Support from FASE's Education Technology Office

How do I administer an oral exam in my course?

Updated

Oral exams have several advantages. They offer students the opportunity to show that they've learned the subject matter in your course while also helping them gain important communication and presentation skills. Oral exams can be also help ensure academic integrity is maintained.

Oral exams can be conducted as a stand-alone assessment or as a follow-up to other work (such as a written exam).  

This guide provides an overview of the tools and techniques to help you successfully administer an oral exam in your course.

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1. Scheduling an oral exam

The scheduling tools available in U of T's Academic Toolbox let you facilitate student self sign-up or manually assign students to their slots. These tools include:

  1. Quercus Calendar is a global feature in Quercus that allows you to view assignments and events from all your courses in one place. It offers a built-in Appointment Group option that allows you to schedule and have students self sign up for available appointment times.
  2. MS Bookings is an Office 365 app for booking online appointments. It is available to full-time faculty and staff at U of T.  Bookings needs to be configured but it allows you to book an appointment on behalf of a student and it adds a Teams meeting link to the appointments.

The table below offers a comparison of some of the key features of each tool:

Feature Quercus Calendar MS Bookings
Access calendar Select Calendar in the Quercus global navigation menu. Sign into your online Outlook/UTmail+ account (mail.utoronto.ca)
From the waffle icon (top left) select Bookings from the list of available apps.

View Enterprise Shared Services Bookings page for additional information.
Set-up appointments schedule In your course Calendar, select the Add an Appointment Group option. For detailed steps, see the following Canvas Guide: How do I add a Scheduler appointment group in a course calendar? View EASI's Connect and Learn MS Bookings series for recordings and slides from past live sessions, in particular:  Microsoft Bookings: Office Hours and Writing Centre Appointments (slides contain a Set-Up Cheat Sheet in the Slide notes)
Student booking options Students can only self-sign up. You cannot book a slot on behalf of students. Students can self-sign up or you can book a slot on their behalf.
Notifications and reminders Appointments appear on students' Quercus Calendar.

Students receive email notifications according to their notifications preferences.

You can message all students, only those who have signed up for an appointment, or only those who have not signed up for an appointment directly from within the Calendar (using the Message Students button).
Once an appointment is booked, students will receive a confirmation email to and a calendar invitation with the meeting link.

You can set up your Bookings calendar to send students automatic reminders of their upcoming appointments.


calendar invitation
Adds a link to an online meeting Can be manually added to each appointment slot (link needs to be created first on your webinar platform) Automatically adds a unique Teams Meeting link to each appointment.

How much time should I allot to each appointment?

The time required per student will vary, depending on the nature of the oral exam (e.g., whether it is a stand-alone assessment or a component of a larger assessment),  as well as the number and types of questions you will be asking.  Regardless of the time you allot per student, allow for some buffer time between students to make notes for feedback.

Due to the time required for hosting and grading synchronous oral assessments, they may be best suited for smaller classes or classes with a large teaching team.

2. Preparing students for the exam

In an oral exam, students may be asked to respond directly to an instructor’s questions or present something they've prepared in advance. Regardless of the assessment type and structure, it's important to familiarize students with the format and requirements of the oral assessment, in advance of the assessment as students may not be familiar with the oral format:

  • Discuss assessment format, structure, and technology requirements during class meetings,
  • Offer virtual office hours to answer questions from individual students,
  • Provide students with clear instructions for the assessment, including a rubric with explicit criteria,
  • Provide in-class opportunities to practice the oral assessment format ahead of time (e.g., responding to TA questions during a tutorial)

3. Hosting the exam

You can use one of the available webinar tools to host the exam.  You can either create a separate meeting join link for each student or create and use breakout rooms for the appointments.  

Regardless of which option you use to host the assessment, be sure to have a contingency plan in case of interruptions arising from poor internet connectivity or platform functionality.

4. Recording the exam

Review the recording guidelines outlined in the Assessments for the Fall 2020 to Winter 2021 COVID Year, prepared by Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, University of Toronto Working Group on Assessments (requires log in). The main guidelines are summarized below:

  • Request student consent to record the session.
  • Explain to the student that recordings will be required for regrade requests or as evidence for petitions.
  • If a student does not consent to be recorded, explain to them that they forgo the ability to request a regrade.

Additional resources on oral assessments:

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