Oral Competency Exam Instructions


Design and deliver an eight-minute PERSUASIVE speech that advocates a new attitude, belief, value, action, or proposal to a specific audience. Although you will give the speech in front of a single judge and a video camera, you are to speak to the judge as if s/he is a member of one of the following social groups:

Before you begin the speech, the judge will ask you which specific group is selected. You are free to choose whatever topic you believe would be relevant to the audience, but you must choose a topic drawn from current issues in the news.

For example, you may choose a topic on media issues and select "state representatives" as your target audience. You then could advocate that state representatives adopt a policy of regulating hate speech on the web. To make sure your topic is current, the judge will expect you to reference a news article that has been published within six months of your speaking date.

Remember that within the context of this exam, an effective persuasive speech involves:

There is a $25 non-refundable fee for this exam.


Before presenting your speech, give a complete sentence outline of the speech to the judge. This outline is part of the competency exam and should display the following: a clear thesis sentence (labeled for easy reference), complete sentences (no sentence fragments) for all major points and all supporting points, a standard organizational pattern (e.g., problem/solution, motivated sequence, topical), accurate use of outline notation (e.g., I. A. 1. a., etc.), and footnotes, endnotes, or in-text citations indicating where in the outline a source is used to support a point (attach a reference sheet if necessary).

Annotated Bibliography

Attach to your outline an annotated bibliography for all sources cited in the speech. Your annotated bibliography should include a full listing of bibliographical information for each source used in the speech presentation and single paragraph summary of the content for each source listed. This is an important document to establish that your research for the speech is original and designed exclusively for the competency exam.

If the outline and annotated bibliography are unacceptable, the best you can receive on this exam is "Provisional Competency." You may move from "Provisional Competency" to "Competency Met" by correcting and re-submitting the outline/annotated bibliography within 10 days of your exam date.


Extemporaneous delivery means the speech is delivered from note cards, or a brief speaking outline (not the complete sentence you provide for the judge). Do not use a manuscript. Do not read the speech. Do not recite a memorized speech. Extemporaneous speaking allows the speaker to adjust the message to the audience. Thus, the judge will expect your delivery to involve behaviors that support the content of the speech: consistent eye contact, vocal expressiveness, gestures and body movement that are controlled and that enhance content, a conversational vocal style, with pitch and rate changes for emphasis, grammatically correct phrasing, avoidance of verbal clutter (e.g., "you know," "I mean," "like-a," "and-uh"), and elimination of distracting mannerisms. A lectern will be available, but is not required. Please do not use audio-visual aids, such as posters, photographs, PowerPoint presentations, or CD/DVDs.

Additional Information

The Oral Communication Competency Exam can be taken only ONCE. If you cancel your reservation, you forfeit the $25 fee. Please give the Communication Department (x5095) 24-hour notice of any cancellation. You may sign up again, but you will be required to pay another testing fee.

Appeal Process

You have the opportunity to appeal the judgment rendered in the Oral Communication Competency Exam. If you wish to initiate this right of appeal, please make this request in writing to the Communication Department secretary within 7 days of the date of your examination. The sole basis of the appeal should be your performance according to the criteria used to judge the speech. In an appeal, two current faculty members within the department separately review a copy of the original speech outline and watch the videotaped speech. They then complete a new evaluation form that is returned to the Department Chair. Once the forms are completed, the majority rules. This is the department's final decision.

Specific criteria for evaluating the speech are listed on the Competency Evaluation Form. For further assistance, see the full description of the Criteria For Oral Communication Competency. To review information about speech construction, take advantage of the The Speech Center.