Are Your AP French Students Ready? 5 Ways to Beef Up Your Exam Prep Strategy

Are your students ready to rock the AP French Exam?

Are they confident, relaxed and in love with French?

Preparing your class for the exam can be stressful, especially in the weeks and days leading up to it.

For many students and teachers, it may result in sleepless nights.

We’ve all been there!

The important thing to remember is that getting ready for the exam is a marathon, not a sprint.

Last minute preparation is a terrible strategy if your students are hoping to score a 4 or a 5 on D-day.

So here are some teaching ideas you can use to prepare your students for the exam in a sane, smart and healthy manner—year-round as well as in those final weeks and days.

Building AP-relevant material and methods into your curriculum will make studying for the exam seem natural and like just another part of learning and enjoying French holistically, rather than a chore.

So let’s get started!

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AP French Prep: 5 Foolproof Ways to Get Your Students Exam-ready

1. Recreate full immersion, just like on test day

Turn your AP classroom into a French-only zone.

The AP French Exam tests your students’ ability to communicate with ease in French and to show familiarity with the French culture. The best way to give them a head start is to eradicate English from your classroom altogether.

This will force them to develop mechanisms to formulate their thoughts using simpler structures, as well as give them incentive to look up and learn the words and patterns they use most frequently.

Use French-language material.

Nothing like the real thing! If you’re looking to recreate full immersion to prepare your students efficiently, steer them towards French content. Erik Orsenna’s “La Grammaire est une chanson douce,” for example, is a fun, poetic and efficient resource for learning about French grammar.

Make technology your new best friend.

If you can’t transport your AP classroom to France, fear not! There are some fantastic technology tools that you can use to turn your AP course into a full-blown French-speaking environment.

For example, check out the Netflix selection of French movies and TED talks in French.

These resources will increase your AP students’ French listening and understanding skills, thereby improving their pronunciation and speaking abilities indirectly.

For an easy way of finding, organizing and implementing the video content out there that’s going to be the most relevant and helpful to your students, check out FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language lessons.

2. Give AP-oriented homework

Make homework an extension of your AP French classroom.

The purpose of homework should be to extend full immersion beyond the realm of your AP course. Make it count, and make things easier on your students by building exam study into the assignments they’re required to do.

For example, if you plan on giving them a list of books and newspapers to read, select AP-friendly ones and discuss how to potentially incorporate them into their AP essays and oral exams.

Incorporate homework into your students’ study routine.

In order for the above to be effective, homework has to be regular.

Ideally, your students should devote 30 minutes a day to studying for the AP French Exam.

Homework should include a mix of reading and exercises (e.g., targeted grammar, vocabulary or thematic points to prepare for the next class) and ongoing prep and practice (e.g., browsing French websites, reading French newspapers, watching French TV shows and practicing French conversation with a partner to make sure that everything “flows” on test day!).

It should be up to students to organize their schedules and determine how much of their French AP study should be for ongoing homework, but a good ratio is 30% exercises to 70% ongoing.

In other words, this means that every week your students should spend about an hour on homework assignments and about two-and-a-half hours on ongoing study.

While it’s up to your students organize their own ongoing study, here’s what you can do to help them with it:

  • Print a monthly study curriculum with a recommended AP reading list: This is to offer some degree of independence to your students while also providing some guidance on what they can/should study in a given month. The curriculum should enable students to plan their own study activities ahead of time and include an overview of what areas they should focus on.
  • Do an in-depth review of key grammar points before classes: This is to maximize time spent in your AP classes. Grammar is critical, but it’s best if your students review difficult points on their own and then come to class with specific questions. This will enable you to focus on more advanced AP activities as well as organizing AP multiple choice question sessions and mock tests.
  • Encourage AP exam self-testing: This is an often neglected part of studying for the exam. It’s important to make sure that your AP students are fully familiar with the format of the AP test. Encourage them to spend at least one day a week testing themselves in authentic exam conditions—that is, with no Internet, dictionary or outside assistance allowed!
  • Expose your students to AP-level French TV and news: Entertainment and news are often underrated as learning resources, but they’re a very efficient way to activate knowledge! Compile a list of AP resources and make sure that your students check them out on a daily basis. Some great ones are Canal Plus, France 5, Le Monde, Le Figaro, TV5, France 24 and Courrier International. These resources will help develop recognition patterns, aid memorization and identification of new words and increase exposure to French culture. They will also increase your students’ likelihood of stumbling upon a topic they may struggle with on D-day.

3. Teach with the exam in mind, and be mindful of your students’ limitations

Don’t push them too hard.

Studying French can be an endless process, but trying to be too thorough (covering anything and everything) during AP exam year is the best way to lead your students to stress and failure.

For example, while an extensive exposé on France during the Middle Ages could be highly interesting and enriching from a cultural perspective, it may be overwhelming if it forces your students to focus too much of their attention on one area.

Instead, go for a balanced approach and consider integrating content related to the official AP language and culture themes into your class.

Remember, accurate pronunciation is key.

Pronunciation can make a difference between a 4 and a 5 or a 3 and a 4! Make sure to spend five minutes per lesson reviewing tricky pronunciation. One way to make this more effective is to take notes when students speak or read out loud, and highlight problem areas.

Alternatively, you can introduce French tongue twisters and see how well your students do with them!

Circle back and verify that key points are mastered.

It’s not enough to just teach—you need to make sure that students have assimilated content wholly. A great activity to use at the beginning of your AP French class is “Ce qu’on a appris cette semaine” (“What we learned this week”).

This is an interactive review and summary of essential points learned during the previous week—it enables students to build familiarity with difficult concepts and it enables you to identify remaining problem areas.

For example, if during one week you’ve discussed immigration issues, the passé composé and email writing strategy, you could go over these points again in any of the following ways:

  • Ask students to give a brief presentation on immigration issues, including key facts, stats and/or challenges outlined previously.
  • Ask each student to make their own sentence using the passé composé or to correct an erroneous sentence using the right conjugations.
  • Ask your students to recap email writing rules by giving you concrete examples (openings, endings, things to avoid at all costs, etc.).

Test all four skills as required by the College Board.

And make sure to give them equal importance in your teaching! During the exam, students will have to demonstrate proficiency in speaking, writing, reading and listening. It’s critical that you don’t neglect any of these.

For example, when you watch a video clip, you should maximize the skills tested. In this case, it could be interesting to follow up with a multiple choice questionnaire (listening), a quick Q&A session (speaking), an essay assignment (writing) and a related article with associated questions (reading).

4. Be creative in your prepping strategy

Forget flashcards, AP-level theme cards are the way to go!

The AP French Exam radically differs from more conventional exams—students are expected to demonstrate proficiency equally in language and culture.

Make sure your students’ study materials take the cultural aspect into account. Accordingly, beyond basic flashcards, more extensive, information-rich theme cards should extract essential facts and figures as well as report findings and quotes that may help them navigate the multiple choice section of the AP exam. Working with more detailed and culture-inclusive information will elevate the quality of their essays and oral exams on D-day.

Introduce AP exam address books (répertoires).

At a time when smartphones have made address books seem obsolete, these books have found new life helping foreign language learners master new words, idioms and sentence patterns.

Encourage your AP students to keep one handy and add interesting elements as new entries.

For example:

  • A
    • activer (activate)
    • assiduité (assiduity)
    • aduler (adulate)
  • B
    • bafouer (to flout, defy)
    • blaguer (to joke)

Another way to use the répertoire is to list entries by theme.

For example, use I for immigration (immigration) and incorporate immigration-related words:

  • I
    • traverser la frontière (cross the border)
    • un passeur (people-smuggler)
    • intégration (integration)

It’s up to students to keep their address book up-to-date and to add their personal touches and findings, but definitely encourage them to use this tool as a practical reviewing option. It will make a big difference in their AP year!

5. Be an AP French Exam insider

Make the AP College Board website your favorite stop.

This is a gold mine for everything AP French Exam-related and a great way to stay in the know. Pay special attention to the pages focusing on…

  • Test format: Having an overview of the different sections of the exam is a great way to help you stay organized and create effective lesson plans.
  • Grading guidelines: It’s critical to understand what can help your students score high on D-day.
  • Course and exam description: Like we said in the beginning, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
  • The AP French community: Quite possibly the ultimate insider resource and arguably an essential way to exchange tips with fellow AP teachers.

Spend time in the Pearson’s AP French forum, too.

This is a private community for both AP French teachers and AP students to exchange ideas, share study tips, ask questions and more. Most of all, it’s a great way for you and your students to keep the level of commitment high throughout the year: The forum is populated with like-minded people who share goals, concerns and a tie to the AP French exam!

Use social media to your advantage.

Here again, social media is a great way to share AP study and teaching tips, find great teaching materials for your AP classes and to ask for guidance while also having the support of a community.

You’ll particularly love the “French” reddit: It’s a very active group of French speakers, French teachers and French students. Feel free to use it to ask specific AP French questions, or to ask for broader feedback on more general points.

Redditors are generally very involved and insightful, and their fresh perspectives can help take your AP lessons to the next level!

Now that you know how to make your students’ AP French studies more efficient, it’s time to implement these great ideas and use them to make sure they score high on the AP Exam.

Feel free to share this post and exchange your own best AP French prep tips!

Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)

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