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As with coursework, the types of examination will vary from unit to unit.  Many will include an end of unit examination of the conventional form in which candidates answer a number of questions within a given time.  These may be 'closed book' examinations in which the questions are seen for the first time when the students open the exam paper; but they may also be 'open-book', where students already have prior knowledge of the questions and are allowed to bring prepared material to the exam. However 'open-book' examinations also include those where the questions are unseen, but students are allowed to use their notes and textbooks.

Other forms of 'examination' include presentations, assessed seminars and vivas.

Ideas on how to improve your performance in written examinations are included in the next section on TAKING EXAMINATIONS.  For the verbal forms of examination, in addition to the other material included on the CD-ROM within Speaking Skills we have included the following ideas:


Good practice (and hence good marks) can be summarised by:  Preparation - Practice & Prioritising, all of which have been covered in Speaking > Oral presentations and IT Skills > Presentations.  In addition you need to consider the assessment criteria of your tutors, which may include all, or some of the following:

Assessment Criteria

  • Good introduction to start of presentation – aims clearly stated at start.

  • Confident presentation – little evidence of nerves; clear and audible; good eye contact with audience.

  • Evidence of subject research and an understanding of the subject.

  • Well paced presentation – kept to time; presentation material carefully selected to emphasise a few relevant main points; no embarrassing silences; presentation not too fast.

  • Visual aids clear, relevant and well handled.

  • Clear summary of presentation.

  • Question session handled confidently.

Assessed Seminars

Again, this subject has been covered elsewhere in this section of the CD-ROM, but in terms of assessment criteria, your tutors are going to be looking for evidence of:

  • Good preparation – reading around the subject; not just for the seminars that you, or your group, are leading; so that you are prepared to make a contribution to the discussions.

  • Controlling the group so that all take part and not letting any one person (including yourself) dominate the discussions.

  • Asking relevant questions.

  • Arguing your points concisely but well, with good examples where relevant.


Viva literally means 'live voice' and is an oral examination or face-to-face interview with one or more tutors and is often used to help in the assessment of projects.

It can make a difference to your marks provided you know your material.  Their purpose indicates their relevance to assessment as follows:

  • In cases where students are borderline, they can be used to determine if they should be graded above or below the borderline (more usually this form of viva is carried out at the end of an honours degree programme where students are borderline across degree classifications).

  • To ask candidates about specific points in the project which are unclear. – It might be that you undertook a complex study that you did not explain clearly.  The viva is the opportunity to ensure that the tutors recognise that you do, in fact, understand the material even if your explanation in the report is unclear, i.e. it a second chance to emphasise what you know. Alternatively, you may have spent a long time working on an aspect of the project, which is then only summarised in a paragraph – perhaps a problem you overcame that the tutor might not be aware of.  Again this is a chance to ensure the markers are aware of all the hard work you carried out.

  • To verify that the work is yours.

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