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How do you improve in Chinese oral?

Depending on which primary level you are studying, your Chinese oral examination can be in different formats. Lower primary (P1 and P2) and mid-primary (P3 and P4) kids need to describe a given picture while Upper primary (P5 and P6) kids need to discuss what they see in an e-oral.

Since the common factor in all these primary school levels is the Chinese oral passage reading part, I’ll be focusing on that in this post.

(You can check out these posts on the Chinese oral picture discussion and e-oral exam if you need more tips on that.)

Chinese oral exam grading

In order to improve your reading scores for the reading aloud section, we need to first understand what your Chinese oral examiners are looking out for.

For the oral passage reading aloud part, you are usually graded on 2 things:

  • the accuracy of what’s being read (内容) and its fluency
  • how expressively you read the content (表达).

Being aware of these primary school Chinese oral exam requirements can help you determine how to spend your 5-minute preparation time better.

Here’s an oral exam guide that I’ve created to guide you on how to study for your Chinese oral test. Watch it through to learn about the reading speed when you are going through the oral passage, what to do when you bump into an unfamiliar word etc. As a bonus, I’ve also included a live demo of some oral reading samples so that you can learn what to do and what not to do.

After going through the video, you can see that scoring a perfect score or anything close to it is within reach as long as you know the right techniques.

Next, let’s look at the 3 simple, actionable tips that you can use on your Chinese oral exam day to help you sound more confident in front of your examiners and score better.

3 tips that instantly improve your Chinese oral test scores

1. Be less self-conscious

Through my years of teaching in school, I’ve come to realise that the number one thing that’s holding many students back is the fear of judgement. It’s understandable to worry about things like “If I can’t read a word, will the examiner think I’m stupid?” or “will I get a mark deducted for every mistake I make?”. Those are valid concerns that we worry about when we were in primary school too.

Most oral reading passages are of moderate difficulty and you’ll do fine as long as you’re not TOO nervous.

Truth be told, the examination rubrics of the Chinese oral exam are not as scary as you think. Teachers are nice people in general and they just want to see your confidence.

The more you worry, the more mistakes you tend to make. Just focus on reading the Chinese oral passage in a loud and clear voice. It’s ok to skip those unfamiliar words and continue reading. Your oral examiner will know anyway, but you get extra brownie points for reading everything else fluently and expressively.

So that’s the first tip, start training your confidence today. This is the most directly and effective way to improve your Chinese oral reading skills.

2. Remember to breathe

The next tip that I have for Chinese oral may sound weird, but please remember to breathe when you are reading the oral passage.

This comes from me hearing all sorts of high-pitched voices, trembling voice, whispers etc. during actual Chinese oral exams in school. If you are extremely nervous during your Chinese oral exam, your examiners can tell. This may make your examiners feel anxious for you too.

So remember to take deep breaths if you are feeling nervous. This simple trick will help you sound better when you’re reading the passage.

3. Read the oral passage with emotions

Now comes tip number 3! Reading the oral passage as accurately as possible while sounding confident is only half the battle won.

The other half lies in how expressive you are when you are reading.

I know this can sound hard to some of you at first, but it does make a difference between a good and excellent Chinese oral test score.

To help you improve how you express yourself in Chinese, practise reading different kinds of sentences at home along with a facial expression.

For example, if you’re reading a question, you can sound curious by raising your tone slightly at the end of the sentence while raising your eyebrows. If you want to sound angry, raise your voice a little and widen your eyes.

Sounds like acting? Yes, it is, but you don’t have to worry since you are at home. With constant practice, you’ll be able to do it naturally at your Chinese oral exam.


Now that you’ve learnt these 3 tips to improve your Chinese oral, try them out during your next Chinese oral exam and watch yourself pass with flying colours!

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