Earlier this month, I took the train to Paris to be among the few, the proud: the inaugural cohort of CIMA test-takers. Since I got my results today, I reckon it's time to write about it. The CIMA (certificat international de maîtrise en arabe) will eventually be two tests: the CIMA 1 for levels A1-B1 and the CIMA 2 for levels B2-C2, though CIMA 2 hasn't been released just yet. My fellow test-takers were a diverse crowd, but I think the majority were/are students at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The proctors were clearly acquainted with a number of the participants and were called أستاذ\أستاذة (professor) by them. It was an exciting atmosphere. The day began with the collective exams (oral comprehension, written comprehension, and written production) followed by individual appointments for the oral production.
30 minutes with 35 questions. The questions began incredibly easily and got progressively more difficult. Each audio prompt was played only once. Examples of question formats: select the audio that fits best with a picture, select the logical response to a question, select the correct response to a question about a news report.
My experience: I was glad that the questions started out easy. I was rather anxious and starting with easy questions helped to calm my nerves. As much listening as I've done, I haven't practiced much of this format. When I listen, I can stop and rewind as often as I like. If my mind starts to wander, it's not a problem because I can play it again. Were I to take the exam again (I'd like to!), I would practice paying close attention to Arabic audio for 30 minutes at a desk.
45 minutes with 35 questions. Like the Oral Comprehension, it began easy and got progressively harder (and longer). There were activity announcements, announcements for creation of groups, news articles, emails, text messages, etc.
My experience: I should've taken a cue from the OC and begun with the last questions (or at least taken a quick peak to see how I should pace myself). I took my sweet time with the first half (I was more in study-mode rather than test-mode. When I came across a new word, even if I understood things globally, I still tried to memorize the new word so that I could maybe use it later... this was a poor choice for time) and had to do very quick skim-reads for the last 5 questions.
1 hour for 3 tasks. The first task was to write a story describing a picture (~40 words), the second task was to respond to an email from a friend (~80 words), the third task was to give your opinion on a quote (~80 words).
My experience: I was so worried about finishing in time that I didn't do any pre-planning. In 30 minutes, I had written the minimum for the three prompts. Yay! Unfortunately, what I had written was pretty sloppy and disorganized. I also hadn't written strategically to best show a mastery of various grammatical concepts or more interesting vocabulary. The second half of my time was me trying to repair what I had written, but not daring to x everything out and rewrite. There was a lot of blocked out words and not a lot of in-text organization. Let's just say no one would have been convinced by my third task opinion piece.
10 minutes for 3 tasks. The first task is to introduce yourself (2 minutes), the second task is role play (2 minutes preparation, 3 minutes speaking), the third task is to give your opinion on a prompt (3 minutes).
My experience: Ohhhh I was so nervous. I have very little experience speaking MSA. They informed us in advance that the first task would be introductions, so during the break between writing and speaking, I practiced talking about myself. I didn't memorize an introduction per se, but I made sure I had an idea of what I could say. This was, naturally, very helpful and gave me a confidence boost. The second task was the most difficult for me. The role play task is intended to show how you would use the language in real-world applications (talking to vendors, asking questions for information, etc) and for me the language to do that in is Moroccan Arabic, not MSA. I muddled my way through, though. Naturally, afterward, I thought of plenty of good questions I could have asked that would have better shown off my knowledge. Oh well. The third task went better than the second. I got lucky that it was a subject I have a lot of thoughts about.
During the tasks, the examiner kept a VERY neutral face and (obviously) didn't give any cues/assists when I was stumbling through a sentence. This was jarring as I'm used to talking to speakers who are trying to help me. Once my ten minutes were up, however, he stopped the recording and gave me a "bravo!" with a big smile. That felt great.
Global score: A2
Oral Comprehension: A2
Written Comprehension: B1
Written Production: A2
Oral Production: B1
I'm delighted with my oral production score, but a bit disappointed with my oral comprehension. If I had had a better idea of what to prepare for, I think I could have gotten B1 across the board, but I'm pleased enough with these results as a snapshot in time.
The oral production also motivated me to try talking to Arabic speakers from other countries than Morocco. As it turns out, I can speak somewhat fluidly on certain topics. It's time to branch out.
Full SC Arabic Reading:
Double SC French Reading:
Half SC German Reading:
Arabic Output Writing: Speaking: Corrections are always welcome.