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Workshop – Passing Oral Exams

2020-10-06 @ 10:00 11:30 MDT

Welcome to the first in the ACTWS fall/winter workshop series!

Description: The workshop will cover how a graduate student can prepare for and pass an oral exam (e.g., thesis defense, candidacy), as well as how professionals can prepare for job interviews or testifying in the legislature. 

The workshop will lay out 6 key essential pieces of information that will pave the way for people to have greater success in passing oral exams. The workshop will involve interactive discussion and exercises. 

Outcomes: All attendees will come away from the workshop with concrete exercises and skills to improve their oral exam performance. 


Results: We had 13 people attend this workshop and generated some great discussion. Dr. Foote shared some amazing tips and tricks from his book, Oral Exams: Preparing For and Passing Candidacy, Qualifying, and Graduate Defenses.

Summary: Our workshop focused on the “biggest hurdle in grad school”, candidacy and oral defense exams. We talked about everything from committee selection to the types of questions you can expect in your exam and ways to answer them. Dr. Foote shared his perspective on the five types of exam questions:

  1. Ones you know the answer to and can easily provide it.
  2. One you don’t know the answer to (Pro tip: admit it honestly. It’s ok if you don’t know).
  3. Ones you are unsure of but may have an idea. (Hint: give qualifiers and use probabilities. Draw on the literature).
  4. Ones that you know the answer to but cannot answer for various reasons.

We also discussed ways to prepare, study, and practice to reduce the uncertainty you may feel about your exam outcome.

Dr. Foote shared his strategy for the best prepared 3-minute question answer and his advice for 3 months of preparation before your exam.

A video of the workshop can be found in our members area, so don’t worry if you missed it.

This was the first in our 2020-2021 workshop series. All workshops have discounted prices for members. Don’t be shy, sign up and have access to the workshop for less and recordings of any you miss! An annual membership is only $20 – become a member here.


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PO BOX 4990
Edmonton AB
T6E 5G8

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