French lexis and formal exams in the British foreign language classroom
2015, Vol.XX-1, pp. 107-120
In a study carried out 10 years ago Milton (2006) concluded that the volumes of vocabulary taught in UK French classes were very small, so small that it seemed impossible to achieve the communicative aims of the National Curriculum. Since then the proportions of students taking milestone exams at age 16, and who get top grades, has increased. Does this mean that the standards for knowledge in French have improved or has the standard of the exam altered? Measuring the knowledge of French vocabulary in schools can help shed light on this since vocabulary knowledge is closely connected with overall performance in a foreign language and can be measured objectively. This study repeats the Milton (2006) study with learners in the same school. Results suggest that the vocabulary knowledge of learners at both age 16 and age 18 has not changed. Since the same knowledge is rewarded with higher grades in national exams, this implies that grade inflation is occurring and that the exams are becoming easier over time.