Exams

Exams are part of life as a student. Exams are a good opportunity to learn a lot about your subjects and to communicate your knowledge about the subject.

Why are there so few multiple choice quizzes at Danish universities? Why are oral exams so common? Why is group work such a valued working method? How much time should I spend on memorizing facts for my exam?

You can probably think of more questions about the working methods and the standards that your exams are expected to meet at Aarhus University. We have tried to explain some of these issues, which are depicted below.

Your own expectations

Some students prefer to prepare well in advance, others prefer to feel a little pressure. It's a good idea to start thinking about what you expect from yourself for the exam. Especially expectations about grades can often interfere with the exam period and your preparation process.

 

Grading and expectations

Bloom’s Taxonomy shows what is expected from your academic work and can help you focus your daily studies and your exam performance.

Bloom's Taxonomy shows how you should be able to demonstrate that you know and understand a number of theoretical or methodological positions and that you know to apply them and to analyze and evaluate them.

It can help you focus your daily studies and your exam performance, both at oral and written exams. Identifying and distinguishing between the different levels in the exam questions will help you decide how to prioritise them.

The taxonomy places 6 learning objectives in a hierarchical structure that moves from basic to advanced. Generally speaking, if you show that you master the taxonomy’s higher levels you will get you a higher grade. But you cannot skip the lower levels.

Learning objective

How to master the learning objective

Remember

Demonstrating that you have sufficient knowledge of facts, relevant terminology, and basic concepts are ways of showing that you master the learning objective of remembering.

You do this by:

  • Describing

  • Listing

  • Naming

  • Identifying

  • Recalling

  • Recognizing

  • Stating

Relevant actions could be:

  • Describe what happened.

  • State how many...

  • Name who...

  • Describe what is...

  • Identify which is true or false.

Understand

In order to show that you master the learning objective of understanding you must demonstrate your understanding of relevant facts and ideas.

You do this by:

  • Organizing

  • Explaining

  • Interpreting

  • Comparing

  • Translating

  • Paraphrasing

  • Giving examples

Relevant actions could be:

  • Make an outline of...

  • Explain what was the main idea...

  • Interpret a text to show who was the key character...

  • Make a comparison to find the differences that exist between...

  • Give examples of...

Apply

Demonstrating that you can use your knowledge of facts, methods, and ideas to solve problems in new and different manners are ways of showing that you master the learning objective of applying.

You do this by:

  • Showing

  • Using

  • Constructing

  • Examining

  • Classifying

Relevant actions could be:

  • Show that you know another instance of the same.

  • Classify something by certain characteristics.

  • Apply the method used to some experience of your own.

  • Formulate your own questions to ask of the matter at hand.

  • Develop a set of instructions based on the matter at hand.

Analyze

When you master the learning objective of analyzing you are able to examine and break your knowledge into parts and demonstrate that you can distinguish between the different parts.

This you do by:

  • Comparing

  • Analyzing

  • Categorizing

  • Examining

  • Identifying

  • Contrasting

Relevant actions could be:

  • Compare with other matters and find similarities.

  • Contrast with other matters and find differences.

  • Identify any underlying themes.

  • Identify any problems.

  • Create useful distinctions and categories.

  • Examine motives, turning points, important aspects.

Evaluate

Assessing and making judgments through checking and critiquing and justifying your stand or decision are ways of demonstrating that you master the learning objective of evaluating.

You do this by:

  • Assessing

  • Discussing

  • Criticizing

  • Recommending

  • Rating

  • Arguing

  • Justifying

  • Verifying

Relevant actions could be:

  • Discuss whether there may be better solutions to the problem.

  • Rate different solutions.

  • Recommend one solution to another.

  • Critize a perspective.

  • Argue why you think that something is good or bad.

  • Defend your standpoint.

Create

You demonstrate that you master the learning objective of creating when you create something new, a new product or idea or perspective.

You do this by:

  • Creating

  • Inventing

  • Designing

  • Predicting

  • Imagining

  • Formulating

Relevant actions could be:

  • Design one or two possible solutions to...

  • Imagine how you would deal with the situation.

  • Create possible future scenarios with desirable changes.

  • Invent new ways of using...

  • Develop proposals for action to solve the matter at hand.

Oral presentation

6 useful steps when preparing an oral presentation in an academic context.

When you take a course or a class at Aarhus University, you are often expected to give an oral presentation of a certain subject at least once during the semester. The aim is to improve the students’ communicational skills and to give them an opportunity to work with the material in a different media than the written text.

6 steps

Here is a list of 6 steps that are useful to go through when preparing an oral presentation:

  1. Define your subject – formulate your thesis-statement

  2. Structure your material – what to say when

  3. Formulate your presentation – consider the audience

  4. Remember your material – visualise your manuscript, highlight keywords

  5. Give the presentation – speak in a loud and clear voice

  6. Get feedback – ask for comments: What was good? What could be improved?

It is always a good idea to practice your presentation. Have you considered using a webcam?

 

Managing nervousness

Push the wall if you get nervous before presenting or try the 5+5+5 exercise to calm your nerves.

Oral Exams in Denmark

Oral exams are a variable exam format requiring students to demonstrate orally the intended course learning outcomes.

Oral exams usually involve individual presentations and discussions with their teacher and a co-examiner, but sometimes involve groups of students.

Your presentation

At an oral exam you have to demonstrate that you’re able to organise, structure and communicate academic content orally. You usually start by giving a short presentation about a subject, after which the teacher and sometimes the co-examiner will ask you additional questions, giving you the opportunity to elaborate, rephrase and specify the points you make. 

Oral exams have the advantage that you’re able to correct possible misunderstandings or give more elaborate explanations if your teacher or the co-examiner ask. Furthermore, the oral exam provides a situation where you can train useful skills for your working life, such as presentation and communication skills.

The procedure 

Oral exams typically take place at the end of the semester and last 20-30 minutes, including evaluation time and feedback. At the end of the oral exam, your teacher will ask you to leave the room while they evaluate your performance for a few minutes. Then they will call you in again to receive your grade and feedback on your performance.

Be sure to show up well in advance for an oral exam (for instance, 30-60 min.). It is your own responsibility to be present when called in for the exam, and if fellow students decide not to show up for the exam, you will be called in earlier.

Typical Oral Exams

The assessment is based on your oral answer to the question/topic you draw.

  • Oral presentation without preparation: You draw a question/subject from the syllabus at the examination and start to present your knowledge about it in relation to the syllabus.

  • Oral presentation with preparation (with or without aids): You draw a question/subject from the syllabus and are then given a short period of time (for instance, 30 minutes) to prepare an answer before the oral exam starts. Sometimes you are allowed to use aids (books, notes and the internet).

Combined Oral and Written Exams

The assessment is based on both your written and oral performance.

  • Oral exam and a synopsis: Prior to the oral exam you write (and sometimes submit) a synopsis about a subject related to the syllabus. At the exam you'll give a presentation based on the synopsis and demonstrate your knowledge of the overall syllabus.

  • Oral exam and a written take-home assignment: First, you write and submit a substantial written exam on either a set topic or a topic of your own choice. Later, you present your work in an oral exam, discussing it and the academic content with your teacher and the co-examiner.
  • Oral exam and a portfolio: You create and submit a portfolio, either individually or in groups. The portfolio is then used as the basis for an oral exam. Most often you present selected parts of the portfolio and discuss your learning process and academic development.

Nervousness

If you’re concerned about being nervous, it might help to know that both your teacher and the co-examiner are interested in helping you demonstrate your knowledge, skills and competences to the best of your ability - not in focusing on what you don’t know. They will strive to give you a good experience by being as informal as possible and putting you at ease. Read more about handling exam nerves and fear of exams here.

Also, you should be aware that oral exams are actually open to the public, which means that you have the opportunity to see an oral exam before your own - remember to ask for permission before attending another student’s oral exam.

Written Exams in Denmark

There are several variations of written forms of examination, but common to them all is that they are based exclusively on written communication.

In written exams you are expected to demonstrate your academic knowledge, skills and competences as defined by the intended course learning outcomes at all taxonomic levels. Sometimes you can choose to work either individually or in groups.

Types of written exams

 
  • Written take-home assignment on a voluntary topic: You work independently on a written assignment using your own topic and thesis statement within a framework set by the teacher. The assignment has a deadline for submission.
  • Written take-home assignments on a set topic: You are given a number of questions, an issue or a topic which you must work on within a set period of time ranging from 24 hours to four weeks.
  • Product and written exam: As part of your written take-home assignment, you produce a practical and product-oriented element.
  • Portfolio: You submit a collection of academic activities which often includes different types of assignments, including different kinds of media. The portfolio is produced either individually or in groups (usually including an individual contribution or reflection) over an extended period of time. Portfolios give you the opportunity to reflect on your own learning process and academic development.
  • On-site exams: You write your answer to a range of set questions or assignments in a relatively short period of time (3-6 hours) and in a specific location (usually not your classroom and sometimes off campus). You have to demonstrate routine skills and knowledge contained in the syllabus.
  • Standardised exams: You take a test with a few predefined answer options, for example: Multiple choice, requiring students to answer a number of questions by choosing the right answer from a list of options. Fill-in-the-blanks, requiring students to fill in a number of missing elements (often involving words which have been removed from a text). Short answer, requiring students to give a short written answer to a given question or problem.

Useful links:

Counselling and support

  • Studentwelfare.au.dk is a portal by Aarhus University which brings together all the services which are available if you are not enjoying student life. Find counsellors' contact details and learn how to overcome study-related stress, among other things.

  • The Student Counselling Service offers free social, psychological, and psychiatric counselling and treatment for students at higher educational institutions in connection to their educational situation. It is an institution under the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Higher Education.

Studying in Aarhus

  • Aarhus University's website for international students contains essential information about studies at Aarhus University, admission to the university, housing in Aarhus etc.

  • Welcome to Aarhus. Use your next break from studying to discover the city of Aarhus and its university's campus by watching this prize-winning video made by exchange students.

  • Hey you, AU! is a blog where full-degree students can comment, discuss and create networks. student in Denmark, including Aarhus.

  • Student life in Denmark. This Danish government website has information on tuition fees, admission requirements and other practicalities, but also personal stories about what it’s like to study here.

The content of this pages is written by Iris Galili and Inger H. Dalsgaard, Department of Aesthetics and Communication - English, Arts, Aarhus University.