Moira Shoush excels academically during year in France


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NPHS student Moira Shoush (center) outside of her school, Lycee Ozenne, in Toulouse, France where she studied her junior year as an exchange student.

TOWAMENCIN- Most American students spend their high school years studying for important tests like the SAT, ACT, midterms, and finals. However, senior Moira Shoush spent her junior year preparing for le Baccalaureat while studying abroad in Toulouse, France.

Le Baccalaureat, or le BAC for short, is a series of exams that French students typically take over the course of two years. Three tests are taken during the first year, and the final seven tests are administered during the second year. Since Shoush was only in France during her junior year, she took all of the exams in one year.

“I had le BAC for philosophy, French classic literature, French modern literature, history, geography, science, English, and Spanish. I also had three oral exams in French, Spanish, and English,” said Shoush.

Since the exam is formatted like a traditional French test, there are no multiple choice questions.

“[For each subject] we usually have one question and we have to write an essay answering the question. We usually end up writing seven to ten pages,” Shoush explained. “For some subjects like history, English, and Spanish, we have a text to analyze in addition to the essay question.”

Unlike the SAT testing, le BAC testing lasts for about two weeks per year, with a total of about twenty-four hours of testing. Therefore, studying for le BAC is much more rigorous than what most American high-schoolers are accustomed to.

“In between the last week of school and the test, we have one week off where all French students stay home all week and study. My friends and I would go to la mediatheque, or library, which is a giant building with computers and tables and conference rooms that we would go to after school or on the weekends to study,” recalled Shoush.

Each of le BAC exams are given a score out of twenty. From there, each of the individual scores are averaged into one final score. Shoush scored a 17.75, earning herself the title of Best Graduates, which is the highest honor possible for le BAC.

“I am part of ‘les meilleurs 10% bacheliers,’” Shoush explained. “The three highest scores in every class receive this status and are given fifty euros from the government. I got the best grade in my class, so I was part of this group along with my best friend in the class.”

Although Shoush put a great amount of effort into studying for these exams, she never imagined she would get as high of a score as she did.

“I am very proud of my score because it was extremely difficult, especially because I didn’t speak French very well [at first]. I was not expecting to do as well as I did because my foreigner status was unknown to the graders of the test and I was worried my grammatical errors would be penalized. My hard work paid off in the end,” she reflected.

After graduating from North Penn this year, Shoush hopes to travel back to France to further her education.

“Passing this exam has made my chances of attending university in France much higher. Hopefully my good grade with this exam will help me get accepted into SciencesPo, which is the best school for Political Science in France and the fourth best in the world,” Shoush stated.