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What are the Benefits of Oral Exams?


What is an oral examination?

Oral exams typically involve a direct, face-to-face interaction between the examinee and one or more examiners. This interaction can take place in person or, increasingly, through digital means like video conferencing. Examinees are required to respond verbally to questions posed by the examiners. Exam questions can be designed to probe the candidate’s factual, conceptual, and procedural knowledge. Unlike written exams, where people express their knowledge in writing, oral exams test the ability to articulate thoughts and arguments verbally. This includes assessing the examinee’s clarity of expression, language skills, and ability to construct coherent, well-reasoned responses.

The Resilience-Building Leader Program (RBLP®) certification exams are administered orally by exam administrators via video conference. No special software downloads are required. We administer oral certification exams because leadership knowledge can be tested more effectively by oral exam than by written examination. Our exam administrators hold doctoral degrees and have 20+ years of leadership experience.

Our leadership certification exams provide the public with a reliable mechanism for certifying that people demonstrate competency in Creating a Positive Climate, Developing Cohesion, Providing Purpose, Facilitating Team Learning, and Supporting Organizational Learning.

Oral exams assess conceptual and procedural knowledge better than written exams.

Oral certification exams provide a means of assessment that far surpasses the capabilities of traditional written exams. Oral exams provide a comprehensive, interactive, and authentic method of evaluating an examinee’s knowledge and skills. They not only test a person’s understanding, but also prepare them for professional challenges by enhancing their critical thinking, problem-solving, and oral communication skills.

Oral examinations stand out in their ability to assess a person’s depth of conceptual and procedural knowledge. Unlike written exams, which are often limited to structured responses, oral exams allow for a dynamic and thorough exploration of relevant competencies. This format is especially effective in gauging a person’s grasp of complex concepts and their ability to apply these concepts in varied scenarios. The interactive nature of oral exams enables examiners to delve into the breadth and depth of a person’s understanding, thereby providing a more holistic assessment of their competencies.

Critical thinking and analytical abilities are evaluated best by an oral exam.

One of the key strengths of oral exams is their suitability for evaluating critical thinking and analytical abilities. Examinees are not only expected to know the facts but also to reflect, analyze, and articulate their insights in real-time. This process inherently fosters and assesses a person’s reflective and critical thinking competencies, essential skills in both academic and professional realms.

Oral exams are highly effective in addressing concerns of academic integrity. The spontaneous nature of these exams makes it difficult for examinees to rely on plagiarized content, as they are required to articulate their understanding in their own words. Moreover, oral exams serve as a valuable feedback mechanism. For examinees, they offer immediate clarification and guidance on their understanding of the subject matter. For examiners, they provide insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum and the effectiveness of their teaching methods.

Oral exams are more authentic and personalized.  

Oral exams offer a more authentic form of assessment, particularly in fields where verbal communication and problem-solving are paramount, such as in medical education, clinical examinations, and leadership certification. They are instrumental in preparing people for real-world scenarios where they must articulate their knowledge, reason through problems, and communicate effectively. Furthermore, oral exams mirror the type of communication and problem-solving skills expected in many professional settings, thereby providing people with a relevant and practical learning experience.

The interactive dialogue between the candidate and the examiner in oral exams is a fundamental aspect that sets them apart from written assessments. This interaction allows examiners to tailor their questions to each examinee’s responses, enabling a more personalized and precise assessment. It also provides an opportunity for examiners to differentiate between superficial and substantive knowledge, as they can probe deeper based on the examinee’s initial responses.

Sitting for an oral exam helps people prepare for job interviews.

Sitting for one of our oral exams offers practical benefits for anyone preparing for job interviews. Our oral exams provide examinees an opportunity, under pressure, to articulate how they would approach leadership challenges in the workplace. Passing an oral exam helps build confidence, an essential attribute when facing interview panels. The ability to respond to challenging and unexpected questions during oral exams directly translates to job interviews, where situational or behavioral questions are common. The immediate feedback provided during our oral exams is crucial for refining communication styles and improving responses, a key aspect of successful interviewing.

Some people like oral exams. We love that!  

Some people prefer the interactive and dynamic nature of oral exams because it allows for immediate feedback and clarification from the examiner. This direct interaction can be less intimidating and more engaging for those who are more articulate verbally than in writing. Oral exams offer a platform to demonstrate communication skills and critical thinking in real-time, which can be particularly appealing for individuals who excel in spoken expression and prefer conversational forms of assessment. Oral exams also provide flexibility in responses, enabling candidates to elaborate on their answers and showcase their understanding more fully.

Some people don’t like oral exams. We get that too.  

Some people do not like oral exams because the pressure of real-time questioning and the fear of verbal missteps create stress and anxiety. Unlike written exams, where people have time to contemplate and revise their answers, oral exams require immediate responses, leaving little room for thoughtful reflection or correction of errors. This immediacy can be particularly daunting for individuals who are less confident in their verbal communication skills or for those who are more introverted and feel overwhelmed by face-to-face interactions. The subjective nature of oral exams can also be a concern for some people.

What types of knowledge are assessed during our oral certification exams?

The Resilience-Building Leadership Professional® series of leader certification exams assess factual (what), conceptual (why), and procedural (how) knowledge in applicable leader competency domains.

Factual knowledge is knowing what terms and ideas mean. You will gain competence in this knowledge dimension by learning applicable definitions, meanings, and specific details. The key terms and ideas covered in each module provide the foundation for understanding associated concepts.

Conceptual knowledge is knowing the interrelationships among key terms and ideas. You will gain competence in this knowledge dimension by learning how key terms and ideas function together to form a concept; by learning classifications, categories, and principles; and by learning theories, models, and structures. The concepts covered in each module provide the foundation for understanding associated leader tasks.

Procedural knowledge is knowing how to implement processes and carry out procedures. You will gain competence in this knowledge dimension through your experience implementing subject-specific skills, techniques, and methods; through your experience determining when to use appropriate procedures; through your experience discovering or revealing something through detailed examination; and through your experience making judgments and decisions based on given criteria and standards. The leader tasks covered in each module are essential to building and leading resilient teams.

What advice do we have for taking one of our leader certification exams?

Focus on WHAT the key terms and ideas mean. Be able to use them correctly in a sentence. This is factual knowledge.

Focus on WHY each leader task is important, especially in your line of work. Provide examples from your experience. Connect the importance of multiple tasks to show their interdependence. This is conceptual knowledge.

Focus on HOW each leader task is accomplished by you and others in your workplace. Tell a quick story about what works and what doesn’t work, based on your leader/follower experience. If there is a best practice, say so. If there are common mistakes, say so. This is procedural knowledge.

For the first three competency domains, be succinct and don’t ramble. There’s a lot of ground to cover in less than 90 minutes.

If you are sitting for an RBLP-C or RBLP-T exam, more detail is required for the leader tasks in the Facilitate Team Learning and Support Organizational Learning competency domains. You will have about 45 minutes each to demonstrate competence in those two domains, so be prepared.


RBLP® Leadership Certifications


If you haven’t earned one of our leader certifications yet, you can learn more below!

Get RBLP Certification

1.5-hour oral exam.

RBLP is our core leader certification for supervisors and people seeking a supervisory position. Self-paced leader training option available.

Get RBLP-C Certification

2.5-hour oral exam.

RBLP-C is our leader certification for managers and people seeking a management position. Instructor-led leader training course required.

Get RBLP-T Certification

3.5-hour oral exam.

RBLP-T is our leader certification for senior managers and people seeking a senior management position. Instructor-led leader training course required.