Common Mistakes In English Oral Exams

Despite being dubbed as “the universal language”, English is one of the more difficult languages to learn especially if you live outside of Europe and the Americas. In Singapore, the English language is part of the curriculum in order for the students to become proficient in the language.

However, there will be instances where you will be asked to take an oral exam in English rather a written one. This could pose a lot of problems as you can easily make mistakes in oral exams without you noticing it which could lower your score.

For this very reason, we have gathered the most common mistakes of students during English oral exam in hopes that you will be aware of these mistakes and avid doing them. If you want to learn them most common mistakes with English oral exams, then continue reading the article.

Why we make mistakes

Orally using the English language is 10 times more difficult than simply writing as you will need to translate what is inside your head into English and take into account the grammar you use along with the proper pronunciation, all in a matter of seconds.

On the off chance that you aren’t proficient enough in the language, this fact could greatly lower your scores as you will make you commit a lot of mistakes. However, if your English skills have been honed through years of education, other factors may come into play which could be the reason why you commit mistakes.

• Panic

Panic is often one of the main reasons why you do poorly in English oral exams. You have little confidence in your knowledge and mastery of the language that you often feel in danger. This triggers your body’s natural response to danger which is a surge of adrenaline, muscular tightness, and an increased heart rate.

All of these effects can greatly hinder your communication and cognitive functions as your body will give way to its natural instinct. An increase in adrenaline will mean your sense of reason becomes clouded, and muscular tightness will prevent your jaw muscles from forming the right angles and shapes to pronounce words properly.

• Improper breathing

Improper breathing is also another reason why you might commit mistakes when taking an English oral exam. We all know that pauses are important to properly relay your message in the English language. However, if you pause and take a breath at the wrong moment, it could severely alter the message of your statement.

Improper breathing can also limit the amount of oxygen circulating in your body which could result to your muscles tightening and preventing your brain from functioning to its maximum potential. Make sure to take deep breathes at the right moment to avoid any misunderstandings and to supply your body with sufficient levels of oxygen.

• Tense muscles

Tense muscles are often a by-product of the previously mentioned reasons, but it deserves a mention as well. Tight and tense muscles are harder to move and control. These muscles can also only perform forceful and strong actions as if you were in a fight or flight situation. These tense muscles will make it difficult for your mouth and tongue to form the proper shapes needed to pronounce some sounds correctly.

Common mistakes in oral exams

Now that we know what causes these mistakes, it is now time to learn about the common mistakes students tend to make when taking English oral exams.

1. Accents get in the way

Almost every language in the world has its own accent attached to it. English is no exception to this rule as well. The accent we often hear in Hollywood movies is called the Californian sweet orange accent, which is often the one we use when speaking English. However, there are also other accents out there such as the Texan accent, the British accent, and even the Jamaican accent. All these accents use English as the base but have their own tones and

Singapore has its own twist to this accent salad bowl which is known as Singaporean English, often shortened to “Singlish”. A mixture of the native Singaporean pronunciation and words from the English language, giving birth to what is most commonly used by the Singaporean people as their everyday language.

This might be considered alright for everyday use, but be careful not to overly rely on Singlish too much. Unless you have a lenient examiner who understands that you might switch from regular English to Singlish from time to time, your score might be affected by this.

2. Incorrect pronunciation (th as s,z,d)

If you were used to your mother tongue language and took up English as a secondary language, then chances are that there will be certain pronunciations which you are not familiar with. For instance, Mandarin Chinese does not have a character and a way to pronounce the “th” sound found in a lot of English words. So to cover for the lack of ways to pronounce these words, people often optimize by using pronunciations which seem close to the “th” sound.

Individuals often use the “s”, “z”, or “d” sounds to make up for the “th” sound which could sound incorrect when spoken. This could greatly lower your scores when taking an English oral exam. You could be pronouncing “those” as “does” (female deer) and your examiner would have a hard time because you would mention animals in your speech about the Second World War.

3. Stresses

Stresses are another part of the English language that makes it even more difficult to master. There are a lot of English words that are spelled the same but have different stresses which could alter their definitions a lot. For instance, the word “content” could either be a noun or an adjective depending on where the stress is located.

If you were to place the stress on the first syllable, it is an adjective which means satisfied. But if the stress was to be placed in the second syllable, then it is considered a noun which is defined as something contained.

These minor details could either make or break your score in your English oral exam. You would be surprised by how many words depend on stresses to indicate their definition, purpose, and implications.

4. Shortening the sentences

Chinese has been known for its use of efficient words to make sure that the message gets relayed without having to make the sentence 15 words long. This is often carried into Singlish when your mother tongue is Chinese.

Shortening sentences like “Is it true?” into “Is it?” or using it as a way to ask for confirmation may be acceptable for most casual talks. But when it is time to walk into an English oral exam, you should keep the shortening of sentences to a minimum to make sure you do not alter the structure of your sentences too much.

5. Plural forms

Plural forms of nouns are another thing in the English language that adds more confusion to non-native speakers. Most nouns only need an “s” at the end of the noun to turn it into plural form. However, there are various nuns that are considered special cases.

A large amount of cactus is not called “cactuses”, but is instead called as “cacti”. The same goes for octopus and rhombus where their plural forms are “octopi” and “rhombi” respectively. Another example would be the plural form of ox which is “oxen”. However, the plural for box is “boxes” and not “boxen”.

This could easily confuse anyone due to the diverse ways the English language has with making plural forms of nouns. And if you are not careful and knowledgeable in this regard, you might end up making a lot of mistakes when taking an English oral exam.

6. Fillers

Fillers are the bane of oral exams. They are what students often use to buy time while they are still processing the correct answer. But more often than not, these fillers tend to be used so often by a single individual that it almost seems like the whole sentence is filled with fillers.

These words vary from individual to individual, but the most commonly used fillers are “uhm”, “and”, “so”, and others. These can often make you lose points in your exam and lead to a decrease in you score.

This is not to say that including these words on your English oral exam is a bad thing. However, if you use them as a way to buy time while your brain is buffering, then you are better off just pausing for a moment to make your words have impact and not sound like an EDM track with the tens of “uhms” you spoke.


If you have made one or more of these mistakes, then don’t worry as we all make mistakes sometimes. English is a relatively hard language to master after all. They even made a whole system of saying things which mean literally the opposite of what they mean just to make it more difficult. What’s important is that you accept the mistake you made and strive to correct them s that you will not make these mistakes again.

It will be worth your time mastering English orally, and if your own efforts aren’t enough, then you can always ask for help. Luckily, you have come to just the right place. FamilyTutor is Singapore’s leading home tuition agency. We offer private tuition on a variety of subjects which include Math, Physics, Chemistry, English, and other languages. We also make sure that our rates are at market value to ensure you get quality education at a reasonable price.

Interested in hiring a tutor now? Give us a visit here!

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Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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