My students are stressed when doing an oral exam on Extempore. What can I do?

We hear this question sometimes: you are using Extempore as a language lab alternative, assigning oral homework and doing oral exams on it. You've set up really good questions, with timers and one-attempt parameters. You are saving a lot of time, enjoying grading on your couch with a nice glass of Pinot Noir instead of sitting in your office having people file in and out for days...but your students are stressing out about the timers! So what do you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Despite what some students will tell you, attempts do not magically lock themselves. One-attempt questions will only lock after the time to review expires without an answer having been submitted, or if a student tries to leave the page or app after viewing the question...and in that case, they have to accept a warning telling them that they will not be able to return. Make sure they understand this, and that they have internalized it, before you throw an oral exam at them.
  • Set a practice assessment (no timers) right before the exam so students can "warm up", so to speak. Some students forget to click "submit" after recording, for example. This will cause the assessment to lock even if they have recorded successfully, so a practice assessment will refresh their minds.
  • Remove the time to review altogether (but that opens the door to scripting, of course)
  • Require a video response: we've found that students are less likely to make a mistake if they are recording video, possibly because they have to look at their phone/computer while they record, and they don't forget to tap. Video has the added advantage that it allows you to know they are not reading, even if you didn't give them a timer.
  • Do the exams in class. Take the first 5 minutes of class to do the oral exam (phones and laptops are amazingly good at filtering out background noise, so don't worry about multiple students speaking at the same time). This way if a student makes a mistake and locks a question, you can unlock it right away from your phone or laptop and let them do it again on the spot. 

Having said all this...You survived oral exams. They will, too.

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