Qualifying Examinations Presentation Tips


(These are tips from other graduate students and professors, and directed mainly at history oral exams.)

Start with “That’s a good/important question.”
Enumerate your answers. This provides structure to an answer, makes it easier to follow, and also offers a natural cadence to end your response to a question.
Reformulate the question. Do this if you don’t understand the question. This also helps to open your response.
Frame the response as if in a written argumentative response (thesis, supporting argument, conclusion).
Do not just fill up time. Make sure to just answer the question and not provide tangentially related information.
Ask for clarification. If you do not know the answer of the question or do not understand, make sure to ask for refinement of the question.
Use historiography as a way to clarify and situate argument. But do not get lost in the historiographical details. Focus on the question asked.
Strive for concise answers. Concise answers convey confidence and clarity. If you provide a short answer, you can also add “I can also elaborate more on this point if you would like.”
End your response with confidence and with a period. Don’t use ellipses or end a response suddenly when you have run out of things to say.

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