A Typical Exam Day

If you havent read my previous article on oral exams, I would first recommend you to have a look at it before continuing.

As you know, I’m a previously converted oral exam coward. I hope to have changed a lot of your minds by now about fearing orals, but let’s take it a bit further and talk about what some obnoxious students consider annoying about the orals. I’m going to try to walk you through a typical oral exam so you have a way better idea of what to expect.

The first thing you need to consider on the day of your oral exam is what you’re going to wear. Counter-intiuative I know, but makes perfect sense. To all of the people who are at this stage thinking “But I need to be comfortable! In my country you can show up in pyjamas or naked they wont care!”, get over it. You obviously still have a lot to learn about Italian culture if you think that anyone would ever leave the house looking like that. Now while it’s not necessary to show up in formal attire, showing up in tracksuit bottoms with a dirty t-shirt is not the best idea. Before I go any further I want to assure you that your grade will never depend on what you wear.

The whole idea behind dressing nicely for your orals is purely for the respect you want to show your professor. A tenured and aged professor, with decades of experience after dedicating their life’s work to teaching the gifted minds of the future shouldn’t sit in front of a scruffy student; using the grease in their hair as gel, wearing their ‘cleanest’ t-shirt from the dirty clothes pile. Your professor, who will always show up well dressed, and is there to do what is essentially a private interview with you, deserves your respect. I’m going to reiterate once again that you do not need to dress formally, but if you want to thrive in Italy you quickly need to grasp their cultural cornerstone of “Decoro”.

On the day of the oral you will be sitting in a room full of the students who have also decided to take the exam that day. Usually one part of the room is reserved for where the professor will sit to examine a student, with the rest of the students sitting further away, studying. The most daunting part that you’re thinking of now is “They’re all going to be listening to me, and will know when I’m doing bad”. I can assure you no one cares about you. While you’re sitting in that room, all you care about is your last-minute cramming. With every student ending up going one by one in front of the whole class, you are going to be focused on frantically reading through some notes that you tried to take in last-minute in order to summarise the topics you hopefully prepared for. As mentioned before, in the future when you’re going to have to be talking about complex issues with patients, you’re going to have a whole hospital as your audience. Might as well get used to it now.

The professor will call every student one by one, based on the list of students who registered to take the exam that day. The order can be based on time of sign up for the exam or alphabetical. Once your name is called you sit with the professor and the procedure begins. The first thing that must be done is to mark your presence or absence for the exam, and show photographic ID to the professor as proof that you haven’t hired the class nerd to sit the exam for you. The professor will then start the conversation with you talking about a certain topic and opening the floor to you with a question. Based on this conversation which only takes 15-30 minutes the professor then decides your grade. The best part of the oral exams are you get your grades instantly so don’t have to sit around waiting for weeks to find out if you passed or failed!

Finally you will choose to accept or refuse your grade, and sign the roll sheet with the grade that you and the professor have agreed on. Hopefully after this entire ordeal you’re hopping out of the exam room being one step closer to that years sweet summer freedom.