How Do You Prepare For an Oral Exam in Graduate School?

Staff picture
Updated August 4, 2020

Not all graduate programs require some type of thesis, but many programs do require that students complete an oral exam, which is why many want to know how they can prepare for an oral exam in graduate school. When you write a thesis, it typically goes to your adviser and a few others working in your department. As long as they approve of your work, you can graduate with your degree. With an oral examination, you must answer a series of questions regarding your major and topics you studied. Preparing for the test can help you pass it with flying colors.

Practice Around the Scheduled Time

You usually have the chance to schedule your oral examination for a set time of the day. Many students make the mistake of practicing for the test without thinking about when they take it. If you practice late in the afternoon and take the test first thing in the morning, you will likely feel out of sorts during the test. Once you schedule your test time, start practicing for the test at the same time every day. You can ask a friend or classmate to ask you potential questions.

Talk with Others

You are not the first person to ever take an oral exam. If you want to best prepare for an oral exam in graduate school, talk with those who took the test before. Some of your professors and those working in Ph.D programs likely took the same test or a similar one. They can give you an idea about the questions you might expect to see and the type of responses the committee wants to hear. Some colleges may even have sample questions available in the library on campus.

Go Over All of Your Notes

The oral examination is an extensive test that asks about many of the topics you covered in school. Go over your old coursework to identify the reading materials you used and topics found in each class. Now is also a good time to read through your notes and get an idea of what questions you might find on the exam. Make sure that you are familiar with at least one book from each class you took. If you take an oral examination after writing a thesis, you'll want to also go over the research materials you used to write your thesis.

Meet with Your Adviser

The American Historical Association recommends that you meet with your advisor and any members of the examination committee as a way to prepare for an oral exam in graduate school. Your school wants you to pass the examination and start your career off on the right foot, which is why it should give you a list of the professors who will take part in the test. You can meet with them to talk about the format of the test and what they want to see during the exam itself. Those professors may even assist you in paring down your reading list and deciding which topics to study.

Related Resource: Master's in Nursing Jobs

The oral examination is a requirement found in many graduate schools for students finishing a master's degree. It tests your knowledge on many of the topics you learned about in your studies. Practicing, going over your notes, meeting with professors and talking with others can help you best prepare for an oral exam in graduate school.

Latest Posts