What is a colloquium?

Written by Christina Pichler, Aug 4, 2022

A colloquium is coming up, but you have never heard of that before. No need for despair. We will show you what a colloquium is, how it is structured and what you should pay attention to. This way you will overcome this challenge and move closer to the finish line of your studies.

What exactly is a colloquium?

A colloquium is an academic discussion among teachers, students or experts. There is not a standard format, duration or even unified structure. On the one hand, this give you a lot of freedom for personal preferences; on the other hand, it makes this task seem overwhelming because you do not have a clear plan of action.

We have created a list of typical situations at university that may include a colloquium, so that you get a better understanding of this concept. A colloquium can be a:

  • (Exam) discussion for academic theses (e.g. bachelor’s and master’s theses, etc.)
  • (Exam) discussion for academic papers during the semester (e.g. seminar papers, etc.)
  • (Exam) discussion at the end of a lecture (e.g. oral exam, etc.)
  • Academic or scientific debates or expert discussions (e.g. Colloquium of Mathematics at the Faculty for Mathematic, etc.)

Structure: A Step-by-Step Guide

Firstly, you should get a better understanding of the format and requirements and answer these questions:

  • Is your colloquium a discussion, a presentation with a Q&A or an oral exam?
  • How long is the presentation and the discussion supposed to be?
  • Is visual input (PowerPoint, etc.) required?
  • Which topics should you prepare? (e.g. material of the whole semester or a specific topic)

Tip: You can prepare more efficiently if you know the evaluation criteria for the colloquium. Ask your teacher or fellow students.

1. Colloquium: Oral exam

It is crucial for oral exams that you know the material by heart. Here are some tips for memorisation!

The exact structure may vary among teachers. Most of the times, the teacher will ask you targeted questions about the study material or ask you to speak freely about a specific topic, which sparks a scientific conversation.

Tip: Ask other students for mock exams and their experience with this professor.

2. Colloquium: Presentation & Speech

If your colloquium is part of an academic paper, then you are hopefully already an expert on that topic. Use post-its and other tools to mark important passages that you will talk about in your speech.

If a visual medium is required, then you should start putting together your PowerPoint presentation. This also helps with getting a better overview of the topic. Here are tips for a successful presentation!

Depending on the setting, your presentation may be 5 to 15 minutes. In this time, you should talk about your topic (research questions, method, results) and important aspects.

Tip: Ask your STUWO flatmates if they can listen to your presentation and give you constructive feedback.

3. Colloquium: Discussion & Questions

A big part of your colloquium are the questions that teachers and students ask after your presentation. Your audience may ask you questions or make arguments. Based on the findings of your work, you should answer these. This part can vary in length, between 10 to 20 minutes.

Tip: Try to think of questions that your audience may have during preparation.

4. Colloquium: Expert discussion

If you are attending a discussion with experts, teachers and students, you should do some research about the topic and read more about it, so that you can participate in the conversation. Most of the times, universities host this type of event and invite experts.

Tip: Look for publications by the speakers to get a feel for the topic.

Colloquium for academic papers: Common questions

During the Q&A, your audience wants to know more about your working progress (choosing the topic and methods), your results and their interpretation as well as future research.

  • Why did you choose this topic?
  • Why did you choose this method? What were the (dis-)advantages?
  • In what way are your results compliant with current research?
  • Which consequences does your field of research have on current or future research?
  • Which resulting fields of research has your work left open?

Dos & Don’ts

  • Dos
  • Respect time limits
  • Prepare presentation & mark passages
  • Answer all questions friendly
  • Give a clear and structured presentation
  • Participate proactively in the discussion
  • Don’ts
  • Extend your presentation to avoid questions
  • Crammed PowerPoint presentation
  • Get panicked because you can’t answer a question
  • Read off of your notes
  • Avoid eye contact


What is a colloquium?

A colloquium can be a presentation with a follow-up discussion as part of an event, but also a (exam) discussion at university between teachers and students at the end of a class or a part of an academic paper.

What happens after the colloquium?

If your colloquium is graded, then the teachers will decide your grade and put it into your semester report. Otherwise, your work is done.

Can you fail a colloquium?

This depends on the evaluation criteria. If your colloquium is graded, then it is possible that you fail your colloquium. Whether that also means that you fail the class, depends on the grading system of this class. It is best to ask your teacher.

A colloquium may seem overwhelming at first glance. However, it is not that bad. With this article, you have a great overview of what is expected of you. If you have any questions, we recommend that you ask your teacher. Here are more tips for oral exams!

Good luck!


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