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How to study for an oral exam

Updated on May 7, 2015

Step One:

KNOW YOURSELF! There is no right or wrong way to learn, but knowing how you learn is the key to preparing yourself for an exam. People learn by many different ways but there are a few general ways of learning. Reading about it, watching it be done, listening to how it’s done, and doing it for yourself are just a few ways to learn. So, consider how you learn to do things. Think of a task you learned such as changing a tire. Did someone tell you how? Did you read about it? Did you watch someone do it? Or did you do it yourself? Answering these questions will help to gear you towards study habits that work for YOU!

Step Two:

PREPARE YOUR STUDY ZONE. This includes gathering any and all study materials that will help you to study for your exam. This may include notes, books, videos, study guides, practice exams, or even hands on material that allows you to practice your study. Other forms of preparation include drinks, snacks, a comfortable spot, and comfortable clothes to provide an overall sense of well being and prevent distraction.

Step Three:

FOCUS. Going back to knowing yourself, understand what will serve as a distraction to you. Some study help guides will say, “find a quiet place, find a neat and organized workplace.” If these methods work for you, then by all means follow those guidelines and skip to the next step. If you are like me and find that a little bit of background noise helps you to focus, then here are some tips on finding the right ones. If you like to listen to music while studying, consider finding pure beats without words so your focus can be directed on what you are studying and not the words to your favorite song. If you like to hear the T.V going, consider finding videos or documentaries that pertain to your study and will actually assist in your learning process. There are three types of “music” that I find helpful when studying, these are pure beats (classical, r&b, country…etc) binaural beats/isochronic tones, and nature sounds. If you are unfamiliar with binaural beats or isochronic tones, I suggest youtube or doing an online research about them. I have found them to be extremely helpful to study and improve my GPA.

Step Four:

THERE IS NO SHAME IN SUCCESS! I say this because some of these next tips will sound silly but will be very helpful. Here are a few things I have done to prepare myself for my oral exam:

  • Record yourself asking the questions and answers. When doing this recording, be sure to pause between the question and answer to give yourself time to consider the answer when you are ready to replay it back to yourself.
  • If you find that you need more help understanding something beyond the question and answer and reading isn’t cutting it, try recording yourself reading about the subject.
  • If you are tired of hearing your own voice or need to hear it in another voice, consider typing it out and using “text-to-speech” to read it back to you.
  • Ask a friend or family member to join in a Q&A session.
  • If you are unsure about questions you may be asked, search for practice tests online, or go over previous quizzes or tests you’ve been given.
  • Make yourself practice tests. I’ve found that while multiple choice tests can be helpful in beginning to grasp a subject, essay style questions are much better at helping to retain more than just key words, which is crucial for an oral exam.
  • Reword the questions and answers in a way that you can understand and remember much more easily. If you are having a hard time doing this, cross-reference your questions and answers between your notes, your books, and your study guides so, that you can see the different the question or answer is given.
  • If you find that you still aren’t grasping a subject, there are multitudes of videos, information forums, and guides on just about any subject you can imagine.
  • Reach out! Your teachers/instructors are there to help you, use this resource. But, if you find you learn better from peers, ask a friend.
  • If you are having trouble speaking, practice speaking and talking on the subject or any subject that will allow you to hone this skill.


Step Five:


TIME MANAGEMENT. Once again, there is no right or wrong way. You can manage your study time in several different ways depending on what works for you. And keep in mind that what works for you may change and that’s okay!

  • Scheduled days and times – where you schedule specific days of the week and specific times to study.
  • Scheduled times – perhaps you can study every day at a certain time.
  • Scheduled days – you have all day to study or can do some studying that day
  • Scheduled Number of days per week – this is if you can’t commit to certain times or days so, instead of doing that, give yourself a goal of how many days a week you will study.
  • Scheduled amount of time per week- create a goal of how much time you want to or are able to study and keep track so you can meet your goal.


Step Six:

SET GOALS. Start by choosing your goal(s). Your goal is your own, so OWN IT!

If you are motivated by finishing a section, chapter, or subject, make that your goal!

If you are motivated by your TIME MANAGEMENT, then make that your goal!

Not everyone learns at the same pace. Some may learn or more quickly and others more slowly but, the speed of your ability to learn is not the goal. The goal is to take a test.

Set your “test ready” date. This is the date that you believe you will be ready for your test. Allow yourself plenty of time to prepare and don’t rush it. If you find that you are unable to make this goal, set a new goal as closely as possible to the old one so, that you will keep yourself committed without procrastination.

Step Seven:

REWARD YOURSELF! You can reward yourself after every study session or after certain goals, week(s), whatever your preference but creating a good feeling with studying will help to make it less of a pain and more of a gain. It doesn’t have to be something crazy, perhaps a meal out, a drink, a book, a game, a new seat cover… who knows… OWN IT!


Good luck to all on the study journey! If you have any additions to this, feel free to add them in the comments. If you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer.

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