Oral exams allow students an opportunity to discuss and defend their level of theoretical knowledge and the extent to which it is related to other available theoretical knowledge in an academic discipline. Additionally students could discuss and demonstrate their integration of theoretical knowledge during demonstrations of assigned tasks required for entry into accredited or regulated professions.

What are Oral Exams?

Oral exams are a method of examining a student’s knowledge and ability to critically analyze and defend it in the present moment. Oral exams can also be used to assess the integration of theoretical principles to real-life situations, scenarios, or to practice settings. Questions and scenarios should be provided ahead of time, so the student has time to research and provide references if desired, or can be provided at the time of examination, if you wish to test the ability of the student to provide accurate and reasoned answers in the present moment. Resources, texts, literature, tools and equipment may be available for the student to refer to, if acceptable.

Oral exams can take place in person or via web conferencing methods. Depending on the Faculty or Accessibility Office requirements, the student may have a support person present. If the oral exam is done via web conferencing, the support person would need to be introduced and be visible to the examiner(s) at all times.

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  • Within University guidelines, draft the description of the oral examination: what it being assessed; how long it is to be; what materials the student can bring to the exam to use, if any; and provide rubrics or other marking criteria.
  • Ensure that the students are appropriately prepared by providing the description and requirements well in advance of set exam dates.
  • Be available for questions and clarification as students prepare.
  • Provide a time schedule for the examinations well in advance to give students time to sign up for their slot.
  • Prepare rubrics, and other marking criteria.
  • If more than one examiner will be utilised share all materials in advance and meet in person or virtually to ensure that the exams will be administered consistently.

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Many resources on oral exams relate to thesis or PhD oral examination and can be adapted to undergraduate settings.

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