Oral examinations are most commonly understood as something like an interview in which students are posed a series of open questions based on learning objectives and requiring a range of knowledge from purely factual information to practical application, such as offering a solution for a case study. But there are a variety of other forms of oral examination with which you might not be familiar …
There is a broad spectrum of forms of oral examination, from the typical forms of individual test, such as oral reports and presentations, through to group exams. Regardless which form they take, oral examinations and their results must be documented in writing, for example, in the form of a protocol. In evaluating group examinations, it is also important that the performance and score of each individual member of the group is reflected in the documentation. Be sure to reference the examination regulations when selecting the form of oral examination you want to administered.
To administer the oral exam as fairly as possible and reduce the fear factor in student performance, students should be made aware of exam requirements and conditions as early as possible. You might consider making sample questions available before the exam or explaining grading criteria (see also “Tips and tricks” below).
To ensure objectivity, it is important that you, as the exam administrator, make clear ahead of time what your evaluation criteria will be and what kind of model answer you would like to see. Especially for oral examinations in the form of reports and presentations, it is important to inform students which factors, other than the content, will be taken into consideration, such as eloquence, form and scope of presentation, etc. It is also helpful to reflect about your own expectations before and during the examination and to carefully consider which criteria best reflect the student’s performance and which more closely reflect the personal preferences of the examiner.
The advantage of oral examinations over written exams is the opportunity to create a more comprehensive picture of the student’s capabilities. They also allow for more flexibility in dealing with special factors of the exam situation or student, such as exam fear or performance stress.