Oral exam for SSC Certification Oral exam for SSC Certification

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Thread: Oral exam for SSC Certification

  1. #1
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    Default Oral exam for SSC Certification

    • wichita falls texas march seminar date
    • woodmere new york april seminar date
    There have recently been some questions on the new oral exam procedures. Since I just participated (with Nick Soleyn and John Petrizzo) in one of the first two such exams, I am able to provide some information and answer questions. Here's some info on the exam procedure:

    • The oral exam is administered only to those candidates who pass the platform evaluation at the seminar.
    • The examination panel consists of three Starting Strength coaches.
    • The exam is scheduled in coordination with all attending parties, and is conducted over video conference. It takes between two and 2.5 hours.
    • Prior to the oral exam, the candidate is provided with four examination prompts. These are broad questions that cover a range of material. The questions themselves will not necessarily appear as part of the exam, but a candidate that can answer them thoroughly should be well prepared for the exam. A successful candidate should be able to identify all the issues presented in these questions, discuss the basic scientific principles underlying each issue, provide clear analysis, and assert logical conclusions.
    • The exam covers the entire Starting Strength method. The candidate should be prepared to discuss any aspect of it, in their own words, without resorting to memorization. We want to test your understanding, and ability to communicate.
    • Each member of the examination panel selects or creates their own questions. Panel members coordinate so that their questions do not overlap substantially, and all questions taken together provide good coverage of the Starting Strength method. There are approximately six to nine questions per exam, and each question takes about 15 minutes to answer. Questions may lead to discussion and followup by any or all of the panel members.
    • After the exam, each of the panel members submits a recommendation, which can range from an unequivocal pass to an unequivocal fail, with a couple of options in-between. If there is a unanimous pass or fail, then that becomes the exam outcome. In any other circumstance, the candidate gets a writing assignment based on the weak areas in their oral exam. The writing assignment is shorter than the previous written exam, although since this did not happen in the one exam I was part of, I am not exactly certain of the scope and length.


    Hopefully this helps make the process a little clearer. I'm happy to answer questions based on my limited experience with the process.

  2. #2
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    Does this completely replace the written essay? (the old way)

  3. #3
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    Yes.

  4. #4
    Brodie Butland is offline Starting Strength Coach
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    I also just participated in an oral board exam (along with Nick Soleyn and Nick Racculia...with Nick Delgadillo on the phone as well...lots of Nicks), and thought I'd throw in my two cents as well because I know this is new, and new things can sometimes be a little scary.

    Diego covered the process and the goals very thoroughly. The basic point is that the examiners want to be certain that you understand and can explain the concepts underlying the Starting Strength method as a whole. Most intelligent people can memorize a book and parrot statements from a video...what we care about is the depth of understanding, such that you can apply it even to questions that aren't covered in the book.

    In our examination, the two Nicks and I each prepared two questions that we were pretty sure we would ask, along with a third alternate question in case our question ended up getting addressed during follow-ups, or if we ended up having additional time. We coordinated the questions in advance so that there wasn't substantial overlap, though some overlap was to be expected.

    Our questions were broad in nature that would test knowledge of multiple concepts at the same time...they were not questions that can be answered with one or two sentences. We would also ask a lot of follow-up questions, most of which were unplanned and just occurred to us while we heard the examinee speak. I think the best analogy of our examination would be defending a PhD dissertation or arguing before an appellate court. We periodically challenged the examinee, looking for an explanation of why what we just said is wrong, or why a hypothetical situation we came up with on the fly did not contradict the Starting Strength method.

    Here are some preemptive FAQs that may help answer some additional questions with the process:

    Q. Do you really expect me to give perfect answers to every question you ask with no prompts?

    A. No, we don't expect perfection. We know that between the format we're using, your likely nervousness, the fact that this is occurring over a phone conference, and the nature of the questioning that can get quite overwhelming at times, you may periodically use a wrong term or not give quite as thorough of an answer as we would like. What we care about is that you demonstrate mastery of the concepts. If we think there is a missing part to your answer, or you say something that isn't exactly right but we think you may have meant something else, we'll ask follow-ups to give you a chance to supplement or correct. We understand that everyone is human and that sometimes things don't come out exactly the way you intended. Our job is to figure out whether errors or omissions were truly just brain farts, or whether they reveal a more serious deficiency in understanding.


    Q. I hear tell that the presumption is that you fail the oral board exam. Is that true?

    A. In a sense, yes. Just like the platform exam (which Rip is fond of saying has a strong presumption of failure), we're looking for mastery of the material. That means anything short of mastery is not good enough. If we have questions about whether you have mastered the material, we're not going to give an unconditional pass. If we have serious questions about whether you have mastered the material (for example, if you apply a concept completely wrong), or if there are clear gaps in your understanding, we'll likely given an unconditional fail.


    Q. How often do you guys interrupt with or do follow-up questions?

    A. It really depends on the question and response. Sometimes there's a lot of back and forth, other times there's a lot of monologue. It also depends on the style of the particular examiner as well...some panels will be "hotter" than others. My personal style is a lot of interruptions, but


    Q. What can I do to best prepare for the oral examination?

    A. Read the books thoroughly, and devour as many of the articles and videos on the website as you can...but then, most importantly, actually THINK about the concepts discussed. For example, it's easy to memorize and regurgitate the definition of a moment arm and how the book says it applies in a squat...but what does a moment arm truly mean? How do we determine where the moment arms are in a system? Why is the concept of a moment arm important? What does a moment arm signify? If you have thought about all these matters in depth, then you'll be ready to answer pretty much any question about moment arms no matter how out-of-left-field the questions are. The same applies to pretty much any concept in the books as well.

    Another thing that may be helpful is coming up with broad questions and trying to answer them yourself, using the simplest language you can. The prompts you get ahead of time are helpful, but come up with your own follow-up questions as well and try to answer those. IMHO, if you can't explain a concept in simple terms, you don't fully understand it. That's not to say that these ideas aren't complicated sometimes...but you should be able to explain them without resorting to jargon...especially since we know that jargon already and can detect fairly quickly whether you're using it correctly.


    Q. Is this an open book/open note oral exam?

    A. Candidly, I don't know--that's a question above my pay grade. But I was told in law school that if you have to actually open the book in an open book exam, you're in trouble. I would strongly suggest you follow that same adage here even if you are allowed to have notes or the books in front of you, especially since this is an oral examination rather than a written one...unlike a written exam, an oral exam can have dead air, and dead air is a dead giveaway.


    Q. How are you so awesome?

    A. I don't know. I was probably born with it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brodie Butland View Post

    Q. What can I do to best prepare for the oral examination?

    A. Read the books thoroughly, and devour as many of the articles and videos on the website as you can...but then, most importantly, actually THINK about the concepts discussed. For example, it's easy to memorize and regurgitate the definition of a moment arm and how the book says it applies in a squat...but what does a moment arm truly mean? How do we determine where the moment arms are in a system? Why is the concept of a moment arm important? What does a moment arm signify? If you have thought about all these matters in depth, then you'll be ready to answer pretty much any question about moment arms no matter how out-of-left-field the questions are. The same applies to pretty much any concept in the books as well.

    Another thing that may be helpful is coming up with broad questions and trying to answer them yourself, using the simplest language you can. The prompts you get ahead of time are helpful, but come up with your own follow-up questions as well and try to answer those. IMHO, if you can't explain a concept in simple terms, you don't fully understand it. That's not to say that these ideas aren't complicated sometimes...but you should be able to explain them without resorting to jargon...especially since we know that jargon already and can detect fairly quickly whether you're using it correctly.
    Explaining the concepts to people who aren't familiar with them is extremely useful as well. Talking through the foundational stuff out loud makes you interact with the information differently than just "knowing" it. You have to be able to explain your knowledge without being able to backspace and rewrite like you would if you're writing an essay. Again, we're not looking for absolute technical accuracy, but you have to be able to explain the concepts because it demonstrates that you understand them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brodie Butland View Post

    Q. Is this an open book/open note oral exam?

    A. Candidly, I don't know--that's a question above my pay grade. But I was told in law school that if you have to actually open the book in an open book exam, you're in trouble. I would strongly suggest you follow that same adage here even if you are allowed to have notes or the books in front of you, especially since this is an oral examination rather than a written one...unlike a written exam, an oral exam can have dead air, and dead air is a dead giveaway.
    You can bring notes to the oral exam. Brodie's absolutely right, though.

  6. #6
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    I think Diego and Brodie both did an excellent job summarizing the current procedures and addressing potential questions that may come up, so I do not have much to add at this point. However, I will make sure to check in on this thread regularly and will be happy to answer any questions that you guys may have in regards to the exam.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the information, guys! As an SSOC-CA student, I hope to prove myself worthy of the SSC credential at next month's seminar in Denver.

    A few questions:
    -Is the oral exam scheduled two weeks after the seminar?
    -Are the preparatory questions delivered right after the seminar (for candidates passing the platform)?

    In the past, the expectation of length of the written exam was generally 25-55+ pages, single spaced, answering seven essay questions.
    -If a follow up written exam is required, about how many questions do you expect do be delivered? And what range of length would you expect?

  8. #8
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    Scheduling will depend on how many candidates we have to get through and the availability of everyone involved. Expect it to be 2 to 3 weeks after the seminar.

    We'll send the prep questions once your exam is scheduled.

    The follow up will be due a week after the oral exam, but length will depend on what needs to elaborated on.

  9. #9
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    I really like this change. This is a more practical test than the written. Good work SSCA.

  10. #10
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    starting strength coach development program
    Quote Originally Posted by JoeJ View Post
    I really like this change. This is a more practical test than the written. Good work SSCA.
    It definitely solves a lot of problems - current and potential future ones.

    Dr. Nicholas Racculia and I cooked this idea up back in December when I was doing a coaching camp at Iron City Athletic Club. Nick Soleyn has done the legwork of making these things run smoothly and to ensure everyone's on the same page as far as process and standards. As soon as I recruit D'Agostino, the Nicks will be unstoppable.

    The current members of the oral board are Nick Soleyn, Nicholas Racculia, Brodie Butland, Diego Socolinsky, John Petrizzo, Jonathon Sullivan, and Mia Inman.

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