Oral Examinations

This web site is intended as a forum for the exchange of ideas, experiences and strategies for administering oral examinations in college courses. This site is maintained by Darin J. Ulness and Drew Rutherford, Assistant Professors of Chemistry at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. This site is a result of a workshop we gave in May of 2002. We were inspired to give a workshop on oral examinations because of how useful we found them to be in our courses. We consider them to be extremely valuable teaching instruments and they have been extraordinarily well received by our students.

We have successfully used oral examinations for the past four years. This includes three semesters of Advanced Inorganic Chemistry and a combined eight semesters of Physical Chemistry I and II. These courses are for upper-level  chemistry majors.  Class sizes ranged from 4 to 26. Interestingly, the oral exams have proven to be overwhelmingly popular with the students (student comments). The primary advantage of oral exams is the intense one-on-one time the professor has with the students. This offers a very clear measure of the students understanding of the course material. The heighten stress of the situation makes most students very receptive to learning and finally the exams proved valuable as practice for the students in dealing with similar situations they might encounter during a job interview or candidacy exam in graduate school.

This site is quite spartan and will probably remain that way, at least initially. But we welcome any one to contribute their experiences (positive or negative) that they have had in giving oral exams. Particularly useful would be information on how you implement orals, what courses, what types of students, how they responded to the oral exams, etc, but any input would be welcome. We will update this site regularly as input from other scholars comes in.

Make contributions by email to Darin J. Ulness


Oral exams in physical chemistry. Contributed by Darin J. Ulness, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.
Talk about teaching:  Significant issues in Oral Examinations. Contributed by Meryl Carlson, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.


A site at Johns Hopkins University (contributed by Meryl Carlson, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.)
Some tips for students (contributed by Meryl Carlson, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.)

Other references

K. Ellis, "A return to oral exams" Communication Teacher (2001, Spring). (contributed by Meryl Carlson, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN.)