How to Prepare for DSST’s Public Speaking Exam

So you’re signed up and scheduled to take the DSST Public Speaking Exam…but you’ve never had to practice for an on oral test before! In fact, the thought of speaking in front of other people frightens you. Don’t be alarmed! As you start to warm up your voice, use these five public speaking tips to guide you towards oratory success.

1. Keep in mind – not only will you have to excel in the speech portion of the exam, but there is also a written section of the test with multiple-choice questions. Start studying for this portion of the exam first. Once you have completely prepared yourself for this section, you will feel confident enough to start practicing the oral section of the exam. Check out our test prep section for practice questions and recommended textbooks. Finish College Fast also offers several questions to help you get your feet wet in the subject. 

2. Practice makes perfect. Practicing your speaking voice is important to acing this exam. Start by writing out an organized speech. Read your speech out loud to a family member or friend and be sure to analyze your delivery and the amount of persuasion in your words. Listen to other people’s feedback and critiques! If you can’t find someone to sit down and listen to you, record yourself instead. This is also another good way to hear and reflect on how you sound.

3.   Take advantage of the feedback you receive and ask questions to your listeners. Identify your current weaknesses and determine strategies to help you improve upon them. Do you get nervous when you see people in front of you while you’re speaking? Focus on a blank wall in the back of the room instead. You’ll get the best results if you practice in front of 10 to 15 different people and implement their suggestions. Ring out your kinks now, so you are in tip-top shape for the exam.

4. After you’ve mastered reading the speech, start transitioning towards improvisation or being able to think on the spot. At this point you should be recording yourself and fine-tuning the structure and organization of the speech. This could be the hardest part when thinking off the top of your head, so it is important to be familiarized with what techniques work best for you.  

5. A key aspect of this particular DSST exam is persuasion. Once given the prompt, utilize the 10 minutes for preparation to develop your stance. It is essential that your speech contain an obvious one-sided position. State your side and back it up with relevant details. 

WARNING: Avoid doing these things during your exam to prevent an automatic failure!

•    Not using the allotted time (speech is shorter than 3 minutes or longer than 5 minutes)

•    Editing

•    Not addressing the topic

•    Failing to take a position on the topic

•    Taking too many positions on a topic 


photo credit: ScoRDS

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