A lot of students are having their oral examinations this week and are terrified because of the new oral format.

In the previous oral examinations (that has been almost unchanged since my days!), students have to describe a picture and then would be asked to discuss a topic. It is a bit more of a monologue and dull.

In the new exam, the picture and conversation components are merged and students can respond to a graphic that could be an anything from an advertisement to a poster.

I really like this new format because I think it is more flexible and it encourages students to give their opinions.

So, what should the student do to score?

While the structure is different, the key is the same.

1. When you meet someone and chat with them, what do you need to be? Charming.

Be absolutely charming and engage the examiner. Imagine you are chatting with a friend and you want to be interesting, witty and funny.

2. You don’t have to be totally politically right, you are a child. The more spontaneous you are, the more interesting the conversation is.

For e.g. the picture could be a health promotion board advertisement, advising students to eat their vegetables. You can say you hate vegetables- come on, it’s only human that we dislike some stuff that are good for us. Tell the examiner why, support with evidence, and what other nutrients you are taking. The examiner may have listened to 1,000 students talk about the merits of vegetables, so your candid reply may be refreshing to him/her.

At the end of the conversation, you could round it up by saying you will still try vegetables despite all the resentment because you know it’s good for you. This way, you are still politically right and yet get to voice your opinions. You need to be measured.

3. Praise the teacher in subtle way
Don’t tell others you learnt this from me. 

E.g. if the picture is about a tuition class, and the teacher asks why you want to be in the class, you can say, “I have such good teachers in school, why do I need tuition?”

That may raise his/her spirits and it never hurts to be on the good side of the examiner. Obviously, don’t get overboard and start bombarding the teacher with praises. You would sound just like an obnoxious bootlicker. Be subtle. 

Hope these tips help.