Hints and Tips
The main advice you'll probably receive is to 'be prepared' and consider what questions might arise, but there are little things that you can do to help you on the day:
- stay calm and pleasant
- listen carefully to the questions
- be well presented. It may well be customary for students in your department to wear a suit. The oral exam is not a fashion show, but you should at least be well groomed and neatly dressed
- don't answer simply "yes" or "no" to questions; on the other hand do not give a prepared speech. Try to answer the question as it is put, remembering that you are engaged in an academic conversation. If you don't understand the question, ask the examiner to repeat the question, or repeat your interpretation to the examiner. If you still don't understand the question, then it is better to admit it than to try and bluff
- be prepared to justify your ideas and conclusions. If the examiners challenge your interpretation but you feel that your case is a good one, muster your arguments and be willing to present your case firmly but courteously. However, if the examiners have identified a genuine weakness, concede the point gracefully. Even if you feel the examiners are unreasonably critical do not become argumentative or allow the discussion to become heated. You can agree to differ and to reconsider the point
- don't be overly worried that some parts of the exam were really difficult - it is only by pushing your to your limits that the examiner can determine your ability.