Any exam can be nerve-wracking, but language exams can be tough because they might mean more than just a paper and pen. Here are five tips to prepare for a sign language exam to help you feel more confident before stepping into the test.
Read more: How to learn sign language
Grab a pen and paper to jot some ideas down. If you know what the topic or questions are, you can brainstorm what might be asked. Preparing what you want to say will help you during the exam and boost your confidence.
For any sign language exam, the basics of the language are crucial! An example is fingerspelling. Ensure you know the alphabet and your name in sign language. Practice key questions and answers i.e. ‘How are you?’, ‘What’s your name?’, ‘Which topics?’
Vocabulary is key! Having a wide range of vocabulary to use in the exam scores bonus points. Plus, it makes the conversation more interesting.
Some sign language exam criteria may include not using voice, so the conversation is silent. This important for outside of the classroom because when you sign with other members of the Deaf community, they won’t be using their voice. It is also important in the classroom, so you do not assist your classmates by saying what you are signing.
Some sign languages advise mouthing the words without using voice sounds and signing simultaneously. If your mouth is kept zipped shut it’s harder to work out what you’re signing.
When entering the exam and during, don’t forget to smile! It pushes the nerves to one side and makes you appear more confident, which the examiner likes to see.
With any sign language, it’s important to expose body language and use facial expressions to help with expressing what you’re saying. If you sign something with a straight face and no body movement, it makes it harder for the person to understand what you’re trying to get across.
Also, try to move your facial muscles and express emotion when signing. For example, if you’re signing about something you love, it would be a happy emotion. If you are signing about something you don’t like, it would be a sad or moody expression.
Sign language is an expressive moving language so it’s great if you can move your hands and arms freely, rather than if your arms were tied to your sides.
It’s great to maintain eye contact with the examiner during the conversation, as it makes it more personal.
With practice, comes perfect signing! There are lots of ways to practice before the exam:
There are lots of websites that have practice worksheets and online homework to help prep you for your exam.
Check in your local area to see where the nearest group is. The best practice comes from engaging with others in Sign Language.
If you have deaf friends or family members, ask if they’d be willing to help you!
If you belong to a sign language class, people might be in the same position as you with wanting to practice for exams. Why not organize a get-together and it’ll be an opportunity to practice.
There are some apps that you can download to help, depending on the sign language you use. Why not have a look and see what’s out there?
During the exam, think about what you want to say before signing it, you’ll make fewer mistakes. Question if there are any grammar structures that need to be applied.
Some conversational exams are two-way, so don’t forget to include the examiner and have a conversation with them. Ask them questions, react to their responses i.e. ‘Wow’, ‘that’s good’, ‘I agree/disagree’ etc.
Although some exams have time limits, ensure you sign at a pace that works best for you. If you sign too fast they might not understand you. If you sign too slow you might not cover all the criteria. It’s a good idea to practice at home and time yourself. It’ll give you an idea of how much you can sign about during that time.
Good luck and remember, you can only do your best!
If you’ve got any other exam tips, please share them in the comments below.