Archive for May, 2011

Earlier this month, I had my first Danish oral exam in my class, Refugee and Immigrant Health.  In Denmark, oral exams are used as a method to test the students’ knowledge and ability to understand and expound upon the readings in light of the core objectives related to the course.  It is a very common testing method compared to papers, mid-terms, or oral exams in the U.S.

So, oral exams are usually 20-25 minutes in length.  First, I walked in and was asked to pick a question, read it out loud and then confirm that I understood the question.  After that, I was asked to sit down and was introduced to the external censor.  A piece of paper was provided for me to jot down my thoughts.  Next, I gave a short presentation on the question I had chosen.  After that, the course lecturer then asked questions that tested the breadth of my knowledge surrounding the question.  I didn’t feel like it was a grilling session but more of a conversation and a chance for me to express my understanding of the course.  After what felt like eternity but was only like 15 minutes, I was asked to leave the room while the lecturer and external censor discussed my grade.  After about 5 minutes I was asked to re-enter the room and was given my grade and the rationale behind my grade!

My first impressions were oh God, I am about to be grilled for 20 minutes, what if I choose a topic that isn’t my strongest area?  Actually, I did choose a question that wasn’t my strongest area but the main point of this oral exam is not that you know all the answers but that you’ve taken the time to reflect on the readings in light of the course objectives.  Also, if I didn’t know something I would take the question to an area that I was familiar with.  If I wasn’t too sure about a question, the lecturer would ask a question that would help me to continue contributing to the oral exam. So it was really designed to be conversational.

You aren’t talking the whole 20-25 minutes, that time span includes walking in, choosing a question, giving your presentation on the topic, being asked questions about your short presentation, and the discussion of your grade.  Unlike having multiple coursework or exams throughout the semester in the USA, in Denmark the oral exam is your final and only grade.  It was definitely a different experience and it teaches you to articulate your thoughts about the course.  Overall, I think I could get used to oral exams.

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