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Interactive oral assessments

How shall we test students in Gen-AI age? Interactive oral assessments provide a dynamic, secure, authentic and rewarding assessment solution.

Teachers continue to seek assessment methods that engage today’s tech-savvy students while addressing growing concerns about academic integrity. Traditional exams often fall short on both fronts. However, a dynamic solution is gaining traction: Interactive oral assessments (IOAs). As an authentic experiential assessment, IOAs can be used in formative or summative ways and have a lot to offer.

What are IOAs?

They are brief, unscripted one-on-one conversations simulating real-world scenarios.

The examiner uses pre-defined prompts to frame the conversation, focusing on the learning objectives. The student applies their knowledge and skills to solve an authentic problem, responding to the further prompts and questions (often chosen from a question bank). Yet, unlike rigid exams, IOAs are adaptive, providing immediate, nuanced feedback, based on the student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Like faux job-interviews, they test a student’s application of knowledge rather than mere memorisation of it, helping them develop authentic life skills. Yet, unlike a real job interview, these ‘professional conversations’ come without the pressure of having to ‘land’ a job, and are also characterised by a more relaxed setting than a traditional exam.

As we are rethinking our assessment practices University-wide, you may want to consider IOAs as an option.

Pros and cons


Authentic assessment: IOAs mirror real-world interactions, preparing students for diverse professional situations. These ‘mini job interviews’ help students hone communication, critical thinking, and adaptability—all valuable skills for future careers—in such a way that boosts their employability. They also align neatly with our Graduate Profile. See: authentic assessment.

Deeper learning: The dialogue format fosters critical thinking, analysis, and communication, leading to deeper understanding. As such, IOAs work well in formative contexts.

Safeguarding integrity: The unscripted nature of open discussions makes pre-generated answers or AI-based assistance difficult, upholding academic standards. Real-time feedback allows for immediate clarification and addresses individual student concerns. Face-to-face engagement further encourages authenticity on both sides.

Engaged participation: The interactive nature encourages active participation, likely increasing preparation and accountability of both the student and their assessor. For both, it’s a more personal and rewarding assessment experience than traditional methods.

Reduced anxiety/increased inclusiveness: Compared to written exams, IOAs can be less stressful for students, especially those with language barriers, as the semi-formal dialogue allows for clarification and takes the pressure off from having to perform in academic writing.

Teachers at the University of Sydney who have trialed IOAs say students find them engaging, despite the challenge.

Challenges and considerations

Time commitment: Designing and administering IOAs can be initially time-consuming (3 weeks or more). However, those with experience in using them suggest the individualised evaluation process takes roughly the same time as marking a written exam (i.e., 10-15 mins). For larger courses (>100 students), consider dedicating class time for IOAs towards the end of semester.

Training and rubrics: Assessors require training to ensure consistency and fairness. Recording sessions for moderation is also important.

Making IOAs work in all disciplines

IOAs are scalable and adaptable. Here are some basic examples of how an IOAs might work in various disciplines:

To find more discipline-specific teaching cases with IOAs scenarios, explore the resources listed below.

Dare to explore beyond the challenges

Yes, IOAs require initial investment and training, but the benefits are substantial. They offer an engaging and secure assessment method, preparing our students for success in an evolving world.

Universities worldwide are embracing IOAs. Griffith University in Australia has pioneered their use and has arguably contributed the bulk of resources and research to this assessment method. IOAs have successfully been used by Dublin City University since 2020. Application of IOAs has also been explored by the University of Sydney and the University of South Australia, to name a few.


Here are some of our top picks to explore:

Griffith University: Interactive Oral Assessment, an authentic and integral alternative to examination (Griffith University’s comprehensive and multimodal guide to IOAs, including links to best practice examples from around the globe).

Griffith University video: Interactive Orals: a key to authenticity, employability and risk management (Griffith University staff who introduced IOAs discuss their research in a video presentation).

Padlet: Interactive Orals: A journey into Assessment Design in your Discipline (Discipline-specific case samples from Griffith University).

Assessment Type: Examination – Oral (Interactive) (A resource from Griffith University’s ExLNT or Explore Learning and Teaching site).

Interactive Oral Assessment resource, including example videos and FAQs, from Dublin City University’s Teaching Enhancement Unit.

The University of Sydney: Tell me what you learned (A Teaching@Sydney blog post on IOAs and their experience cases at their Business School).

Individual Oral Assessments – Shahper Richter (B&E) (Dr Richter from our university’s Auckland Business School shares her experience at our Learning and Teaching Community of Interest session).

Employing the interactive oral to mitigate threats to academic integrity from ChatGPT (An advance online publication of an article discussing the potential of IOAs in safeguarding against plagiarism).

Developing interactive oral assessments to foster graduate attributes in higher education (A peer-reviewed article on the benefits of IOAs in fostering student employability and alignment with graduate profile).

A growing community of educators worldwide is refining and sharing their IOA practices, contributing to research and development. Engage with these resources, consider IOA implementation in your course this year, and share your own experience with colleagues.

Want help?

Reach out to our learning design and teaching support team and request a consultation through TeachWell Consult to get some assistance figuring out the best integration of IOAs in your course.

And if you would like to share your experience with the wider community via TeachWell Digital, please drop us a line.

Page added 21/02/2024

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