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Public Speaking Test Out

Students who have had significant training or experience in public speaking prior to enrolling in college may seek to receive credit by examination for Public Speaking. Because the course is rigorous, the examination process is also demanding. The process includes two major components--a written exam and an oral presentation--each with specific criteria for successful completion.

Determine Eligibility

Full-time undergraduate students at Virginia Tech who are in good standing and who have never enrolled in COMM 2004: Public Speaking at Virginia Tech may register for the Test-Out. A student may not be concurrently enrolled in COMM 2004. The Test-Out is available only one time to any student who qualifies.

Grades and Credit

A student who successfully completes Parts I and II will earn 3 credits for COMM 2004: Public Speaking. The credit will appear on the student's transcript as transfer credit.

Initiating the Process

Eligible students who are interested in credit by exam should complete the following steps:

  1. Read the procedures, including the timeline in this document.
  2. Submit appropriate paperwork and payment.
  3. Prepare for and take written portion of exam.
  4. Upon notification of sufficient achievement on exam, prepare and deliver speech.

To successfully complete Part I of the Test-Out, students must achieve a minimum score of 80% on an objective test designed to determine the student's knowledge of the basic principles of public speaking. In order to move on to Part II, students must successfully complete Part I.


Students should register for part one by emailing Zack Sowder ( to recieve the test-out form and then follow the required steps. 


Students who take the test out will  be required to pay a nonrefundable $30.00 fee through the Bursar. Once the student has completed the registration process, the Bursar will be notified and the bill must be paid before Part 1. 


Topics: Questions will be based on basic principles and concepts of public speaking, such as audience, ethics, topic selection, organization, presentational aids, delivery, and persuasion.

Format: The test will consist of 100 items in any type of objective format, which may include multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true-false, and matching.

Exam Procedure: On exam day, students will receive a paper copy of the test, upon which they can make notes; final responses will be recorded on an op-scan. Students may not consult any resources (books, notes, other students) during the testing session. Testing papers and op-scans will be submitted when the student finishes the test or at the end of the test session, whichever comes first.

Resources for Preparation

  • Text: Students may review the COMM 2004 Public Speaking text, A Speaker's Guidebook 7th Ed., VT edition by O'Hair et al. The textbook is available through the bookstore.
  • CommLab Student Resources


Scores and Results

Tests will be scored electronically, and faculty will review the results before students are notified that their scores are available. Students will be notified via email whether or not they passed no later than 5 days after the exam. If any student would like to see official results or receive their exact score, they must set up an appointment with Brandi Quesenberry. Those students who have earned a score of 80% or higher may move on to Part II of the Test-Out. Students who scored lower than 80% are no longer eligible to participate in the test-out process.

Requirements for the Informative Speech

  • Issue Analysis Speech: Informative speech on a controversial topic where the speaker presents BOTH sides of the issue in a fair and balanced way.
  • Time: 7:00-8:00 minutes; if this time requirement is not met, you will fail Part II of the Test-Out.
  • Topic: Students who pass the written test (as explained in Part I) must pick a topic for their Issue Analysis speech. See description above for details about the type of speech topics that would work for an "Issue Analysis."
  • Authorship: All materials submitted and presented must be authored by the presenter; sources must be appropriately documented. The Virginia Tech Honor Code explains and prohibits plagiarism. Failure to adhere to the Honor Code will result in a failing grade and student will no longer be eligible to participate in the Test-Out process.
  • Research: Appropriate to the topic, cited in speech, shown in correct APA or MLA format in an attached bibliography. Speakers must orally cite a MINIMUM of 4 sources, which are also reflected in the written bibliography. Failure to cite minimum number of required sources will result in points deducted per missing source.
  • Supporting Materials: Appropriate to topic & audience. (Varied, credible, relevant, and timely)
  • Organizational Pattern: Appropriate to topic, audience, and occasion.
  • Delivery Requirements: Extemporaneous style, business casual attire, MANDATORY use of PowerPoint as accompanying presentational aid.

Outline and Bibliography

  • Format: An outline with bibliography attached must be developed for the speech.
  • Submission: Final outline and bibliography must be submitted on the day of the speech.

Speech Presentation.

  • Date, Time, Location: TBA, dependent on the number of students who are eligible for Part 2 of the Test- Out. Unless otherwise stated, the speech will be given in person.
  • Process: Students should be prepared to present the speech to evaluators (COMM 2004 graduate teaching assistants and/or faculty in the Department of Communication) and to other students who are attempting the Test-Out. Students are also expected to participate as audience members while others are presenting. Students who score lower than a B are no longer eligible to participate in the test-out process. All grades are final. If videotaped, all speeches will be video recorded with copies retained by the Department of Communication.


Evaluation and Criteria

Speeches will be evaluated according to the following criteria, adapted with permission from the Competent Speaking Speech Evaluation Form:

  1. Topic and Connection with Audience: Selection and narrowing of a topic appropriate for audience and occasion; relevance made between topic and audience.
  2. Thesis/Specific Purpose: Clarification of the thesis and specific purpose in a manner appropriate for the audience and occasion. Outline and Bibliography submission.
  3. Support:
    • Supporting material: use of varied, credible, timely supporting material [examples, definitions, testimonial, statistics, etc.], researched materials that are used for logical and well-placed arguments and are appropriate for the audience and occasion; citation of all sources used.
    • Presentational aid(s): appropriate design & use of PowerPoint presentation to support, enhance and clarify your topic. Computer projection is available. Please bring your presentation on a flash drive to access on provided laptop.
  4. Organization: Use of appropriate organizational pattern for an informative speech.
    • Introduction: attention-getter, thesis, appeal to audience (relevance and credibility statements), and a preview of main points.
    • Organization of body enhanced with connectives: signposts, transitions, internal previews/summaries.
    • Conclusion: summary, activate audience response, closure with impact
  5. Language: Use of persuasive, inclusive, clear, and ethical language that is appropriate to the audience, occasion & purpose
  6. Vocal Variety: Use of vocal variety in rate, pitch & intensity to heighten and maintain interest
  7. Vocal Accuracy (Intelligibility): Use of accurate pronunciation, grammar, & articulation
  8. Physical Behaviors: Use of expression, movement & gestures that support the message


Resources for preparation:

  • Text: A Speaker's Guidebook, 7th Ed., VT edition by O'Hair et al. 
  • Critique form to be used by evaluators.


Scores and Results

Speeches will be evaluated by faculty. Faculty will review the results before students are notified that their scores are available. Students will be notified via email whether or not they passed no later than 5 days after their speech. If any student would like to review their results, he/she must set up an appointment with Brandi Quesenberry. Those students who have earned a final score of a B or higher will receive credit for the COMM 2004 course test-out. All grades are final.

  • Registration form available by emailing Zack Sowder ( before April 8th, 2024 at 4:00 PM. 
  • Registration form turned into the Registrar by April 12th, 2024 at 4:00 PM.
  • Bursar Payment Deadline: April 17th, 2023  by 4:00 PM.
  • Written test: Friday, April 19th, 2024 from 3PM - 5PM (room TBD pending number of students).
  • Notification of test grade: Monday, April 22nd, 2024 at 5:00 PM.
  • Presentation: Thursday, May 2nd (room and time TBD)
  • Email Zack Sowder ( to recieve and fill out registration form by  April 8th, 2024 at 4pm
  • Submit registration form to Registrar by April 12th, 2024
  • Once form is submitted to the Registrar, wait until the Bursar's Office bills you and pay the non-refundable $30.00 fee by April 17th, 2024