If you are interested in becoming a fully certified teacher in France, you will inevitably come across mentions of THE CONCOURS. The CAPES. The CAFEP. The Capes-cafep… Whatever it’s called, passing it is the key to a coveted permanent teaching job within the Education Nationale. While I have touched on my own experience taking the concours in 2019, as well as my preparation via the Master MEEF, I do still get questions asking for more details about the concours and the best ways to prepare. Especially given that the entire thing was reformed in 2021, I thought it would be helpful to clearly lay out and define the different parts of the concours and, in a second part, some of my own advice for acing it ! If you aren’t planning to become a certified teacher in France, feel free to skip this one 😛
FYI : If you have read my other posts, then you know that non-EU citizens cannot pass the CAPES concours, but must instead do the CAFEP concours to teach in semi-private schools. However, as the CAPES and CAFEP are identical exams which have only a slightly different outcome, I will be referring to both interchangeably in this article.
And a final disclaimer : because the exams have changed slightly since I took them, this post is based on information from official websites and from current students/acquaintances rather than my own personal experience. A lot is essentially translated from ressources available on the Devenir Enseignant website, which I highly recommend as a starting place if you are interested in learning about jobs in the Education Nationale. If you see any errors or inaccuracies, please send me a comment so I can correct it !
- WHAT IS A CONCOURS ?
- HOW ARE THE EXAMS ORGANIZED ?
- WHAT’S ON THE EXAMS ? (version 2021 reform)
- HOW IS IT SCORED ?
WHAT IS A CONCOURS ?
Quite literally speaking, a concours is a contest or a competition. In the context of teacher recruitment, it is essentially a series of competitive written and oral exams that lead to become a certified teacher. How can an exam be competitive you ask ? Well, you are not just competing with yourself to reach a passing score. The passing score is determined by the pool of candidates, all of whom are competing for a limited number of seats.
Pretty much all civil service jobs in France, including teaching, are recruited via concours, some more competitive than others. Within the CAPES, there are several different types of concours :
- EXTERNE = for candidates who have not previously worked for the civil service
- INTERNE = for candidates who have worked for at least 3 years as a contractuel.le in the civil service
- 3e CONCOURS = for candidates who worked in the private sector for at least 5 years prior to sitting the concours
Each type of concours has a different number of available seats, and slightly different exams. For example, 3e concours candidates have fewer written and oral exams than Externe candidates, but there are almost 2x more seats available for the Externe…
If you are eligible for more than one concours, it is possible to sign up for multiple to maximize your chances. However, if both concours have their written exams on the same date, then you will have to make a decision as to which exam you choose to sit.
*The remainder of this post will focus on the EXTERNE concours.*
HOW ARE THE EXAMS ORGANIZED ?
The CAPES d’anglais is organized into two steps :
- Epreuves d’admissibilité (2 Written Exams)
- Epreuves d’admission (2 Oral Exams)
The written exams act as eligibility exams for the orals, meaning that in order to be invited to the orals, you must meet a certain score on the written exams first (=être admissible). If you do go on to the orals, then you must rank in the top X candidates (this number changes every year based on the number of posts available) in order to pass (=être admis.e).
Each exam is weighted differently in your final score, with the oral exams having the highest coefficients, or weight. (I’ll explain the coeffs more in the section on scoring)
WHAT’S ON THE EXAMS ? (version 2021 reform)
The written exams generally take place over two consecutive days in mid/late March. Each exam is a grueling 6-hours long, with several tasks to complete. The written exams are based on a set “programme” a.k.a. five open-ended themes taken from the school curriculum on which the exam papers can be based. For example, the themes of the upcoming 2023 session are Rencontres avec d’autres cultures, Fictions et réalités, Relation avec l’individu et le groupe, Sauver la planète, penser les futurs possibles, and Faire entendre sa voix : représentation et participation. Half the themes are renewed/changed each year.
Épreuve disciplinaire (coeff 2)
Part 1 : an analysis / synthesis of several documents in English : at least two textual and one iconographic. You are asked to write an organized analysis comparing and contrasting the set of documents in relation to one of the themes of the programme. The documents can be literary extracts, primary or secondary source historical documents, speech transcripts, advertisements, photographs, paintings, etc.
Part 2 : Version (translation from English to French) and Thème (translation from French to English) of two short passages.
Here is the test paper given in the 2022 session. This exam is like a mashup of the épreuve de composition and the translation that were part of the previous reform. So if you’re looking for additional practice tests and advice from the jury, you can check pre-2021 ressources !
Épreuve écrite disciplinaire appliquée (EEDA) (coeff 2)
For better or worse, this épreuve is written entirely in French.
Part 1 : Given a set of around 8 documents (texts, images, extracts from school textbooks…) you must choose 3 or 4 of them and write a short analysis / synthesis to compare and contrast them and explain why you chose them and how they relate to one of the themes from the programme.
Part 2 : Two exercises of phonology/phonetics and linguistics where you must analyse and explain segments chosen from one of the given documents using technical linguistic terms to show your mastery of the language.
Part 3 : Using the documents you selected in part 1, you have to write a full Unit plan (=une séquence pédagogique) for a given class in high school or middle school. You must explain and justify the order in which you would present the documents to students, the objectives (cultural, linguistic, grammatical, social…), and then explain in detail your unit : number of class hours, integration of the grammar points, activities proposed in class, work produced by students, and even some propositions of how you would evaluate it.
Here is the test paper given in the 2022 session. The jury did announce this summer that for the following sessions there would be fewer linguistics segments to analyse. The linguistics exercises are similar to the second written exam of the pre-2021 concours, and Parts 1 and 3 of the exam have a lot in common with the previous orale épreuve “EMSP”… so once again you could try finding some extra resources in old exam papers/jury reports if needed.
The oral exams take place throughout June and the beginning of July, usually in Orléans (though I suppose this could rotate every couple of years, it’s been the case for at least the past 5 or so sessions). After a preparation period, you do a presentation and are interviewed by a jury of 2-4 people. They are usually a mix of inspectors, professors, and formateurs from across the country. In my experience, the juries were professional and kind. Even if it was intimidating, I felt that their role was not to nit pick or criticize what I said, but to give me opportunities to correct, specify, or go further.
The oral exams generally take place sitting down, though I suppose you could do portions of it standing if you really felt more confortable that way. Unlike the épreuves écrites, the test papers aren’t limited to a selection of themes, but rather they could be based on ANY theme from the full school curriculum, middle school and high school.
Epreuve de leçon (coeff 5)
3 hours of preparation followed by a two-part interview that lasts 1 hour maximum.
You are given a dossier with 3 or 4 documents, along with a header that tells you what grade-level these documents are intended for and some context about a hypothetical unit in which they are used.
Part 1 : You listen/watch the first document which is audio or audiovisual, and must give a 15-minute presentation in English explaining and analyzing it in relation to the context given in the header and one of the other documents in the dossier of your choice. 15 minutes of questions from the jury, still in English, follows.
Part 2 : This time in French, the candidate prepares a 20-minute presentation of a lesson plan (=séance d’enseignement) devised based on the contextual elements and the analysis presented in part 1. They must give precise language and cultural objectives, as well as explain how the documents could be used with students and the specific activities they would propose. The presentation is followed by a 10-minute round of jury questions.
Epreuve d’entretien (coeff 3)
35 minutes, no preparation time.
This one is entirely in French. First, the candidate presents for 5 minutes basically outlining their motivations for teaching, their previous experiences and studies, similar to a classic job interview. This is followed by a 10-minute exchange with the jury.
Finally, in the last 20 minutes, there are two mises en situation given, which the candidate has a few minutes to read before presenting their analysis of the situation and explaining how they would react, using French laws and the Education Code to support their responses. The goal is essentially to evaluate the candidate’s knowledge of les valeurs de la République and their ability to recognize and apply them to different situations.
For example, here are some of the situations given in the 2022 session :
- You are teaching a class of 1e. During a lesson on the Trump presidency, a student shows his support for QAnon and says, “They were right to attack the Capitol, the elections were rigged.”
- You are teaching a class of 2de. You have organized a school trip to Dublin which has been validated by the administration. In class, two students are offended because the trip requires a 150 euro fee to participate.
- You are the homeroom teacher (=professeur principal) of a class of 5e. During homeroom (=heure de vie de classe), some girls tell you that the boys have been mocking their appearance during PE class.
- Crossing the school yard, you see an autistic student being mocked and bullied by a group of students.
While these situations ressemble final exams I had to take during my Master MEEF, such an exercise was not part of the concours before the 2021 reform !
HOW IS IT SCORED ?
Each épreuve is scored out of 20 points, then weighted according to its coefficient to give you a final average score. The coefficient is the weight that a particular épreuve has in the final average. For example, let’s say you get an 8/20 on the épreuve de leçon and a 17/20 on the épreuve d’entretien. If both exams have the same weight, your average for the two would be 12.5/20. However, we know that these exams have a coeff of 5 and 3 respectfully. To calculate a weighted average, you take the sum of your scores multiplied by the respective coefficients, then divide by the sum of the coefficients –> (8*5) + (17*3) / (5+3)
In this example, your weighted average would be 11.3/20. Because you got a lower score on a heavily weighted épreuve, your overall overage goes down. This isn’t SUPER important to know, because the goal is to do well on ALL the épreuves, and the coefficients aren’t really extreme enough to make a huge difference. But if you are pressed for study time, it may be useful to know where your efforts can have the biggest impact.
For the écrits, any grade below 5/20 results in elimination, so even though a great score on a heavily weighted exam can give you a boost and potentially compensate for one bombed exam, if any single mark on the written exams is below 5, then you’ll still fail. For the oraux, a 0 is eliminatory so you are obviously required to show up to every part of the exam !
That being said, you don’t necessarily have to have *stellar* notes to pass… In 2022, the barre d’admissibilité was 7,01 and 7,45 out of 20 for the CAPES and CAFEP respectively. The barre d’admission was 8,57 for the CAPES and 8,32 for the CAFEP. Historically, the accepted average for admission is rarely higher than 9/20.
Phew that was long, but I did promise to tell you EVERYTHING !! If you are currently in a MEEF and/or you have studied for the post-2021 concours and you see any errors or things to add, please send a comment so I can update ! Otherwise, stay tuned for a part 2 on my best study tips !! ❂