The Written Exams

Otherwise known as the épreuves d’admissibilité or simply the écrits.

The Ministry of Education website publishes the specifications for the épreuves every year, and you can get official details there. Things have changed a little since I took the CAPES in 2011. Here’s the official ministry website that explains the exams.

  1. A composition: in English on a collection of texts about a literary or historical topic
  2. Translation: Thème or version, et choix de traduction: When I took the CAFEP CAPES in 2011, we were given a thème and a version, which was a relief, because version is obviously the harder translation for a non-native French speaker. Nowadays it appears the jury may give you only one or the other. Version is when you translate English into French and and thème, French into English. In the text, three to five short selections will also be underlined, and you will be asked to explain your translation choices (in terms of grammar) for these sections. You give your explanation in French.

The written exams last two days, five hours each day, usually starting at 9 and ending at 2. Everyone who takes the CAPES d’anglais will have the same texts, since everyone takes the exam the same day and the same time. You can bring food into the room to hold you over till 2.

My personal advice (again, obviously, take it or leave it):

For me, with a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in French, the hardest and most stressful part of the test was the version (translation from English into French) and the choix de traduction, which is more or less a grammatical analysis of the different translation choices you can make.

If you have the time or are thinking far ahead about the CAPES, I’d recommend reading as much as possible in French, by which I mean, high-quality literary fiction from the past century to the past couple of years. Read for enjoyment, as in, choose books you think you will like, and pay attention to new words. I tried to do this the summer before I started seriously preparing the CAPES and eventually didn’t have the time to do as much as I wanted to.

The second thing I spent a lot of time on was British culture and history, which it turned out I really enjoyed. As an American, my background in American history was strong, but my background in British history ended somewhere around Shakespeare and Elizabeth the 1st. I remembered vaguely what the story was on Oliver Cromwell, and had some memories of my parents complaining about Margaret Thatcher when I was little, but I definitely had plenty to learn about the past three hundred years of Irish, Scottish, and English history, not to mention the Commonwealth countries!

Next page: The Oral Exams

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