What is an oral exam?
An oral exam, also known as an oral test or the viva voce, is a practice in many schools and disciplines by which an exam candidate is asked questions by an examiner and has to answer them in spoken form. Oral exams are a very demanding experience for most students. To do well on this type of test, you must prepare thoroughly.
An oral examination isn’t designed to test how much you’ve learned in school. It’s designed to test how well you can learn things independently. How quickly can you learn something when someone tells you? Can you figure out what the key points are? Can you figure out what’s missing? If they give you some information and it seems wrong, can you figure out why?
In most American colleges and universities, formal oral exams are reserved for the end of a course or an academic term or during an exam season. The professor or a teaching assistant (TA) typically administers the oral examination. It may be used to supplement or replace the written examination to evaluate you.
What Does an Oral Exam Look Like?
One professor in their office usually conducts an oral examination. There may be two professors in larger courses, but this is rare. Although there may be other students waiting to take their exams outside your professor’s door, none will be present in the room with you during your exam.
Oral examination of the medical students is very common, especially the postgraduate medical examinations. The reliability of oral examinations has been tested for many years through the scientific approach since it also builds the self-confidence of the learner. It’s a good practice to have oral tests and written tests to find out how much knowledge the students have.
There are two basic types of oral exams:
Informal interview style: You will come into your professor’s office and sit down at their desk. Your professor may ask you to close the door behind you and then launch into the questions. This is usually a very relaxed atmosphere, and the questions tend to flow from one to another without much pause between them. You can take notes if you like, but it isn’t necessary since these exams last only about 15 minutes.
Structured question-and-answer format: You will come into your professor’s office and sit in a chair facing them across. The examiners will ask you questions based on your research area. They will expect you to provide relevant answers to the question being asked and include relevant points from the background reading. In addition, they will expect you to provide reasoned arguments and conclusions where appropriate.
When it comes to oral exams, many of us have many questions about the exam, what skills we need to succeed, and how to prepare for it. Luckily, some resources at your disposal can help you get ready for an oral examination, and all they take is a little digging and some practice.
In this post, we’ll discuss the following strategies and tips to help you prepare for your oral examinations so that when the day arrives, you’ll be ready to ace it.
1. Practice the skills you need to speak confidently.
To prepare for your oral examination, such as the TOEFL speaking section, you should practice the skills you need to speak confidently.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
- Practice with a friend or family member.
- Practice with a teacher or their assistant.
- Practice on a video camera, using your laptop or smartphone.
While practising, make sure to:
Give long answers that last at least 30-60 seconds. That way, you can ensure that you have enough time to complete your answer when it’s time for the real test, where there are time restrictions
Record yourself to hear how clear and easy to understand your speech is. This will help you realize if there are any improvements to be made.
2. Make sure you know the format of the exam ahead of time.
The first step to acing your exam is to gather as much information as possible. When you take an exam, you should have a fairly clear idea of what the format will be. What types of questions will you be asked? Will the exam feature multiple-choice questions, essay assignments, or both? How long does it need to be? Will you have any company during the exam (a proctor), and how many people will be in the room with you?
3. Ask whether you need to provide paper copies of your research.
You’ll need to understand what is required to complete the exam. It’s also important to ask your instructor whether you are allowed to use a laptop or tablet in class, and if so, what specifications you should consider before buying or borrowing one. For instance, an older machine might not be able to open certain kinds of files or presentations the way a newer device could.
4. Plan your outfit for your oral examination.
You’ll have plenty to worry about on the day of your exam. One thing you won’t want to add is how uncomfortable you are in what you’re wearing and how this may affect your confidence. When planning your outfit, make sure it’s something that will make you feel confident and comfortable.
The most important idea to remember when choosing an outfit is that the clothes you wear can affect how others perceive and interact with you. If your goal is to impress a panel of examiners, dress as if they were a potential employer—and choose an outfit that says “professional.” If your goal is to project casual competence and confidence, choose something casual but not sloppy or unkempt.
Finally, don’t forget comfort! No matter the occasion, anything so tight, too loose, or highly constrictive will only leave you distracted from the task at hand: speaking clearly and confidently in front of an audience.
5. Don’t forget to eat and sleep well before the test.
Make sure to eat a balanced meal and get a good night’s sleep before the exam. The last thing you want is sitting for four hours with an empty stomach and fatigue-induced brain fog. A good rule of thumb: Avoid foods that will make you feel sleepy or bloated, lest you spend your precious energy fighting off an energy slump in the middle of your test.
If hunger strikes during the exam, don’t panic! There’s usually a 15-minute break halfway through, which is more than enough time to scarf down an apple or banana and take care of any other necessities (e.g., using the restroom). For this reason, it’s also advisable to avoid eating anything that would give you bad breath during the exam (you’ll thank yourself later).
6. Get a good night’s sleep before the test.
One of the best things you can do to get ready for a test is to get quality sleep the night before. A good night’s sleep helps you retain newly learned information, which will benefit you during a test.
Sleep deprivation puts your body under stress and makes it hard to concentrate and remember new facts. The best way is to ensure you’re getting enough rest is to monitor your energy level throughout the day.
If you become tired in the mid-afternoon and need caffeine or even a quick nap, that’s probably a sign that you need more sleep at night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night, though some people may need more or less than this amount.
7. Make note cards, but don’t memorize them!
Keep the notecards you make focused on your main points and in order. Don’t try to memorize your note cards. Instead, they are a reminder of what information you want to include in your speech. Notecards are meant to help calm you down and give you something to refer to during the speech, not be a teleprompter for you to read from.
Putting too much information on a card can be overwhelming and confusing, so let each card be about one main idea. If you have several details about that idea, then separate them into different cards or write them out as bullet points on the same card.
As for how many notecards are enough: well, that depends on how long you plan for your speech to be.
8. Prepare yourself psychically as well as mentally.
- Sleep. You’ve heard it before, but sleep is extremely important for your ability to think clearly and focus on the task at hand. Try to get a full eight hours every night before the exam.
- Eat breakfast. Everyone’s body is different, so experiment with what foods you should eat to have the most energy in the morning.
- Avoid junk food. While sugary and fatty foods might seem like they’ll give you a burst of energy, they often leave you feeling worse after they wear off.
- Drink water throughout (and only water). Caffeine can make it difficult for people to concentrate on their studies if overused, and alcohol can mess with their sleep schedule. During study sessions, stay hydrated! It will help keep your brain running smoothly and alertly.
9. Arrive early.
The first and perhaps most important thing to remember when taking a test is to arrive early. If you enter the testing room late, you indicate that you are disorganized and disrespectful. This will get your professor’s day off to the wrong start, but it will also make him, or her think less of you.
Instead of arriving late for an exam, get there at least fifteen minutes early. This way, you can calmly read over your notes from the course one more time and perform any last-minute strategic studying while everyone else is still filing in. You will already be in the right mindset when the professor begins giving instructions. Plus, if you need to use the bathroom just before taking a test (which we all do), being early allows ample time for such things.
10. Please don’t rush through things without thinking them through first.
One of the biggest mistakes test takers makes is jumping into a question without thinking about it first. It’s understandable, as you probably want to get the exam over with as quickly as possible. But rushing through your answers only increases your chances of making careless errors.
Before answering any question, one of the tactics of oral exams is to listen keenly and think about the correct answer. This process should take a minute or two, but don’t rush through it! If you have time, try jotting down some notes on paper too.
By not starting to speak immediately after reading or listening to the question, you’ll prevent yourself from shooting off an answer that may be wrong. When giving your response, remember to sound confident rather than uncertain and pause now and then between sentences to catch your breath (it can help clear your mind in addition to sounding much more professional in relaying your key arguments).
An oral examination may sound intimidating, but it’s just a conversation between you and your examining professors. Why is everyone so nervous? It’s a well-known fact that talking to people is hard.
If you’re well prepared, the exam will be a piece of cake. Remember: YOU are the expert. You’ve spent at least three years studying this subject in great detail; it’s no exaggeration that you’re one of the foremost experts on this topic in existence. The panellists are there to ask questions about what you know. They’re not trying to trick you; they want to make sure that you have a thorough understanding of your research area and can answer any question with confidence. If anything, their goal is to help you succeed and affirm your ability as an expert (even if they don’t show it).
Don’t worry if there are points where the examiners interrupt or ask clarification questions; they want to understand what you’re saying more thoroughly so they can help support your key arguments and assist in demonstrating your knowledge. A good way to think about this situation is as a friendly conversation where everyone has a common goal. That is finding out how much you know and making sure that everyone else knows it too.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does an oral exam mean?
An oral exam is also known as a viva voce. An oral exam is when someone asks you questions verbally about a subject you have studied. It is usually done in front of a group of people or another individual. In most cases, students are asked questions by their teachers or professors.
What does an oral exam consist of?
An oral exam may consist of many things depending on what type it is and what its purpose is. Students are often tested on their knowledge about a certain topic or subject matter. In most cases, it may consist of a one-on-one conversation between the student and the teacher, but sometimes it may also be in front of a panel that will ask the student questions and judges them based on his answers. The questions will usually revolve around the topic being discussed in class. Still, other times they may be asked general questions about a particular topic, whether it was discussed in class or not.
How do you give an oral exam?
A good oral exam is supposed to be a little like an interview. When you interview someone, you usually want to determine whether they understand the concepts and how much they know about the subject at hand. How far can they explain it? But when giving an exam, you want to determine whether the student knows enough about the topic. If he doesn’t, it won’t matter that he can explain things very well; you should continue asking them the questions.
Is the oral exam hard?
Most people find oral exams harder than written ones, but some enjoy them.