Exemption from Communication Skills courses

In exceptional circumstances, students may take an exemption exam instead of attending the Communication Skills course in their faculty. The exam entails giving an academic oral presentation in English on an agreed subject connected with the student's field of study, making use of instructional aids (PowerPoint), and lasting 20 minutes, to a panel of two lecturers. The intended audience is a university educated native speaker who is not an expert in the student's field. This presentation is followed by a question and discussion session. Only minimal notes may be used and the student must demonstrate good academic presentational skills and a sound grasp of the technical terminology of his/her discipline.

There is no automatic right to take this exam. Students should initially contact the English language lecturer responsible for their faculty (see information below) and provide evidence that either their English proficiency is of such a high standard that they would not benefit from attending the Communication Skills course or that it has been and continues to be completely impossible for them to attend the course. Students must either speak to the lecturer in person or by telephone interview.

If permission to take the exam is given, the student should then contact the coordinating lecturer Elena Kirk at least two weeks before the examination date in order to be allocated an exam time.

The examination dates for 2023-2024 are Friday, September 29, 2023 and Friday, January 26, 2024.

Communication Skills screening

XENI003 – Elina Randell
XENL003 –  Pia Rajapolvi
XENM003 – Aaron Orszag
XENT003 – Kirsi Westerholm
Click here for contact information.

Preparing for the exam

You can prepare for the oral communication skills test by taking a look at the guide produced by the Australian National University. Be careful to not plagiarize in your presentation. Here is another  another guide by the University of Southampton on referencing and plagiarism

You can prepare for the field-specific academic reading exam by developing your extensive reading strategies independently and by reading scientific texts and research reports in your own field. Besides the library, you can find suitable texts from your own field at sciencedirect.com. Pay attention to what reporting conventions seem to be typical of your field, e.g. characteristics of quantitative and qualitative reporting, argumentative essays, etc. The most common exam task would be to summarize in some form the main points of a scientific report or article for the purpose of introducing the content in e.g. a seminar situation. Your written submission of work from the exam must be presented in your own words, i.e. you should not try to translate the texts or copy sentences or expressions directly.

Evaluation criteria

tekijä: Riina Seppälä — Viimeisin muutos tiistai 23. elokuuta 2011, 11.53 — Historia

The categories for evaluation are:

  • content
  • fluency and intelligibility
  • accuracy, appropriacy and range of expression
  • presentation technique

N.B. Students need at least a 4 on the scale of 1-5 in order to pass the exam!


5: Well researched using a variety of reliable and up to date academic sources; evidence of original insight, no obvious deficiencies. The stages of the presentation are clearly signposted and the talk is easy to follow. Questions are handled well, restatement supplied where necessary and effective discussion maintained and controlled.

4: Shows clear evidence of effective research, using reliable academic sources. Presentation is coherent and well-structured. The stages are generally signposted well and the talk can be followed without difficulty. Questions are handled well, and efforts made to encourage and control discussion.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Very few if any errors in pronunciation. Speaker is easily understood. Natural flow, confidently maintained throughout.

4: Occasional errors in pronunciation but not ones which affect comprehension. The speaker is understood by the listener and can maintain a reasonable flow in delivery.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Able to handle complicated language accurately at speed. Uses articulate language appropriate to conveying well-developed and thoughtful ideas at the level required by the audience. Confident use of complex sentence patterns and linguistic structures. Uses a wide range of appropriate vocabulary.

4: Able to handle complicated language at speed; some errors made. Language well-chosen for the audience. Mostly competent use of complex structures. Attempts with some success to use complex sentence patterns and linguistic structures. Uses a range of appropriate vocabulary.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Visuals well designed, accurate, appropriately referenced and used competently to support the presentation. The voice is well modulated and the presentation is easy to listen to. Eye contact and body language are successfully used to engage the audience.

4: Visuals contain occasional inaccuracies but used well to support the presentation. Mostly well-referenced. Speech is at an appropriate volume with sufficient intonation to catch and maintain the interest of the listeners. Eye contact and body language mostly engage the audience.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.