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I'm trying to explain to some teenagers that I have "assignments", but it always gets translated as
« mission » or « affectation » and they don't understand. The same happens with other types of school work and I don't know the names of them.

At least for me, there are 5 types of school work:

  • School work: Things you do in class. Not graded.
  • Homework: « devoir », school work at home. Not graded.
  • Test: Test on a specific topic in a subject, done at school. Graded.
  • Exam: A big test, usually summarising an entire subject, done at school. Graded
  • Assignment: Take-home work, much like homework, but is actually graded, typically 2 weeks to complete it.

When I asked, they seemed to be clueless of assignments because the only things in the BAC that is taken home are devoirs and the TPE.

Can somebody please clear up for me how to differentiate between these 5 things?

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    I expect some other contributors will come up with different answers depending on their country, school system, age, etc., but this how I would distinguish (mind you, I am Belgian, and when we are talking about school terminology, it differs VERY much between France, Belgium, Switzerland, Québec, etc): anything done in class is named "travaux", whatever is done at home is a "devoir". Pupils and teachers may distinguish "devoir coté" and "devoir non coté", depending if it will be graded or not. A test is named "interrogation". – Greg Jan 22 '18 at 7:50
  • Forgot that one: "interrogations" can also be named "contrôles". – Greg Jan 22 '18 at 7:56
  • @Greg Thankyou for the insight Greg ! – finnrayment Jan 22 '18 at 8:34
  • @Greg Referencing Unlambder's answer, would « devoir coté à la maison » be a somewhat acceptable term for an assignment? – finnrayment Jan 22 '18 at 8:39
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    @finnrayment: bottom line: the list given by Unlambder is correct, but keep in mind that the French school terminology is not "universal", as very much linked to the school system of each French-speaking country. My advise would be to stick by and large with "French-French" common terms, but if you ever use them with a Canadian , Belgian, Swiss, etc. interlocutor, just be mindful they may not use it in the same exact meaning, or even not use them at all (ex: the equivalent of "bac" in (most of) Switzerland is "maturité", and "C.E.S.S." in Belgium). – Greg Jan 22 '18 at 9:56
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These are the types of school work I've come across during high school in France:

generic terminology:

work done at home with a deadline to turn it in (often one week or so) : devoir à la maison (often just "DM")

a small (15 minutes to 30 minutes) test done in class: interrogation

a big (one hour to four hours) test done in class : contrôle , or , devoir surveillé (often just "DS")

a presentation in front of the class on a specific topic prepared at home often by groups of pupils: exposé

some subject specific terminology:

work done as an experiment session with a specific goal at school in physics chemistry or natural sciences often : travail expérimental (often just "TP")

a written test in class on a specific history or geography question (often four to eight pages) : commentaire

a written test in class where you analyse a history or geography-relevant document (about same length as a commentaire): analyse de document

a written test in class where you answer a specific philosophy question (often four hours sometimes two): dissertation

a written test in class where you analyse a philosophy-related text: étude de document

edit: as pointed out by @jiliagre "TP is the abbreviation of "travaux pratiques"

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    There is also examen blanc – jlliagre Jan 22 '18 at 8:40

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