Acing the GCE O-Level English Oral Examination (NEW Syllabus 1184 – From 2023)

1. Introduction

The new GCE O-Level (2023) English Language (Syllabus 1184) Paper 4 requires students to deliver a response to a video clip with a given prompt, and thereafter engage in a discussion with the examiner on a related topic. Essentially, students should be able to present their ideas and opinions fluently and effectively to engage the listener, and to engage in a discussion and communicate ideas and opinions clearly.

The paper comprises two components: Part 1: Planned Response and Part 2: Spoken Interaction.

Do note that:

• Students can plan their response on the paper provided and refer to them during the examination.

• The notes will not be assessed; and

• The notes must be handed in to the Examiners at the end of the examination. 

Part 1: Planned Response

For the Planned Response, students are assessed in 2 main areas:  [A] Response; and

[B] Delivery with Awareness of Purpose, Audience and Context

[1] Assessment Criteria for Response [Maximum marks: 10]:

Under the assessment criteria for Response, there are 2 sub-categories:

A. Development and Organisation of Ideas, and

B. Expression of Ideas.

There are a total of 5 assessment bandings, and the highest band is 5.

BandMarksBand Descriptor
59-10• A well-considered response which is well-developed and organised.• Uses a wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures

A. Development and Organisation of Ideas:

These are the strategies you are encouraged to use when planning your response to ensure your ideas are well-developed and coherent.

  • Logical sequencing of ideas with effective use of supporting evidence and examples.
  • Transitional words and phrases are used skillfully to connect ideas and create coherence within the text. This allows the listener to follow the speaker’s train of thought easily and understand how each idea relates to the others.
  • You should show a mastery of sentence structure, using both simple and complex sentences to convey your message effectively.
  • Vary the length and rhythm of your sentences to create a sense of flow and keep the reader engaged.

B. Expression of ideas using a wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures in spoken interaction:

It’s important to consider the context and audience when selecting vocabulary and sentence structures. Using overly complex language or unfamiliar jargon may be confusing or off-putting for some listeners, while using overly simplistic language may not convey the intended meaning or depth of thought.

[2] Assessment Criteria for Delivery with Awareness of Purpose, Audience and Context [Maximum Marks: 5]:

Under this criteria, there are 3 sub-categories:

A. Pronunciation

B. Fluency

C. Intonation:

Similarly, the highest assessment band would be 5:

BandMarksBand Descriptor
55• Delivery is fluent with clear pronunciation, and intonation varied to good effect.

A. Pronunciation:

Pronunciation is the way in which words are articulated and delivered so that they can be easily understood by your listener. It is an important aspect of language learning as it affects the ability of the speaker to be understood by others. For a start, you should:

  1. Practise regularly: Like any skill, pronunciation can be improved with practice. Make time to practice speaking aloud, whether it is reading aloud, speaking with a language partner, or recording yourself and listening back to identify areas for improvement.
  2. Listen and mimic: Listening to the English news and mimic the broadcasters’ pronunciation can help to improve your own. Pay attention to the sounds they make and how they form words, and try to replicate them as closely as possible.
  3. Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from your language teacher to identify areas for improvement. They can provide guidance on specific sounds or words that need work and offer tips on how to improve.


Fluency relates to the ability to use the language with ease and confidence, using appropriate vocabulary and grammar, and with a natural rhythm and intonation. Besides speed, fluency  is also about accuracy, clarity, and the ability to convey meaning effectively.

These are few strategies you could use:

  1. Focus on communication: Focusing too much on getting every word right can lead to hesitation and interruption in speech. Instead, focus on communicating your ideas and thoughts as smoothly as possible, even if it means using simpler language at times.
  2. Build vocabulary: The more words you know, the easier it is to express yourself. Building your vocabulary through reading, listening, and studying can help you to speak more fluently and with greater precision.
  3. Use filler words and phrases: Filler words and phrases such as “yes,” “well,” or “you know” can help to fill gaps in speech and give you time to think and organize your thoughts. However, be mindful not to overuse these words or rely on them too heavily.

And last but not least,

  1. Practise, practise, practise!

C. Intonation:

Intonation refers to the rise and fall of the pitch of our voice as we speak, and it can greatly impact the meaning and effect of our words. What can you do to improve your intonation:

  1. Understand the meaning conveyed by intonation: Different intonation patterns can convey different meanings or emotions. For example, a rising intonation at the end of a statement can indicate a question or uncertainty, while a falling intonation can indicate confidence or finality. Understanding these patterns can help you use them more effectively.
  2. Practice pitch variation: Try experimenting with different pitch patterns to convey different emotions or emphasis. To convey the intended emotion, you may want to use a higher pitch to show excitement or a lower pitch when you mean something serious.
  3. Use emphasis: Emphasizing certain words or phrases through changes in pitch or volume can help to emphasize their importance or convey a particular tone.

Part 2: Spoken Interaction [Maximum Marks: 15]

There are 2 sub-categories in the Assessment Criteria for Spoken Interaction:

• Communication of perspective(s)

• Engagement in a discussion

The highest assessment band is:

BandMarksBand Descriptor
513-15• Offers well-considered responses with coherent and well-developed perspective(s).• Uses a wide range of well-chosen vocabulary and structures; clear pronunciation.• Engages in a sustained discussion, sometimes moving beyond the prompts.

In order to ace this part of the exam, you should strive to do the following:

• Clarity is essential in spoken interaction as it ensures that the message being conveyed is easily understood by the listener. This can be achieved through the use of simple language, clear pronunciation, and appropriate intonation.

• Coherence refers to the logical flow of ideas in a conversation, which helps listeners follow the speaker’s train of thought. Use transitions between paragraphs to connect your thoughts smoothly.

• Relevance is another important aspect of expressing ideas in spoken interaction. You need to ensure that your responses are relevant to the ongoing conversation and address the topic at hand. This requires active listening skills and an ability to adapt to changing conversational dynamics.

• Engagement is also crucial in spoken interaction as it helps maintain interest and attention from listeners. Engaging speakers often use humour, anecdotes, or personal experiences to connect with your examiner and make their message more relatable.

Sample Practice:


You will be given 10 minutes to prepare the planned response. The delivery of the planned response should take up to 2 minutes.

REMINDER: You can make notes on the paper provided and refer to them during the examination. However, your notes will not be assessed. At the end of the examination, the notes must be handed in to the Examiners. You will watch a video which shows hot air balloons flying.

As you watch the video, think about how you will respond to the following prompt.

Prompt: Would taking a ride in a hot air balloon appeal to you? Why or why not?

Steps to Approaching the Planned Response Question

1. Highlight keywords: a ride, hot air balloon, appeal to (me)

2. Unpack the question: The question is a personal response question that requires you to state your


3. Use PEEL to structure your response.

Question: Would going on a ride in a hot air balloon appeal to you? Why or why not?

PPoint: Answer the question / State your opinion. Yes, going on a ride in a hot air balloon would definitely appeal to me (opinion) because it’s something I’ve not done before and it will be a very exciting and unique experience (reason).
EE1Elaborate by telling me more about what you just said in your POINT. [When/ Why/ How?]
I know it may sound strange but I’ve always dreamed of being able to fly. I want to be able to fly because I love the feeling of the wind rushing at my face. Therefore, to be able to fly in a hot air balloon, even for a mere few minutes to immerse in the beauty of nature and to experience new cultures, would be a dream come true!
EE2Example: Give an example to show what you mean. 
This brings me back to a family trip to New Zealand 3 years ago where my family signed up for a biking tour in Queenstown. It was the first time we were touring a town on two wheels on our overseas trip. We were very fortunate to be the only group to have signed up during that period, so we had our bike guide, Rodger, all to ourselves! Rodger was so friendly we became such close friends after the trip. We began our journey on the West Coast Wilderness Trail weaving through dense rainforests, around rivers, lakes and wetlands. On most days, the winds were pretty strong and the feeling of freedom was indescribable! My heart almost leapt out of my mouth. There were so many beautiful sights and sounds during the 5-day journey and this experience solidified my resolve to embark on more adventures. 
L Link: Paraphrase you POINT= Reiterate your POINT → do not repeat the sentence in POINT ⇒ How could the issue be resolved / Sum up your view / Questions to think about.
Therefore, I would definitely jump at the offer of embarking on a joy ride in a hot air balloon to enjoy the scenic views. Something about being up there in the elevated altitudes helps all my stresses float away! And I want to feel that adrenaline rush again.

Question: Would going on a ride in a hot air balloon appeal to you? Why or why not? Alternative response:

PPoint: Answer the question / State your opinion.
No, I don’t think I would want to go on a hot air balloon ride because I do not appreciate the significant risk of flying in a lighter-than-air flying machine. 
EE1Elaborate by telling me more about what you just said in your POINT. [When/ Why/ How?]
Well, I’m not a terribly adventurous person to begin with. I’d rather go on a walk or hike if I want to enjoy the nature or scenic views. It may sound peculiar, but I like to be grounded when I am in motion – that is, I like to know that my feet are planted on the ground when I move, especially if the mode of transport is an open concept. Even when I’m flying in an airplane, I get jittery.
EE2Example: Give an example to show what you mean. 
It all started when I was much younger. As far as I could remember then, I was swinging on a swing in a playground and demanding that my mom push me as hard as she could so I could go higher. After a while, I had wanted to get off it. Suddenly, I had a light bulb moment and I told my mother, who was pushing me from the front, that I would slide off the swing – as it is still swinging – and she would catch me. Before she could respond in protest (as I could see that she panicked), I happily bounced off the swing as it elevated towards her. In that split second, she reached out her arms but missed, and I fell face down onto the sand. I couldn’t really recall how I felt, but I remembered my mom calling out my name and then I saw crimson red liquid on the sand in front of me. It was a blur of events thereafter. My mom told me much later that I had sustained a minor cut just above my right eyebrow.
L Link: Paraphrase you POINT= Reiterate your POINT→  do not repeat the sentence in POINT ==? How could the issue be resolved / Sum up your view / Questions to think about.
So, that was a traumatic experience that convinced me that I need to feel very secure before I am lifted off the ground. Although I have lived with this phobia since then, I hope to be able to overcome it in the near future because I believe it is hindering me from experiencing adventurous activities. 


As per the specimen paper, there are two questions, and it is also stated that examiners might pursue any points which candidates may mention

Question: (a) Would your parents or other adults share your views about taking part in adventurous activities? Why or why not? 

PPoint: Answer the question / State your opinion. 
My parents are supportive of my decision to engage in adventurous activities. They know I love the adrenaline rush and they trust that I will take the necessary precautions when I participate in such activities.
EE1Elaborate by telling me more about what you just said in your POINT. [When/ Why/ How?]
Initially, I could tell that they weren’t very comfortable with some of the activities that I’d taken part in. But due to the fact that I familiarise myself with the relevant safety precautions for each and every adventurous activity that I partake in, they take comfort in the knowledge that I am aware of the risks, and that I will ensure my safety.
EE2Example: Give an example to show what you mean.
When I asked my parents for permission to participate in the 5-day MOE-OBS Challenge Programme last year, they were concerned  about safety and potential risks. I allay their fears by telling them the precautions I would take for each of the activities involved and I promised to take care of myself. After I returned from the adventure camp, I regaled them with a colourful account of the happenings during the camp.
L Link: Paraphrase you POINT= Reiterate your POINT → do not repeat the sentence in POINT ⇒ How could the issue be resolved / Sum up your view / Questions to think about.
It  helps that each time I participate in an adventure activity and I share with my parents the exhilaration and the challenges that I face, they understand the importance of personal growth, learning, and gaining new experiences for me and why these activities are important to me. The support and understanding of my parents are crucial in helping me strike a balance between pursuing my interests and ensuring my safety and well-being. Their guidance and advice can be valuable as I navigate the world of adventurous activities and grow as an individual.

Question: (b) Would you say that the youths in your country are generally interested in adventurous activities, such as rock climbing or skateboarding? Why do you say so?

PPoint: Answer the question / State your opinion.
 I would say that the interest in adventurous activities like rock climbing and skateboarding varies among youths. 
EE1Elaborate by telling me more about what you just said in your POINT. [When/ Why/ How?][WHY did I say “the interest varies”?] While some are genuinely enthusiastic and actively participate in these activities, others may not be as interested or might prefer different pursuits. I believe that there is a significant number of young people who are interested in adventurous activities.
EE2Example: Give an example to show what you mean.Rock climbing and skateboarding can be exhilarating and provide an opportunity for youths to challenge themselves physically and mentally. [WHY did I say that?] They offer a sense of thrill and accomplishment, which can be appealing to many adventurous spirits.[Add on point] Moreover, the popularity of these activities might also be influenced by various factors such as exposure and accessibility. [WHY did I say that?] If there are local facilities or skate parks readily available, more youths may be inclined to try skateboarding. Similarly, if there are climbing gyms or outdoor rock climbing spots accessible to them, it may increase interest in rock climbing.
L Link: Paraphrase you POINT= Reiterate your POINT→  do not repeat the sentence in POINT ⇒ How could the issue be resolved / Sum up your view / Questions to think about.It is important to recognise and respect these individual differences and support young people in exploring activities that resonate with them personally. Whether it’s rock climbing, skateboarding, or any other activity, what matters most is that youths are given the opportunity to discover their passions, stay active, and grow as individuals in a supportive and encouraging environment.

Last but not Least…

If, at any point, and for some reason, you cannot remember all that you have committed to your memory, just tell yourself:

First I must ANSWER THE QUESTION with a point or opinion, then continue the next sentence with “WHY” or “WHAT do you MEAN? or “SO WHAT”. You will see how I have annotated [in the square brackets] these questions running through my mind .

I hope the above illustrated examples demonstrate how structuring an oral exam response is a crucial step that can greatly impact its effectiveness and success. I am confident that you will be able to approach your oral exams with confidence, leaving a lasting impression on both the examiners and yourself as you embark on a journey to becoming an effective communicator.

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