Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


The purpose of any assessment is to determine students’ learning. While oral examinations have been adopted in many education systems, such as the PhD thesis viva and medical assessments (Huxham, Campbell, and Westwood 2012), they are rarely used in undergraduate engineering courses (Baghdadchi et al. 2022) which traditionally rely on written papers. This is not surprising given, generally, the large cohort sizes and the need to efficiently conduct such examinations in a timely manner. It has been shown that widening the range of assessments that a student experiences can lead to a more comprehensive development of the student (Rust 2005) and generally increases accessibility to the increasingly diverse student populations we find in engineering. In this review, the effectiveness of oral exams is discussed and analysed in terms of their historical development, key features and differences from written exams and experience from case studies. The issues of validity, reliability, and fairness are outlined and the feasibility of replacing traditional written exams by oral exams in undergraduate programs, specifically the Mechanical Engineering program, at Imperial College London discussed. It is recognised that while numerous benefits could be provided by oral exams there are significant hurdles that require careful planning and the review concludes with a number of guidelines for a pilot scheme to be enacted over the coming year.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.