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What Is a Colloquium?
(Special Features, Differences and Tips)


A colloquium is an integral part of almost every degree program, but most students hardly know anything about it. They often come into contact with a colloquium for the first time during their studies and feel left alone with the new challenge. For instance, Study Mind provides online tutoring services in regards to colloquium GCSE biology tutor. The universities provide little information about the various forms of this academic event; In public articles, the most important features and differences are not reproduced at all or even incorrectly stated.

High time for a bit of clarification.

There is no such thing as ONE colloquium. Colloquia can run very differently and each variant has its own characteristics. In this article I will therefore show you what you can imagine by a colloquium and how it can be designed in your studies. You will also learn what to look out for when preparing for a colloquium. I will give you the most important tips so that your next colloquium will be a success.

What is a colloquium?

A colloquium is often organized in connection with student papers - in the form of a so-called "defense" of the respective bachelor thesis or master thesis (more on this later). The term colloquium is correct in this context, but the limitation to the examination of scientific papers is incorrect. Because a colloquium is more.

The word "colloquium" is derived from the Latin term colloquium and means something like "conversation". In general, a colloquium is understood to be a scientific discussion. It is about a professional exchange between students and / or scientifically working people, such as doctoral students, postdocs or professors.

A colloquium can be held as an entertainment, a course or an examination. Depending on the form and purpose, there are different characteristics that you should consider when preparing.

Forms of a colloquium

You can read in your examination regulations whether and in what form a colloquium is planned for your degree program. There is a paragraph in which all forms of teaching and examination are described in more detail. There you will find important information about the scope, evaluation and possible registration modalities of the colloquium.

In addition, you can check your official curriculum to see in which semester a possible colloquium will take place. You will also find further information on this in your module handbook or module catalog.

Enough theory. Now let's look at the main features and differences in colloquia. In the following overview I have shown the different shapes for you. Then we go into detail and take a closer look at the special features.


Colloquium as an exchange

The most “harmless” form of a colloquium consists of an informal and open-ended exchange. For example, scientific topics are discussed between students and teachers and discussed on an equal footing. Such conversations take place without a fixed framework and are also not graded - it is only about the exchange of ideas.

At some universities and departments, such meetings are also held among doctoral candidates or bachelor and master candidates. These colloquia are seen as part of the scientific training in which the participants present their current research work. Oral presentations can also be practiced here.

So-called “festival colloquia” are also held on special occasions and anniversaries at the university. In addition to scientists, well-deserved institutions can also be honored in the presence of external guests. Public lectures and scientific discussions are the focus of the celebrations.

Preparation tip:
Inquire about the occasion on which the colloquium is being held: Why is the appointment taking place? Which groups of people take part? What are the goals of the exchange? As a rule, detailed preparation is not necessary - it is more about being able to “have a say” and knowing about current developments in the respective subject area.

Colloquium as a course

In addition to the usual courses such as lectures, exercises or seminars, colloquia are also held at some universities. These often take place in the form of small group exercises, in which the lecturers dispense with frontal teaching and instead lead a lively teaching discussion with the students.

As part of such exercise colloquia, the content from the lecture is typically discussed, detailed questions clarified or additional exercises are processed. At the end of the semester, such dates are also used to prepare for exams. For example, old exam tasks or exam-relevant material are repeated here. Colloquia can also be used as part of internships or as preparation for a thesis.

Participation in such a colloquium is usually voluntary and is not added to the official workload of the semester. For this reason, colloquia are often not assigned any hours per week (SWS) or credit points (ECTS). The content from these courses is therefore optional and not relevant for the exam .

Preparation tip:
See an exercise colloquium as an opportunity to clarify open questions from the lecture and to check your level of knowledge so far. In preparation, you should repeat the content from the official courses (lecture, exercise, and so on). Have any questions already arisen that you were not able to clarify yourself? Take them to the colloquium and put them up for discussion. The same applies to problems with any exercises.

Colloquium as an oral exam

In some degree programs, colloquia partially or completely replace the oral examination on a specific subject. Instead of an oral examination according to the protocol, there is then, for example, an informal discussion. This can take place either in private with the examiner or in a group with several students. Both ungraded and graded colloquia are possible.

The ungraded variant is often viewed as a partial performance of a module, for example to complete an internship or as a passing test of a block course. In addition, a passed colloquium can also be the prerequisite for participating in an exam or for registering a study project. The examinees “only” have to pass the final scientific interview.

The situation is different with graded colloquia. These come very close to a regular oral exam - only the procedure and the framework conditions can differ. The performance of the individual examinees must be clearly measurable in the case of colloquia that affect grades. In addition, organizational details such as the duration of the examination, examination procedure, group size and content should be coordinated with the examiner in advance.

Preparation tip:
Before attending a colloquium with an examination character, find out whether your performance will be graded or whether it is only about passing. For ungraded colloquia, you should make sure that you have understood the core content well. Is there exam material that is particularly important to the examiners? Do you have "favorite questions"? Are there any special terms that you should definitely mention? You should treat graded colloquia as you prepare for a regular oral exam. Also pay attention to the organizational requirements from above so that you are not surprised by the examination conditions.

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