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 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 an 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 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 Lisa Lahtela at least two weeks before the examination date in order to be allocated an exam time.

The examination dates for 2020-2021 are Friday, September 25, 2020 and January 29, 2021.

Communication Skills screening

XENI003 – Elina Randell
XENL003 –  Miia Konttinen 
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 University of Southampton here. 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

include presentation skills, professional vocabulary, language quality, fluency, and pronunciation.

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


5: Student is thoroughly familiar with the topic and can respond confidently and spontaneously to complex questions. Presentation is well structured, uses transitional elements, and follows the conventions of the field. Good eye contact, no reading from his/her paper. Level appropriate for intended audience.

4: Knows the topic well. Can handle complex questions with relative ease. Presentation is clearly structured and appropriate to the audience. Consistent use of transitional elements. Good eye contact, minimal need to refer to papers. Level appropriate for intended audience.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Has a very good command of professional vocabulary, allowing gaps to be readily overcome with circumlocutions.

4: Has a good command of professional vocabulary, allowing gaps to be generally overcome with circumlocutions.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Can consistently maintain a high degree of grammatical accuracy; errors are rare and difficult to spot. Correct use of idiomatic expressions and collocations.

4: Can maintain a good degree of grammatical accuracy; occasional errors do not impede communication. Largely correct use of idiomatic expressions and collocations.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Can express himself/herself fluently and spontaneously, almost effortlessly. Only a conceptually difficult subject can hinder a natural, smooth flow of language. Wide vocabulary evident.

4: Fluent and spontaneous, but occasionally needs to search for expressions or compromise on saying exactly what he/she wants to.

FAIL: Does not fulfill the above criteria.


5: Mastery of the sound system of English is obvious. Accurate pronunciation and intonation in most instances.

4: Pronunciation and intonation generally accurate, errors do not cause misunderstanding.

FAIL: Does not fulfil the above criteria.