Grand Oral

What is the "Grand Oral"

Sciences Po’s emblematic “Grand Oral” examination has undergone a number of changes, both to its format and to its methods of assessment. These changes were presented to and approved by Sciences Po’s governing bodies in June 2016. 

From now on, the “Grand Oral” examination is based on the students’ experience during their final year off-campus semester, whether it be an internship, a study period abroad, a Master’s thesis, a personal project or any one of the specific projects in place in certain Schools.

From their experience, students must extract a research question that draws on the core subjects they studied during their Master’s. In order to pass the “Grand Oral”, which has been given extra weight as a compulsory requirement for obtaining a degree (see article 44 of the Academic Rules and Regulations, PDF, 136 Ko), students must now achieve at least a pass mark (minimum of 10/20). Repeat sessions will be held for students who do not achieve this during the initial exam.

Kinds of "Grand Oral"

  1. If the candidate’s off-campus experience takes the form of an internship, the ‘Grand Oral’ will consist of an oral presentation based on an executive summary (see below)
  2. If the candidate’s off-campus experience takes the form of a thesis, the ‘Grand Oral’ will consist of a viva voce presentation to defend the thesis. The form this will take is decided by each School.
  3. If the candidate’s off-campus experience takes the form of another type of educational project, the ‘Grand Oral’ will consist of an oral presentation of the project itself. The form this will take is decided by each School.

Each School must inform their students of the conditions applicable to the presentation of Master‘s theses, educational projects and apprenticeships. The choice of language used for the ‘Grand Oral’ is decided by each School. If English is used, the student must have minimum C1 level.

Duration of the “Grand Oral”

The oral examination lasts 25 minutes: 10 minutes for the student’s presentation and 15 minutes for discussion on the chosen topic and on future career development, as well as feedback on his or her studies.

Executive summary

The aim of the executive summary is to allow students to present the following elements under clear headings prior to the examination:

  1. Personal information: last name, first name, nationality, School, Master’s programme, details of internship (place, dates, position held).
  2. Precise definitions of the subject’s key concepts.
  3. Fundamental facts and figures.
  4. The issue chosen for the “Grand Oral” within the context of his or her off-campus experience.
  5. a short but precise bibliography (10 titles maximum) which complies with the correct academic guidelines (French or English referencing rules, depending on the language chosen). It should set out in a balanced way the main referenced works, scientific articles and current internet sources.

The jury also relies on the summary to facilitate discussion with the candidate. The student must complete their oral presentation without using notes or documents.

DownloadExecutive summary model (PDF, 217 Ko)

Oral presentation

The oral presentation must not be a simple repetition of the executive summary. It should include the following elements:

  • a brief overview of the details and principal concepts from the document
  • an outline and development of the chosen subject
  • a clear and logically-structured argument
  • a solution to the issue through a combination of academic knowledge and off-campus work experience or research

The jury’s assessment is based primarily on the candidate’s oral presentation, but a manifestly poor executive summary could lead to a lower final mark. The assessment will encompass the ability to conceptualise, to put into perspective, to build and structure an argument, and to link personal experience, knowledge and skills in order to address a complex professional issue. The relevance of the chosen subject, the variety and quality of the argumentation, as well as the student’s critical analysis, both in relation to his or her professional experience and academic achievements, will all be taken into account in the grade. Candidates should be aware that the multidisciplinary vocation of Sciences Po should be reflected in this final examination, culmination of five years of study. Whatever the specialisation, considerations drawn from other academic fields will be expected: history and politics in law, law in international relations or economics, etc. However, the main points of the issue and the fundamental argument should concern the principal course of study.

The “Grand Oral” is indeed an opportunity to monitor knowledge and coherent thought processes, but it is also a test of intellectual commitment. Contrary to a certain legendary “Sciences Po method”, the conclusion to an argument is never a compromise, and even less a refusal to choose or to commit oneself, by using “on the one hand, on the other” or “the truth is somewhere in between”. Whatever the chosen structure, each step should mark a progression in relation to the initial issue set out in the introduction, and ultimately lead to a clear position, whether nuanced or not.

Last but not least, candidates are reminded that absolute punctuality and smart dress are required.


How the summary should be presented

The pages of the executive summary should be numbered, the number of words indicated (800, not including personal and bibliographical references) and be written in Times New Roman, font size 12). Detailed information on how the executive summary should be submitted – in electronic format only - will be sent to students by e-mail at a later date.

In the case of a summary written in English by a non-native speaker, it is essential to have the text checked by a native speaker.  

Schedule for the “Grand Oral” in May 2018

For this examination session, students must submit their executive summary by Monday 9th April 2018 at the latest (before midnight), so that it may be given to the jury members. Any summaries received after this date will not be accepted.