The Oral Final

The Human Situation is unique on the Houston campus for having an oral final examination. This is a half-hour assessment by a professor who has not been your discussion leader, though he or she has been a member of your team of lecturers (Alpha or Omega). While you will be familiar with this professor from lectures, you won't know him or her that well.

The oral final assesses a different set of capacities from a typical 3-hour written final, and has come to be highly valued by the faculty for allowing a more focused and creative opportunity for students to shine in new ways.  Generally, the exam assesses:

  • breadth of reading throughout the semester 
  • ability to master key themes
  • conceptual fluency 
  • facility in comparing between texts
  • understanding of different text types (philosophical dialogue, epic, tragedy, lyric poetry, medical treatise)
  • ability to synthesize new ideas
  • application of general themes to particular contexts

In a best-case scenario, the exam is an excited conversation between avid readers that flies by. This is the whole point: to initiate a great conversation that will hopefully become habit-forming as the student embraces liberal education.

The oral final is scheduled for you individually at the end of term, so its date will vary according to your preference and professor availability. In the last two weeks of the course, you will be contacted about scheduling your exam, and you will enter your availability online through a url that will be sent to you. You will later find out the date, time, and examiner when the master schedule is published.