to help their admissions and placement decisions, and many even award credit based on a particular score in those exams.

In the case of foreign language oral proficiency, the AP and IB exams differ a bit in their structure. The AP Language and Culture Exam includes two spoken sections: one simulated conversation with 5 questions and one 2-mins. cross-cultural presentation. The IB Individual Oral Exam (for what they call language ab initio, that is, a language acquisition course for students with little or no experience in the language), the oral exam consists of a 1-2 min. presentation and follow-up questions (3-4 mins.) based on one of two visual stimuli a visual stimulus, plus a general conversation with the teacher (4-5 mins.) based in part on the written assignment. Another difference is that the oral sections of the AP language exam are graded by external raters hired and trained by College Board, while the IB individual oral exam is conducted and graded by the students’ teacher, who is trained by IB in their specific grading criteria.

When we talk to AP and IB language teachers at conferences, they immediately see the value of Extempore to help prepare students to take these exams. Here are some ways in which you can design practice activities specifically tailored for your AP or IB courses.

To practice for the two oral sections of the AP Language and Culture Exam, you can set up activities in Extempore that follow the same parameters as the actual exam. For the conversation practice, you create an assessment with five audio prompts that you can record or upload. Then set the Time to Review parameters to accommodate the length of the longest audio prompt. For example, if your longest audio prompt is 12 seconds, then you set up the Time to Review for 15 seconds. This will ensure that students have enough time to listen to the prompt before they have to answer, but not so much time that they can over prepare their responses. You would then set the Time to Respond to 20 seconds, same time limit as the AP Language and Culture Exam. Alternatively, you can use a CD to play back the practice questions for the whole class. You would then set up the assessment with a question directing the students to listen to the prompts in the CD and record their responses when prompted to.

The practice for the cultural comparison task of the AP exam can be set in the same way. You can upload a written prompt to Extempore and set the parameters so that students have 4 minutes to prepare and 2 minutes to respond. You can also choose to display the prompt for the whole class from your classroom projector and have students record their 2-min long responses with Extempore when you prompt them to do so. You can then download the mp3s generated by the students and use them for a peer critique activity in which students provide feedback to each other.

To prepare for the oral portion of the IB language acquisition exam, you can create three different assessments, one for each part of the test. For Part 1, you create an assessment with a picture that students need to react to. Set the Time to Review to 15 minutes and the response time to 2 mins. For Part 2, create an assessment with 2 or 3 questions on the visual stimulus, setting the Time to Review to the length of the audio files that contain your questions. This will ensure that students have only enough time to listen to the question, but not so much time that they can script their answers. The same procedure can be used for Part 3 of the exam, but with 3 or 4 questions following the guidelines of the IB program.

The advantage of using Extempore over other recording tools I that the timing parameter allow you to control that students are not scripting the answers they are not supposed to script. Also, the files created by the students live “in the cloud” and can be easily downloaded a mp3s for peer critique activities.