Mastering the SAT Subject Tests, Easier Than You Think! – French & French with Listening

Posted by Alex O. on 9/21/18 6:41 PM

french SAT test

Bonjour! Comment allez-vous? Are you interested in taking the French or the French with Listening SAT Subject Tests? Today I’ll be writing about the intricacies of these two exams and how to master them without having to spend a few months in Paris. Allons-y! 

What are the French and French with Listening SAT Subject Tests?

The French and the French with Listening Subject Tests are 1-hour, approximately 85-question exams testing your knowledge from several years of classroom French. The test covers vocabulary, sentence structure, and reading comprehension, as well as listening skills if taking the Listening version of the test. Whether you learned Canadian, European, or other French does not matter as region-specific vocabulary is not tested. 

What is the difference between the French test and the French with Listening test?

The French with Listening exam includes a portion that requires bringing earphones and a CD player and answering multiple choice questions based on conversations heard. Additionally, the French with Listening exam is offered only in November each year. The normal French exam is offered on every SAT Subject Test date EXCEPT in November. One is not specifically preferred over the other, but check with colleges you are applying to if you are hoping to use this test for college credit.

How should I prepare for the test beforehand?

Reading, writing, and speaking a foreign language is a skill that takes constant dedication and practice and is something that is unfortunately difficult to gain and easily lost. You cannot cram for these tests the week before. What I recommend to all foreign language students is to read a short piece of writing (newspaper, short story, webpage) and watch a short video (there are countless children’s stories and vloggers on YouTube) every day in order to maintain and improve your language skills. Ten minutes a day really does make a difference after a few weeks or months. Also, be sure to understand standard grammatical French topics well. These include (but certainly are not limited to):

  • pronouns of all types and their orders in different tenses (ex. “Tu me le donnes.” vs “Donne-le-moi.”)
  • y vs. en
  • conditional “si” sentences
  • phrases that take the subjunctive (ex. “Je pense qu’il a compris.” vs. “Je ne pense pas qu’il ait compris.”)
  • etc.

What are tips to remember during the test?

First and foremost, don’t forget your standard testing-taking strategies. If you’re not a native Francophone, there are going to be words that you just don’t know, and this is when knowing the tricks to taking a standardized test become essential.

  • Elimination – Get rid of the answers you know cannot be correct. When asked to fill in the blank for

Elle aime _(1)_ belle cravate

(a) sa

(b) son

(c) ses

(d) sienne

what can you immediately eliminate? Even if you don’t remember the gender or meaning of “cravate,” you can deduce that it is feminine because the adjective before is “belle” and not “beau” or “bel,” which gets rid of (b). You also know it is singular because it is “belle” and not “belles,” which gets rid of (c). You can now choose between (a) and (d). Now you must use your knowledge of the French language to remember “sienne” is not a possessive adjective that can go before a noun. So the answer is (a).

  • Read questions before reading the passages. It can save you more time if you know what to look for. It also gives you hints about what you’re going to read, which is incredibly helpful when reading a passage in a foreign language.
  • When filling in blanks within a passage, continue on and read the whole sentence before filling in the first blank. It paints a better picture of what the sentence is saying and what makes most sense to put in the blank.

For French-specific hints, use context clues to get around unknown French words.

  • Translate back to English if you’re really stuck. Especially if you’re choosing between two options you’re uncertain about, say the sentence with both options in English. Many times this can be a sanity-check to be sure you’re choosing something that makes sense.
  • If you don’t understand a phrase, see if you can deduce the meaning from it. French is a very poetic language, so some phrases can be understood just based on the imagery the words express. For example, “pleurer à chaude larme” literally means “to cry with hot tear.” You could guess that maybe it means “to cry intensely,” and you’d be right. Or what about “des yeux de chien battu?” That literally means “eyes of a beaten dog.” What an awful image, the dog must be so sad. Oh, it must mean what we call “puppy eyes” in English. (Apparently the French language is not too kind to animals.) 

With consistent practice, the French and French with Listening Subject Tests are tests you can go into feeling confident. Using today’s online resources, you can become prepared no matter where you are. Bon courage!

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