Getting ready

How can I prepare for an oral exam?

Before the oral exam

Oral exams are nerve wracking for most students (and for many teachers as well). It is important to follow some tips to be successful in an oral exam:

1. Learn the subject you are going to be asked about. This means revising before the exam date.  It is not advisable to leave all your revision for the last day, as this may only add tension.

2. Predict questions and prepare answers. Ask friends who know about the subject to contribute as well.

3. Practice in front of a mirror. This will give you an idea of how the examiner/s will see        you during the exam.  Try to be critical about your body language and pick on anything    that should be improved:  speed, pronunciation, pauses, gestures …

4. Practice in the venue where the oral exam will take place too.

5. Ask your teacher about the exam format.

6. Find out about the venue, time and length of the exam.

7. Find out if you will be doing the exam individually/ pairs.

8. Check practicalities (language to be used in exam –if needed-, number of examiners, internal or external examiners,  possibility of choosing the examiner, time to prepare answers, physical characteristics of the venue, possibility of feedback after the exam, access to exam results etc.)

9. Check if you can attend other students´ oral exams. If so, try take on board what you like about their performance.  Also learn from their weak points and think of how you would improve them.

10. If you are going to use a computer, make sure it works in the actual venue. Have a backup plan in case technology is not on your side the day of exam.

11. Get to the exam venue, at least, 10 minutes before the exam but wait until you are being summed.

12. Being late the day of an exam will only add to your nervousness and may have a negative effect on your performance.

13. Dress appropriately for the occasion.  (If you are not sure about what is  appropriate at you University, check with your teacher.)

14. Prepare the material you will be using during the exam and your outfit the day before the exam.

15. Do not leave it for the day of the exam.  You will have enough with trying to relax.

16. If prior to the exam you are in another room with other examinees, avoid conversations related to the content of the exam as this will only create discomfort and unsettle candidates. Stay focused and apply relaxation techniques that will help you to unwind.

17. Switch off your mobile phone before you enter the exam room.

18. When you enter the exam room smile and greet your examiner/s. Put any notes, folders or bags aside, away from your “working area”.

19. Try to show you are relaxed and confident.

20. Don´t rush your answers. You can take a moment to answer.

21. If there is a question you don´t know, say so, but also offer alternatives: what you would do to find a solution, what has been done in other similar cases to the one given to you.

22. Remember your examiner could enter a non-comfort area to test who well you react in such situations.

23. Show that you can handle the situation and provide a plausible solution.

24. Thank your examiner/s after when you have finished the exam.

25. Having a good night sleep the days before will help you feel better and more relaxed. Doing exercise the day before the exam can help unwind too.

26. If the oral exam is in the morning, have a proper breakfast. If it is after lunch, may sure you have a light but nutritious meal.

27. Having a healthy lifestyle will help you do better on the exam.

During the oral exam
  1. Listen carefully to the questions posed to you.

2. Ask for clarification if you are unsure of what you are expected to do or if you have not understood. There is nothing wrong with trying to ascertain the answer to a question.

3. A wrong answer will only give the impression that you have not understood the question and it certainly give you no points at all.

4. If there is any element (i.e. noise, too much or too little light) that could distract your attention during the exam,  point it out and state how it affect your delivery.

5. Control your posture and body language during the exam.  Try to look professional.   If you have practiced, it will come out naturally.

6. Answer questions in full. Try to develop your points, establish connections and relate ideas.  Being monosyllabic will not help you.

7. Speak up and do not mumble or talk to yourself.

8. If your exam is in a language different from your mother tongue, do not ask the examiners for translations of words. Find ways of saying what you mean, even if you cannot get one word/ phrase you need.

9. Make sure you answer the question given. Do not answer something else you have not been asked about.  This could have a negative effect on your grade too.

After the oral exam

 1. Think of your performance critically and analyse  if anything should be reconsidered for future oral exams.

2. Analyze the strong points and the weak sides of your exam too.

3. Ask classmates for feedback and keep a record of it.

4. If your teacher gives you any feedback compare it with your own notes and other impressions about your exam.

5. Ask your teacher for tips for improvement.