Preparation for Online Oral Exams

Oral exams this year may take different forms. The two most common ones are either audio recording or an online video-call session. Check with your department in advance which format they have chosen and what the requirements are. Once you know the format of your oral exam, take a look at the advice below to help prepare for your online exams.

Audio Recordings

You may be asked by your department to do an audio recording in lieu of an in-person oral exam. Here are a few tips to help you with this task:

  • Make sure that you know the deadline (time and date) by when your recording needs to be submitted
  • Make sure you know what file formats are accepted by your department
  • You may already have experience with audio recording through your computer or mobile phone, but it never hurts to familiarize yourself with the workings of it all
  • Make sure you have the most up-to-date version of the app or software you need to record your assignment
  • Familiarize yourself with the tasks you are asked to do, make sure you know exactly what is being asked of you, in which order and how long this recording needs to be
  • In advance, look for a quiet space around the house where you can do your recording
  • Alert your family member or housemates to the fact that you will have to recording an important exam for your university and ask them to not disturb you during this time
  • Prepare your assignment: brainstorm ideas, answer potential questions your examiners have given you, take notes, practice words or grammatical constructions that are hard to say and double-check your grammar and spelling – this will help when you are, for example, reading out a text you have written!
  • If you are given a text to read out loud, make sure to practice this text several times before you do your recording
  • Don’t be afraid to listen back to your recording! It may sound strange to hear your own voice at first, but you will get used to it quickly and it will help you
  • The benefit of doing a recording is that you can re-record! Don’t hesitate to re-record your assignment if you are unhappy with an earlier version
  • Allow enough time to do the task and potentially to re-do a recording
  • Make sure you have all your material (text, questions, notes)
  • Have a bottle of water in reach in case you need to hydrate your voice
  • Don’t be afraid to get help: contact IT, your department, your lecturers if you have any questions
  • Make sure to label the file with your name and name of the recording, e.g. “Milly Meyer – 1st Year German – Oral Exam Recording 2020”
  • Remember: you are doing the best you can under the circumstances and your department knows this!

Online Oral Exams Sessions


Alternatively, you may be asked to do an online session with 1-2 examiners to replace the in-person oral exams. In order to make the most of this opportunity, take a look at this advice:

  • Make sure you know the time and date of your online exams
  • Like in an in-person oral exam, be punctual and perhaps even be online 15 minutes before the exam to make sure your internet connection works well
  • Familiarise yourself with the format and requirements of the oral exam and know what to prepare for it in advance: which programmes/software/apps do you need? Do you have them? Are they working properly?
  • You will need a laptop/computer or mobile phone and internet connection to take your online exam, make sure they all work and are charged for the online session
  • Make sure you know exactly what will be tested (content, grammar, theories, etc., language)
  • Try calling a classmate, friend or family member to try out that everything works, e.g. your microphone and speakers or your headset
  • Practice presetting and speaking in front of other people before your oral exam, e.g. video-call classmates or friends to become more confident about how you sound, look and how it feels to speak through the microphone and in front of the camera
  • Set out what you want to wear during the online exam, it will be one less thing to worry about on the day
  • Allow enough time to prepare for the oral exam – just because it is online, does not mean it is less work
  • Alert your family member or housemates to the fact that you will have to recording an important exam and ask them to not disturb you during this time
  • Scout out a quiet place in your house where you can take the call / video call from your examiners
  • Perhaps discuss or inquire about alternatives if the internet could cause issues and ask your department what happens in that scenario, could you continue via phone or make another appointment?
  • If you are given a task to prepare in advance, e.g. a text: brainstorm ideas, answer potential questions, write down notes, practice words or grammatical constructions that are hard to say and double-check your grammar and spelling
  • Similar to an in-person exam, make sure that you listen to what the examiners are saying and asking you, perhaps take notes when they are asking you questions
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or to alert the examiners when you did not understand or could not hear them (e.g. due to technical or internet issues)
  • Remember: it is OK to be nervous; examiners know this, and they will try and help you feel to feel comfortable in this challenging situation and your nerves will calm down after a few minutes
  • Before the oral exam, make sure to have a bottle of water nearby and have a bite to eat in advance so you are not hungry during the exam
  • Remember: these are unprecedented times and there will be no academic disadvantage for you as a student because of this situation
  • Take a deep breath, smile and speak with confidence, you have practiced this, you’ve got this!

Your exam will be submitted through Turnitin, therefore all normal procedures regarding plagiarism must be observed. Remember also that collusion – cooperating with other people during the exam - is a form of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism – where you resubmit work previously marked – is also a form of plagiarism.  All forms of plagiarism is considered to be serious academic misconduct.  All suspected forms of plagiarism will be subject to procedures as laid out in the UCC Plagiarism Policy.

Exam related videos from the 'Gimme Two Minutes' series!

The Skills Centre 'Gimme Two Minutes' video series, available for viewing on YouTube, focuses on very basic concepts related to the academic writing and preparation skills, delivered by the University College Cork Skills Centre in a short and visual format. These videos can be used as self-learning tools and give you a taste of what sessions and workshops the Skills Centre offers to UCC students.

Useful videos from the 'Minute Methods' video series

This series is brought to you by the Skills Centre Avatars Joey, Millie, Steve and Eunice. The avatars have spent time with the Skills Centre tutors to create short snappy videos that will help you to develop good study habits and academic writing etiquette, all in just one minute.