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French *FEES PAYABLE* at Clifton College

Course description

French is offered at AS and A2 levels. Prospective students need to have an A grade or better at GCSE.

A high grade at GCSE enables students to tackle a progressively broad range of authentic texts and broadcasts including video clips from the internet. Topics of study may include French music and the food culture in the Lower Sixth or global warming, genetic engineering and racism in the Upper Sixth. The French classroom is therefore one in which the expression of personal opinions and the cut and thrust of debate is encouraged.

The teaching is usually divided between two class teachers and a weekly lesson in ones or twos with the Assistant. This regular contact enables the students to develop fluency, and helps to stimulate an interest in contemporary France. The library stocks a wide range of both modern and classic French literature as well as several French translations of popular current novels and current French magazines. The Modern Languages Film Society regularly shows French films and as a department we try to go to the local independent cinema to see French language films as they are released.

We host other events that help students connect with the wider aspects of French culture such as the French lunch, a cheese tasting evening in French, debates with other Bristol schools and the Sixth Form Language Fest where all groups perform sketches or sing songs in the target language.

In the Upper Sixth the study of some literature is encouraged but other arts such as painting, films and popular music are also studied. Personal preferences are taken account of in the choice of topics we cover each year. In recent years, Upper Sixth pupils have studied L’Étranger by Albert Camus, La Haine by Mathieu Kassovitz, the poetry of Jacques Prévert and Un long dimanche de fiançailles by Jean Jeunet.

The exploration of these themes is underpinned by a course in grammar to ensure that students can express their ideas successfully. Analytical study of the language is just as important as analytical study of a chosen topic for the result to be an educational achievement.

Sixth Form linguists are able to exploit to the full the multi-media possibilities of our language lab. This could include recording their own commentary to an internet video clip, conducting a dummy phone conversation between randomly-paired students, or studying an audio recording alongside a text exercise. We use the language lab to run AS and A2 listening exams to take advantage of its excellent sound quality and the responsiveness of its rewind and bookmark facilities. We also have a departmental set of Ipods to enable pupils to independently practise listening skills in class.

We would expect Sixth Formers studying a language to visit a French speaking country as our experience shows that this gives a boost to students’ skill and confidence and helps them achieve their potential in exams. The French Department organises trips and in recent years has visited Rouen, Paris and hopefully Nice in the future. In addition we can help students take part in the Bristol-Bordeaux Exchange programme or find a work experience placement in France. The experience of living firsthand the day-to-day life of a French person, along with the opportunity to explore the cultural delights of a new city has proved invaluable to boosting pupils’ spoken French and their knowledge of contemporary France for the AS and A2 exams. 

Course content

Topic areas studied at AS level are broadly: media, popular culture, lifestyle and relationships. Topic areas studied at A2 include Environment, Multicultural society and Contemporary Social Issues. Two cultural topics are also studied, for example a period of the 20th century history of a target-language country; the work of an author, film director, architect, musician or painter from the target-language country; a region of a target-language country.

Units 1 and 3 are taken in the department’s language laboratory. Comprehension questions will be largely familiar from GCSE, and there will be questions involving careful use of language and writing at greater length. Unit 3 includes an essay on one of the cultural topics in French. Units 2 and 4, the orals, start with a discussion based on a card on a topic in the specifications which is prepared for 20 minutes beforehand. The candidate then has a conversation with the external examiner ranging over three of the four topic areas (AS) or both the cultural topics studied (A2).


Students take the AQA qualifications and study four units over two years. The layout of the exams is as follows:

Unit 1: Listening, Reading and Writing

Examination, 2 hours, 70% of AS, 35% of A Level

Unit 2: Speaking

Examination, 15 minutes, 30% of AS, 15% of A Level

Unit 3: Listening, Reading and Writing

Examination, 2 hours 30 minutes, 35% of A Level

Unit 4: Speaking

Examination, 15 minutes, 15% of A Level

Financial information


Please ensure that you understand that course fees will be payable before submitting your application.

Future opportunities

The successful study of French (as of other languages) is highly regarded and language graduates enjoy a high recruitment rate. Employers stress the need for linguists to enable Britain to compete in the modern world and languages are often studied as a complement to another discipline. The university study of languages gives students the opportunity to spend a year abroad and opens the doors to an international career.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Clifton College directly.

Last updated date: 02 June 2015
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Key information

  • Start date: Next September
  • Duration: 1 or 2 years


  • More information
    • ATTENTION: Please ensure that you understand that course fees will be payable before submitting your application.