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How to prepare for oral examination?

  • #1
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4

Main Question or Discussion Point

Hi!
I completed 1st year of undergraduate program (Math). One distinctive thing I am really bad is... oral examination.
I think the main problem is I don't know how to prepare for it. Let me be more specific: My semester is 4months long. At the faculty we take on so much material every week that at the end of semester I am pulling my hair out, because I am in panic how to take on such a massive exam.
I usually start to prepare myself 10 days before exam. I start reading my textbook which consists of: statement-proof, statement-proof, statement-proof,.... I read, mark, complement it with additional notes,... I do it at least 3times. But I feel like something vital is missing, because even when I do all this, I still have to swallow my fear and panic.
I got through (this year!), but I am (little bit) afraid of the worries and stress next year will bring.
I would be really happy to hear you suggestions and your preparation for oral exams.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
verty
Homework Helper
2,164
198
Whatever you do, don't turn to drink or drugs. That is the worst thing you can do. A little worry is not a bad thing, it can actually help because the teacher will give you some leeway because you are nervous. You just have to say the right things and that is what you have to study for. I imagine the professor is thinking, "he said that, he said that, he didn't say that, 2 out of 3".

I didn't have oral exams but I did have to present a project and one thing that helped me was to break it up into components, so I could learn each component on its own merits. I suppose in math you have results you rely on, so each component is separate in that sense. But try to group them by similarity or whatever means, so it's easier to learn.
 
  • #3
12,667
9,196
Hi!
I completed 1st year of undergraduate program (Math). One distinctive thing I am really bad is... oral examination.
I think the main problem is I don't know how to prepare for it. Let me be more specific: My semester is 4months long. At the faculty we take on so much material every week that at the end of semester I am pulling my hair out, because I am in panic how to take on such a massive exam.
I usually start to prepare myself 10 days before exam. I start reading my textbook which consists of: statement-proof, statement-proof, statement-proof,.... I read, mark, complement it with additional notes,... I do it at least 3times. But I feel like something vital is missing, because even when I do all this, I still have to swallow my fear and panic.
I got through (this year!), but I am (little bit) afraid of the worries and stress next year will bring.
I would be really happy to hear you suggestions and your preparation for oral exams.
I guess, I'm a kind of expert for this question. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. How an oral exam works is a matter of who will ask the questions in the first place. There are professors who simply test knowledge, others test your understanding of the subject. These can be diametric goals, as for the former you need to know definitions and theorems, whereas for the latter you have to be able to explain what they mean. I've experienced both, usually in the role of the guy who had to write the protocol. In at least 9 of 10 cases, the grade was practically fixed after ten minutes and the rest of the exam was only to make sure this assessment is correct. Usually the first impression was also the right one. This has nothing to do with your nervousness or how fast you can answer. It's pretty much more of a human thing. Of course your answers play a role, but professors can distinguish between nervousness and thus probably not quite correct answers, and ignorance.

What I definitely can say is, that personal notes while learning the stuff are a double-edged sword. I once repeated those notes directly before an exam, which for other reasons had been postponed by a few hours. So I used the time to read them again and again. The result was, that other stuff from the book wasn't as present in the exam as it had to be. I was loaded with my scripts instead of the book. It was a subject I only learnt for the exam anyway, so deeper understanding couldn't be expected. However, recapitulation of condensed knowledge might lead to "only recapped knowledge".

In my experience the grades at the end of such exams usually represent the actual knowledge. So do not pretend to be someone else or know what you don't.
 
  • #4
I ran into this forum by chance and could not resist adding my recommendations.
1. Know your subject as well as possible.
2. Find a fellow student to discuss the matters orally, even to test each other.
3. Practice being asked imaginary questions and answering them.
4. Find a mentor, as high as possible up the totem pole, to befriend, but also to discuss the work. I don’t mean you should be a boot licker, but rather that you should always make an effort to expand your horizons.
Good luck!
 
  • #5
34,056
9,918
I usually start to prepare myself 10 days before exam.
The whole semester is (or should be) a preparation for the exam. It is much easier to learn things in a few months than to learn them in a few days. Revise what you learned in the days before the exam, but don't start learning then.
 

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