I want to study in France as part of my year abroad; is there anything I should know?

Are there any particular differences in learning or teaching styles? What are exams like?

This question was asked on 17th July 2014 and has been read 1508 times.

  • Carol Roberts · 6 years ago

    I studied French law in a University in Paris as a (compulsory) part of my course. Some universities may require you to take an exam/test to prove your level of French before doing so, although this is probably more likely if you are not studying for a languages degree.

    There are several differences I would highlight which can be worth considering. 

    Firstly, do not be overwhelmed by the number of students you will find (particularly in first year) in a French University - there is no real UCAS application in the same way. Instead, first year is used as an opportunity to cull around 60% of students. You will probably feel very clever in comparison to many people you are in first year classes with. Erasmus students do not need to be culled in this same way: this is to your advantage. 

    Lectures are the main source of learning (unlike the University I was at in England which was tutorial focussed): French students will manage to type word for word the entirety of a lecture. The best tip I can give is to turn up to a couple of lectures and use the classic line 'je suis étudiante Erasmus'... Whip out a USB and ask for a copy of their notes (a 'polycopie'). Then learn as much as you can from these notes, they will be all you need to pass the exams, and you will not be expected (or indeed desired) to have any sort of opinion on what you have learnt. You will only need to be able to regurgitate it.

    I found that the exams I sat in Paris varied massively to the ones I would sit in England. This could also be particular to the University I was at (Panthéon Assas). For example, I sat some exams which required a single essay to be written in 3 hours (compared to four in 3 hours in my home university). This essay would have to be divided into two main sections (I + II) which in turn would be divided into two sections (A + B), which could then also be divided into two (i + ii). Some universities allow division into three main sections. This is your only real analysis. I sat some oral exams which would have me picking a topic out of a hat (having queued for the exam for up to three hours) and preparing my 'exposition' whilst the student ahead of me completed their exam! One exam was even a 40 minute multiple choice question. 

    To summarise: exams vary - but they are likely to be very different to anything you may have done at home. 

    Universities will also vary massively in what they require from you, and whether your exams in France count to your degree (mine did not at all...). My advice would be to communicate as much as you can with your home university, and remember that in the summer before your year abroad everyone in the French university will go on holiday for at least a month. Don't panic. They probably wouldn't be that helpful anyway. 

    Good luck! 

  • Rhianna Masson · 5 years ago

    I totally second what Carol said about French students typing word for word what the lecturers say and said content being the only thing you need to know for the exams. I was quite shocked by it, especially when some of the lectures were 3 hours long with no Powerpoints or anything!!!

    Also if you are going to be doing any translation classes, make sure you know your past historic because in all of my translation classes we used that tense, seeing as most of the texts were literary.

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