Oral Tests

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Oral tests come in many forms. Sometimes students are provided with questions before test day to adequately prepare for it, and sometimes they’re provided with general topics. Teachers use oral tests to assess students understanding of concepts, and their ability to explain these concepts to others.

Students are typically assigned topics and have limited time to formulate responses. While preparing answers, develop a brief outline and jot some notes to refer to during your response.


Prepare for oral exams by reviewing concepts you’ll be tested on. Identify main details within lecture notes, textbooks, and other sources. If provided with a general topic, anticipate what your teacher will ask and prepare multiple outlines for each potential question.

Listen Carefully to the Questions

Take notes after receiving the question if permitted. Pay close attention to instructions. Repeat the question for clarity. Don’t hesitate pausing for a few minutes to prepare a response.

Stay Focused on a Topic

Refrain from making multiple points; instead, make a few points and support them with facts, examples, and logical explanations. Refer to concepts from the textbook or lecture notes when presenting your arguments.

Think in Threes

Provide three supporting points to support your position, but be sure that they can be supported with effective arguments.

Pay Attention to Your Appearance

Dress professionally for the test. Teachers are impressed with students who dress appropriately. If you’re unsure of what to wear, wear professional attire that is clean and ironed. Use good posture, alter your tone, do not fidget, and use good eye contact.

Use Appropriate Language

Refrain from using jargon, rarely used words, and obscenities while presenting your answer. Teachers are not impressed when students use big words only to impress their audience. Likewise, do not be arrogant, and speak enthusiastically.

What to Do If You Don’t Know the Answer

Be honest if you’re stumped by a question and provide an explanation for your confusion. It’s possible that the question was not covered in class or the textbook. You might be able to discuss a similar concept. Never panic or appear nervous.

Make a Good Exit

Wait for the teacher to dismiss you after providing a response. Gather notes and other aids and express appreciation to the audience.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice speaking in front of others before taking an oral exam. Create your own questions or ask classmates to create some for you. Practice with a study group and ask a member of the group to record you to critique later. Seek constructive criticism from group members. Practice under timed conditions to mimic test day as closely as possible.

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