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Other titles in the REA Test Preps series:
AP French Language (Rea) - The Best Test Prep for AP French (REA Test Preps)by Ellen Valtri Knauer
About this book
This book provides a thorough review for the Advanced Placement French Language Examination written in a way that high school students will readily grasp and appreciate. REA's mission is to explain the subject matter in terms the student can understand and benefit from.
The full-length practice exams included in this book help you get ready for the actual exam. Use them, along with the detailed explanations of answers, to help determine your strengths and weaknesses, and to prepare yourself to score well on exam day.
About the advanced placement program
The Advanced Placement program is designed to provide high school students with the opportunity to pursue college-level studies. The program consists of two components: an AP course and and AP exam.
Students are expected to gain college-level skills and acquire college-level knowledge of French through the AP course. Upon completion of the course, students take the AP exam in French Language. Test results are used to grant course credit and/or determine placement level in the subject when entering college.
AP exams are offered every May. For more information contact the College Board at:
P.O. Box 6671
Princeton, NJ 08541-6671
Phone: (609) 771-7300 or (888) 225-5427
Fax: (609) 530-0482
Web site: www.collegeboard.com
About the exam
The AP French Language Exam is approximately two and a half hours long. It tests your ability to understand both written and spoken French. It also tests the ease and fluency with which you can respond in speaking and in writing. No dictionaries or reference materials are permitted during the exam.
The test is divided into four sections. Each one represents a targeted skill area: listening comprehension, reading comprehension, writing ability, and speaking ability. Each of the four sections has the same value and therefore represents one-fourth of your total score.
Multiple-Choice Test Sections
Listening and reading skills are tested with multiple-choice questions. You will be expected to choose the correct answer from a field of four different possibilities for each multiple-choice question. You will mark your choice as A, B, C, or D on an answer grid that is provided in your test booklet.
In the listening portion of the exam, you will hear a series of short exchanges between speakers. Each exchange is heard twice. While you listen, you will have four possible rejoinders in front of you. You are expected to pick the remark most likely to follow if the conversation were to continue.
The listening section then goes on to present a series of longer dialogues. After each dialogue you will hear four or five questions. Each question is heard twice. You will answer the questions by choosing the best response among the four choices provided. You have about 25 minutes to complete the listening portion of the exam.
You will then have approximately one hour to complete the reading segment of the test. The passages vary in length and subject matter. They usually come from French literature (mostly prose), newspaper or magazine articles, or virtually any non-technical, nonfiction text.
Each passage is followed by a series of questions for which you are given four possible answers. Again, you mark your choice by blackening the corresponding letter on the answer sheet in your text booklet. The writing and speaking segments of the test are not multiple-choice. They are both free response.
Writing Test Sections
There are three writing exercises. First you will be given a passage that has single words missing here and there. The missing words are represented by numbered blanks. You are expected to write out the missing word in a column of blanks to the right of the text. None of the answers in this first fill-in segment will be verbs.
Next, you will have a similar passage devoted entirely to verbs. This time, the blank indicates the infinitive form of the verb you are to use. You must provide the correct tense. The verb could also be a command form, or you may have to determine whether to use the indicative or the subjunctive. The verb you supply must match its subject. If the verb is reflexive, you will need to include the reflexive pronoun that matches it. If the verb is in a compound tense, you will need the correct auxiliary verb, the correct past participle, and possibly agreement.
The final writing segment is the essay. There is no choice of topic. Only one essay question is given. You are expected to write a coherent and well-organized essay in French in response to the given question. Your answer should showcase your mastery of verbs and grammatical structures. Your vocabulary should be varied, well-chosen, and as idiomatic as possible. That means you should not think in English and then try to translate into French. Being idiomatic means thinking like a French person, or at least asking yourself how a French person would say what you mean. Plan to write a minimum of three paragraphs and at least 200 words. You will have one hour and five minutes to complete the writing section of the test.
Allot at least 40 minutes for the essay; use the rest of the time for the fill-ins. Always read over what you have written, checking your spelling, accent marks, and agreement. Don't be nervous about the essay; the questions are always very open-ended and generally require your thoughtful opinion rather than specific facts. You will definitely be able to think of an answer; your challenge will be to express it as best you can.
Speaking Test Sections
You will be recording your own voice in the speaking segment of the exam. It is entirely free-response-that is, you may say whatever you think best answers the question. You will have approximately 15 minutes for this segment of the exam.
You will have 90 seconds to look over some drawings. You will then answer three questions based on what takes place in the sketches. You have exactly 60 seconds to record each answer. The first question asks you to tell what takes place in the sketch or series of sketches. The second and third questions use the drawings as a point of departure for a more general discussion.
There will be two sets of sketches on which you must comment. The first set is generally a series of five events that take place in sequence. The second set will have only two pictures, which you are usually asked to compare or contrast. Sometimes the second set has only one sketch with a split-screen effect. Look over the sketches carefully and jot down details as you note them and ideas as they come. The sketches invariably depict a typical life experience, and in that respect, they are not difficult at all.
It is imperative that you make an effort to familiarize yourself with whatever recording equipment you will be expected to use. Ask about this well in advance. If your testing location is your own school, ask to see exactly what you will be using. Get permission to practice using the device well before the exam. This will help you so much! If you are experienced in using the equipment, you will be calm. You will be able to concentrate on what you are going to say, rather than worrying whether the volume is adequate or whether you're close enough to the microphone. Work out all of those details before the exam, and practice over and over until using the equipment is a cinch for you. Some schools allow students to use their own tape recorders. This is ideal. Buy your recorder well ahead of time and get comfortable using it.
tools to help you prepare for the exam
Read and study this book thoroughly and do all of the drills provided. Keep a little notebook in which you can compile all of your written answers. Keep track of what you have completed and what you have yet to cover. Make notes on things you've mastered. Identify your weaknesses and devote extra effort to those areas. Take your time. Work no more than two or three hours at a sitting. Come back to it later when you are fresh. You will have the best possible results from a steady series of two-hour sessions spread over a long period of time. The first and most important answer to the question "What will you need?" is time! Schedule time to work with this book on a regular basis, just as you might schedule a regular workout or run. When you have completed the drills, try your hand at the pre-exam exercises, and then move on to the three practice tests. Explanations are provided for every answer! Go over them carefully.
You should invest in the best and most complete French-English dictionary you can afford. There are many good ones available. Le Robert and Oxford-Hachette are both excellent choices. My personal all-time favorite dictionary is Harrap's. It is the best French-English dictionary I have come upon in over 40 years of studying French. There is one caveat: Harrap's is written for British speakers of English, and you may consider that a drawback. Definitions may include terms that are not readily familiar to American speakers of English.
If you have the inclination, it is also very useful to have access to an all-French dictionary, such as the inimitable Petit Larousse. This is a wise investment, especially if you will be continuing with your study of French in college. Looking up a word in an all-French dictionary allows you to study the way the word is explained, as well as its meaning. It exposes you to authentic expression. You glimpse the actual choreography of the words in use. The more you delve into this all-French milieu, the easier it is to come away with a truly Gallic turn of phrase.
You should acquire a tape recorder with which to record your voice or use your voice mail or answering machine to practice speaking French. Call yourself up and leave a message in French! Do it every day. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Recording your voice allows you to hear how you actually sound. You can then evaluate what you hear. Is your accent authentic? Are your vowels pure? Are your nasal sounds accurate? Is your pronunciation correct?
Once you have your recording device, tape yourself reading a passage aloud, reciting a poem, or singing a song in French. This is the best kind of activity for working on your accent and correct pronunciation. Ad-lib into your microphone; describe your room or your current state of mind. Mute the television set and do your own voice-over in French.
studying for the exam
Ideally, you should begin your preparation for the exam six months ahead of your testing date. This deluxe approach produces the best possible result. Look at your calendar, and map out your plan. Set aside time to work regularly with this book. Schedule time to watch French films, to read French novels and periodicals, and to listen to French singers. Pencil in some time each week to explore French chat rooms and various French language sites on the Internet. Team up with other friends who are also preparing for the test. Vow to speak to one another in French on a regular basis. Send each other instant messages and e-mails in French.
Starting four months ahead of your test date will still give you enough time to do an adequate job of preparing. This would be a "good" plan for success, provided that you remain faithful to a regular regimen of review, study, reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
Planning a calendar, no matter which plan you adopt, gives you an excellent overview of just how much time you have at your disposal. You can schedule what you'd like to have accomplished by a certain date. It's also a good idea to record how much time you've actually spent working. Time will slip by quickly. Suddenly you may notice that it's been two weeks since you last worked. Not good!
The bare-bones approach gives you only two months to prepare for this behemoth of an exam. That is really not much time at all; yet, with unswerving dedication, you could probably finish this book, possibly catch a few films, and do some reading, writing, and speaking.
What to Read
Try to read at least two short French novels a month. That comes out to a dozen books in six months, eight books in four months, or four books on the bare-bones plan of two months. You will find some excellent titles to choose from on the list provided in this chapter. The books were selected for their ease in reading, their relatively short length, and the pleasure that you will undoubtedly experience while reading them.
How do you get your hands on these books? They are all available in paperback. One of the best sources of these little livres de poche is your own French teacher. There are a few undeniable and universal truths about French teachers. First, they always cut up calendars at the end of the year. The pictures thus obtained are then filed away for possible future classroom use. It is very stressful for them if two good pictures are back to back and cutting out one destroys the other. Secondly, they save cheese boxes, cancelled Métro tickets, and little round candy tins. Thirdly, and happily for you, most of them have a considerable personal library of paperbacks, which they are willing to lend to responsible students.
You can also scrounge French paperbacks wherever good used books congregate. If you live near a college or university, the student bookstore will have different titles at different times of the year, depending on the courses offered. Once you've found a good title, share it with a friend.
In addition to the novels in the list on the next page, make an effort to read as many French newspapers and magazines as possible. All French publications now have websites where you can read articles daily. Simply go to your search engine and type in Le Monde, Le Figaro, Paris-Match, L'Express, Salut les Copains, Elle, or Marie-Claire. Read only what interests you. There is a huge variety of specialty magazines as well. Jazzman and Le Monde de la Musique are just a few examples. Read about your own interests. There are French magazines about cycling, skiing, cars, soccer, tennis, and fashion. There are also gossipy movie-star magazines, if that's what you like. Make an effort on your search engine and you will be amazed at the possibilities you will find. Family members and friends who fly often should be pressed into service, as well. French language magazines are often available during a flight and in airport lounges, usually without cost. Air France provides a huge selection of free reading material for its passengers.
Once you have begun your preparation for the AP exam, you should be reading in French daily.
Here is a list of some very enjoyable French paperbacks. None of them are very long or very hard to read. This is by no means a complete list. It is rather just a starting point.
The list is alphabetical by author.
Alain-Fournier, Henri Le grand Meaulnes
Aymé, Marcel Le passe-muraille
Balzac, Honoré de Le Père Goriot
Barratier, Christophe Les Choristes: Le journal de Clément Mathieu
Begag, Azouz Le Gone du Chaâba
Camus, Albert La Peste**
Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle Claudine à l'École
Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle La Chatte
Dumas, Alexandre père Le Comte de Monte-Cristo
Flaubert, Gustave Un cœur simple
Garcin, Christian Le vol du pigeon voyageur
Gavalda, Anna Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelque part
Gavalda, Anna Je l'aimais
Gide, André La Symphonie pastorale
Léger, Diane Carmel La butte à Pétard (http://www.boutondoracadie.com)
MacDonald, Patricia* La double mort de Linda
MacDonald, Patricia La fille sans visage
MacDonald, Patricia Une femme sous surveillance
Maupassant, Guy de Boule de Suif
Maupassant, Guy de La Parure
Montherlant, Henri de Les Bestiaires
Orsenna, Erik Les Chevaliers du Subjonctif
Orsenna, Erik La grammaire est une chanson douce
Pagnol, Marcel Jean de Florette
Pagnol, Marcel Manon des sources
Pagnol, Marcel Le Château de ma mère
Pagnol, Marcel La Gloire de mon père
Pagnol, Marcel Topaze
Perrault, Charles Contes
Queneau, Raymond Exercices de Style
Queneau, Raymond Zazie dans le métro
Sagan, Françoise Bonjour tristesse
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de Le Petit Prince
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de Vol de Nuit
Sartre, Jean-Paul Huis-Clos
Sempé, René Goscinny Le petit Nicholas a des ennuis
Sempé, René Goscinny Les vacances du petit Nicholas
Simenon, Georges L'amie de Madame Maigret
Simenon, Georges Touriste de bananes
Verne, Jules L'ÎIe mystérieuse
Zola, Émile Germinal**
* Patricia MacDonald is an American writer whose books are widely popular in France. She lives in Cape May, NJ.
** La Peste and Germinal are longer and perhaps somewhat harder to read than the other titles, but they are worth the time and effort.
Just a few pointers on how to approach this kind of reading:
(1) Remember that you are not writing essays or book reports on these novels. Try to read them the way you would read any book for pleasure. The secret lies in finding one that you will enjoy. Try a few pages, and if it's just not going to hold your attention, stop.
(2) It is not a crime if you don't understand every single word on a page. Dive in. If you've read the whole page and have a pretty good idea about what's going on, that's good enough. As you read further, things will become clearer and you will discover that you can learn new words just by context. Sometimes you will have a hunch about what a word means. Don't run right to the dictionary. Be patient. You may find that you were right all along. Once you get the hang of this kind of reading, your comfort level will increase and your vocabulary will quadruple.
(3) Don't allow yourself to go to the dictionary more than once per page. Trust me here. If you have only one ticket (for a trip to the dictionary) per page, you will slowly begin to analyze which word you should spend it on. Which word is most crucial to your understanding of this passage? The more conscientious the student, the harder this is to learn. Go with the flow, and guess if you can. The point is not to get bogged down with too many stops and starts. Just try it. The dictionary is a great tool, but here you are trying to wean yourself from it just long enough to develop confidence in your ability to figure out what's going on.
What to Watch
While preparing for the exam, try to watch as many movies in French as you can. Try to work in a film at least once a week. If you're not in the mood to study the subjunctive one evening, pop in a video or DVD. Many French films are available at your local video rental. Short of visiting France or Canada, this is the absolute best way to prepare yourself for the listening portion of your test. Films provide an ideal opportunity to hear spoken French, and that is what you need! Think of the generations of French students before you who did not have DVDs such as we have today. Finding a film in French was almost impossible in the old days. Take full advantage of this excellent resource at your fingertips!
What follows is a list of wonderful films for you to enjoy:
o Adèle H.
o Un Air de Famille
o Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain)
o L'Argent de Poche
o Les Apprentis
o L'Auberge espagnole
o Au revoir les enfants
o Le Battement d'ailes du papillon
o Boudu sauvé
o La Bûche
o Camille Claudel
o Le Château de ma mère
o Les Choristes
o Le Colonel Chabert
o Cousin, Cousine
o Cyrano de Bergérac
o Les Demoiselles de Rochefort
o Le Dernier métro
o Être et Avoir
o La Gloire de mon père
o Trois Hommes et un couffin
o Un Homme et une femme
o Jean de Florette
o Un Long dimanche de fiançailles
o Manon des sources
o Le Retour de Martin Guerre
o Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
o Mon Oncle d'Amérique
o Peau d'Âne
o Place Vendôme
o Touchez Pas au Grisbi
Don't forget that American DVDs frequently feature foreign-language soundtracks or subtitles as options. If your family has a DVD collection, be sure to look through your titles to see whether you can listen to any of them in French. Being familiar with the story enhances your ability to understand what you hear. You may already have a French soundtrack that you weren't aware of in your collection of films at home.
What to Listen To
Try to obtain some CDs with French lyrics. Whenever you're doing a chore at home, or just relaxing, French can be on in the background. When you drive a long distance, listen to French. Read French magazines for teenagers, such as Salut, to find out who is currently popular. There are French rappers and hip-hop artists. The artist doesn't really have to be hip and new for you to benefit from listening, though. Old smoothies like Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Yves Duteil, or Yves Montand will do just as well.
Record your own voice and listen to it. You don't have to sing, just read aloud. There are wonderful audio programs you can subscribe to as well. Champs-Élysées sends a monthly CD or audiocassette with an interesting and authentic radio broadcast format. All the speakers are native, and a magazine that allows you to follow the script verbatim is also available. Notations for study are included.
You may be able to get a Canadian radio program if you live close enough to receive the broadcast signal (or if you can find it on the internet). I was surprised to discover just such a program late one night as I fiddled with the channel dial in southern Pennsylvania! I was able to find the same French broadcast channel many times over, from about 11 pm on. Check your TV schedule for French films or French programming.
Don't dismiss listening to French songs. Your goal should be to increase your exposure to spoken French as much as possible. Listening to songs is a legitimate and effective way to do this. The musical format is also an ideal conduit for learning and remembering. It's a painless way to stay in contact with French. Another unexpected bonus is that the music and words don't have to be your primary focus for you to benefit from them. Do your nails, clean out a drawer, or wash the car while you listen. Let the words seep into your consciousness on a secondary level, just as the words of any other song would. It's this very relaxing and indirect route that allows music to leave its impression on us so effortlessly.
What to Write
If your French teacher does not already require you to write on a regular basis, you need to begin doing so now. The simplest and easiest thing to do is to keep a diary, or journal intime. Place a little notebook and pencil by your bed. Write a few paragraphs each night as you settle in. Try to capture a few thoughts, maybe what you did today, or what you hope to accomplish tomorrow. Students often enjoy this little routine and relish the privacy afforded them by writing in French instead of English. They are able to collect themselves and reflect a bit. Many find themselves writing at length. Of course you can always try your hand at poetry. You can also concoct a story to which you add a chapter each evening. Make your heroine suffer the consequences if you've had a bad day. The more you write, the easier it becomes. As you step up your reading and listening exposure to French, your writing skills will improve in tandem.
Where to Go
If you should have the good fortune to travel to France or Canada on a school trip or with your family, make every effort to use your language skills. Don't make the mistake so many students do-staying together en masse and maintaining their English idiom just as though they were back in the United States. If you've traveled that far, be brave enough to wean yourself from the group long enough to make a purchase all by yourself, to exchange pleasantries with the gentleman at the front desk of your hotel, or to strike up a little conversation with the person riding in the elevator with you. Each little success begets another.
For those who aren't traveling to France, the Internet is the next best thing. There are French chat rooms, forums on film, politics, and cheese. You can make a virtual visit to the Louvre, to the Eiffel tower, or to any region you so desire. For the AP French Language student, the Internet provides a dizzying array of current and interesting articles to read, as well as the opportunity to interact with other French speakers. There are audio dictionaries that pronounce words for you. You can listen to speeches by Charles de Gaulle. You can hear Colette read her own work aloud.
Avail yourself of these wonderful resources. They will help you keep your commitment to your goal of preparing fully and well for the AP French Language Exam.
Thinking in French!
If you immerse yourself in French for an extended period of time you may very well discover yourself thinking in the language. It is very exciting the first time you realize that this has happened to you. The immersion must be extended, let's say a full day, and you must have been actively using the language, speaking or writing at length. Suddenly it will dawn on you that you are thinking in French.
It is a very gratifying moment. Many people remember when it first happened to them. Of course, the more often you use the language exclusively, the more frequently it will happen, and over time, just becomes routine. When you begin to think spontaneously in French, it is your mind's way of telling you that it is quite comfortable using it.
It is possible to experiment with thinking in French before it comes to you spontaneously. Try making a deliberate effort to think in French and see how you fare. It is best to try this when you are alone so that no one interrupts your thoughts. Just do whatever you would normally do but make a conscious effort to think about each step in French. It's fun to try. You don't need a pencil or any equipment to do it, and it's excellent training. You will give yourself a chance to think in French when there is no pressure to perform, and therein lies its beauty. When you've used French all day long and then drift off to sleep after having written in your journal or read in your novel for a while, who's to say that you won't dream in French, too?
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