Keep your heart with all vigilance,

for from it flow the springs of life.

Oral Presentation

Part of the assessment in Project Work is the Oral Presentation (OP). While SEAB does its best to moderate and ensure consistency among all presenters, it is also the component that is most subjective. Though subjective, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is unfair. Whether we like it or, we judge others and are judged by first impressions. With that knowledge, students can learn some strategies through OP to present themselves in good light.

Students are graded according to four categories: Fluency & Clarity; Awareness of Audience; Group Effectiveness; and the most unpredictable, Question & Answer (Q&A). This is simply because there is no way to anticipate what questions would be asked. Some colleges tried to game the system by asking a standard set of questions. The list of questions was made known to students who prepare prior. As a result, the entire Q&A was scripted. While that might seem a smart move, it isn't wise as students will need prepare themselves for future situations such as interviews or cross-examination in which any question can be asked. This is a perfect case where learning is sacrificed for grades. 

Yet, to not train nor teach students for Q&A isn't an option either. This year, I came up with three steps to help my students get better control of the situation as well as the means the save themselves from a 'poor question'. The steps are:

  1. Clarify
  2. Paraphrase
  3. Question


Every so often, a student is likely to encounter a question that is either poorly worded or difficult to understand. Students need to be aware that seeking clarification is within their prerogative. Instead of asking for a general clarification, the student should specify the part, phrase or word in the question that requires the assessor to clarify. Otherwise, the question is paraphrased and the student can ask if the paraphrasing is accurate. 

Clarification is a subversive way to pass the role of analysing the question from the student to the assessor. It is likely the assessor will provide further elaboration, simplify or paraphrase the parts in question. Either case, the question becomes easier for the student to handle.

A caveat, of course, is not to seek clarification for the sake of doing so. Asking for clarification on an easy question is communicating the lack of thought on the student's part.


Of all three steps, paraphrasing is the most important. Also, while clarification and further questioning are optional steps, paraphrasing is a necessary and compulsory step any student must take no matter how well they think they have understood the question. Paraphrasing serves two purposes. 

Firstly, by expressing the question in their own words, the student has a better understanding of what is being asked. It is a method to break the question down into its parts. It also communicates to the audience what the question means.

The second is that the question is, in some sense, hijacked. By repeating the question in his own words, the student appears to be answering the question posed when he is really answering his own question. And it is always easier to know and understand your own question! Of course, that is provided that the question has been correctly paraphrased. To express the question that is entirely different from what the original question asked is a poor reflection of the student's ability to comprehend.


Sometimes, all a question needs is a short answer and in such situations, the student might be marked down. To save themselves from such situations, students should ask a related question to help develop the answer further. A longer answer gives the impression of a well-developed answer.

Ananth Pai

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