Oral Examinations: What Medical Students and Examiners think! Comparison of Opinions on Oral Examination

  • Madiha Haque *Fatima Jinnah Medical College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Rehmani Sameerah Ibtisam Fatima Jinnah Medical College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Tajammal Mustafa Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Dammam, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
  • Sadia Qayyum Fatima Jinnah Medical College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Qurrat Ul Ain Tahir *Fatima Jinnah Medical College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Samina Baig Melsing Fatima Jinnah Medical College for Women, Lahore, Pakistan,
  • Farida Rafique College of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, University of Punjab, Lahore
Keywords: Oral examinations, Viva Examinations, Medical Education, Structured oral examinations, Assessment


Objectives: To compare medical students’ and examiners’ views on current oral exam system.
Method: Students of five and examiners from two medical colleges were included. Convenient-sampling was done. Anonymous questionnaires were distributed. SPSS-18.0 was used for data-entry and analysis. Descriptive statistics were computed; Statistical significance was tested using Chi-square.
Results: 347 students (232 females/115 males) and 30 (15 females/15 males) examiners participated. Both parties believed oral exams improve confidence, communication skills and knowledge. 71% (n=161) students preferring a male examiner were females [F(337)=7.869, p=0.005)]. 69% (n=98) students labeling their pre-exam stress severe were females [F(342)=6.602, p=0.048)]. 76% (n=260) students and 33% (n=10) examiners thought syllabus topics are covered disproportionately. 44% (n=58) students scoring poor in oral exams considered number of mocks insufficient [F(330)=.008,p=0.928)].66% (n=111) students agreeing internal examiners frequently repeating questions preferred appearing at middle-late order [F(339)=9.312,p=0.054)]. 73% (n=250) students and 20% (n=6) examiners found time-distribution unequal. >70% students and examiners viewed students’ linguistic-skills, appearance, contrast-error and inter-rater variability as biases influencing results. 28% (n=8) examiners supported mandatory nature of oral exams. No examiner had ever received any training for conducting oral exams. 86% students (n=289) and examiners (n=24) agreed on need of examiners’ training.74% (n=116) of students against current system and 72% (n=20) examiners preferred structured oral exams.
Conclusion: Traditional oral examinations are viewed as necessary, productive, yet inconsistent and biased. Stress is higher in females. Proportionate syllabus content, equal time-distribution and enough mock exams should be incorporated. Question repetition, biases, and poor scores can be avoided by training examiners and/or structured oral examinations.