How to get a H1 in the German Written Leaving Cert Exam?
The German Leaving Certificate exam, unlike the other modern foreign languages, is not as easy to predict as it does not encourage rote learning. However, German is one of the easiest languages to acquire as it has the same language DNA as the English language.
Paper Structure of the German Leaving Certificate Exam:
The German Leaving Certificate exam is divided up into various sections. The oral German exam takes place prior to the written test around Easter time and accounts for 25% of the overall marks. The remainder of the exam is made up of the following sections:
- Listening Comprehension (20%)
- Reading Comprehension (30%)
- Applied Grammar (6.25%)
- Expression of Opinion Writing Task (6.25%)
- Writing Production (12.5%)
Hörverständnis / Listening Comprehension
To best prepare for the Listening Comprehension of the German Leaving Certificate exam, practice using previous papers. Here you will familiarise yourself with the style of questions in the exam. Always expand on your points and write down as much detail as possible. Questions will often state “Give Details” and you may think that 2 pieces of information are sufficient, but sometimes the marking scheme could be 3x2m or 4x1m and you could lose marks quite easily. Never leave a blank, even if you haven’t understood a single word! If this happens, read over the questions and any previous answers and give an educated guess.
Leseverständnis / Reading Comprehension
The Reading Comprehension carries the most overall marks in the exam. Students are advised to practice comprehension passages as often as possible. There are four questions that follow each passage. These questions will be in English and in German. If the questions are phrased in English, they must be answered in English and vice versa with those phrased in German. Students will be given line references. These line references are very important as they will help you to narrow down where the answer is. Read the questions before the passage to allow you to focus on what is being asked. Highlight the section where the answer is and try your best to translate that part of the text. To answer the questions, only choose the words or phrases that apply. Use the language in the text and manipulate it to help structure your answer. Do not attempt to rephrase the language as it can then lose its meaning which will result in a loss of marks. Structure your answers in point form to avoid excess jargon.
Angewandte Grammatik / Grammar Section
At 25 marks, spend approximately 15 minutes on this section. As it is worth the fewest marks, you can leave it until the end, because if you are running out of time, you can quickly fill it out. The section is based on the first reading comprehension and tests you on your knowledge of the different cases and grammatical rules.
Marks are split up into 2 sections. Marking scheme: one of the sections is based on your ability to recognize the different forms of grammar, and the other section is based on your ability to write grammatically correct sentences or questions.
Tenses are one of the most common questions. They often give you a sentence from the text and ask you to change the tense or ask you what tense it’s written in. Therefore, you should know the irregular verbs and how they are written in the past tense, perfect tense, past perfect tense (plusquamperfekt), present tense, future tense, and the conditional mode (e.g. I would…).
Unlike English, German nouns each have gender and they are often asked in the grammar section, therefore when learning words by heart, pay attention to whether the noun is masculine or feminine.
Another type of question that appears quite often on the paper is Cases and is based on your understanding of the nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive cases. They can be quite difficult to grasp; therefore, many people have to just sit down and learn off the table. Flashcards can be useful for this as you can accompany each case and gender with a common example.
For the relative pronoun, the best way to understand it is to translate the sentences into English and then alter them, because if it sounds right in English, it’s right in German. It is known for being one of the most difficult aspects of grammar for Leaving Cert German, it will take a lot of practice to get a good grasp of it, which is necessary to get a H1. remember, this part of the paper holds the least amount of marks so do not get stressed focusing long amounts of time and effort here.
The written section of the paper consists of the Äuẞerung zum Thema and the Schriftliche Produktion and they are worth 75 marks combined. Many students choose to do these sections first as they are the most time-consuming. In order to do well overall, you generally need to get a good mark in this section, because on average, the written aspects of the paper are where students get their worst marks.
– Äuẞerung zum Thema (Expression of Opinion Writing Task)
This part is worth 25 marks so allocating 25 minutes to complete it works best. Here candidates are asked to produce a short written text. In this section, there is a choice of 2 questions, which are based on the themes of the 2 reading comprehensions, therefore instead of attempting both questions choose 1 and plan your answers in bullet point form, as often, they require 2-3 reasons for your opinion.
12 marks out of 25 in this section are for your accuracy and proficiency in the German language, therefore try to critically analyze your points in case you made any grammatical errors or have poor expression, as they reduce your chances of getting a H1.
If you are asked for a certain amount of information, make sure to fully answer the question in detail, but stay on track! For example, if you are asked about 2 ways on how to reduce the effects of Homelessness in Ireland, do not go off on a tangent about The Irish Government, etc., as this suggests that you can only regurgitate paragraphs you have learnt off, and you only recognised the word “homeless” and wrote everything you know about it. Also, if you write excessively, you will likely make more mistakes, as you rush to put all your points down you will evidently lose more marks due to accuracy in expression
– Schriftliche Produktion (Written Production)
Spending 40 minutes on this section is advised as it is worth 50 marks and you want to ensure that you have read over the letter a few times in order to make sure that you answer every point.
In the letter, a broad range of themes is generally asked, so make sure you are able to discuss basic topics like the summer holiday plans or university/college and life after secondary. Every year they ask questions that you could not revise in order to prevent rote learning, so do not panic! Every other student is in the same boat!
Make sure you know the layout of a letter if you decide to choose this option, as 4 marks are allocated for suitable and elaborate opening and closing phrases.
Even if you have answered all the details and have written at least 160 words, don’t be afraid to give more detail on your points as you can get up to 5 more marks.
For both options, accuracy is required with word order, grammar, and expression, as they account for up to 25 marks. Use a variety of verbs and phrases, as they highlight your fluency, and the more fluent you are, the more likely you are to get a better grade.
Possible themes for the 2022 German Leaving Certificate exam:
Ongoing violence in Ukraine
Violence/ gun violence/ mass shootings or terrorism (20th anniversary of 9/11)
Technology, Social Media, the Facebook scandal, the use of technology during the pandemic
Homelessness and the housing crisis
Extreme weather conditions, The Environment, and climate change
The Tokyo Olympics
Make sure you know how to make adjectives agree with the gender and quantity of a noun, and make sure you know the different ways to make a noun feminine and/or plural. Chief Examiner’s reports in the past have highlighted the fact that a number of candidates did not fully answer all parts of the task thereby losing marks.
The following recommendations were made from a recent Examiner Report for students:
Students should practice basic, common verbs (including modal verbs) in the present, future, and past tenses. The inability to use common verbs correctly often results in a loss of marks in expression and this can be avoided by repetition and practice.
Students should practice their writing skills and focus on the basics first: correct use of capital letters, spelling, simple but accurate wording, and phrasing in order to improve the overall accuracy of their written German. Some students especially at the Ordinary Level showed a lack of vocabulary when they needed to use basic verbs such as to visit, to travel, to meet, to book, etc. Knowledge of these basics would enhance students’ marks significantly by avoiding common mistakes in expression e.g. use of stehen for bleiben/wohnen, also for auch, confusion of Freund/Freundin, der ist for es gibt, will for wird etc.
Students should practice the use of pronouns in different cases.
Students should learn different phrases to express opinion (Ich bin der Meinung, dass…;Meiner Meinung nach ist das nicht richtig…; An deiner Stelle würde ich das nicht machen)
Students should continue the good progress which has been made in the aural section where they have shown increased proficiency with number recognition.
Students should work on building up their bank of vocabulary as a way of improving in both the listening and reading comprehension sections.
Students should practice the use of interrogatives and the formation of questions.
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