Oral Round Tips

4:52 PM


The picture above is one of the most embarrassing ones out there.  I was searching for a picture of a bunch of cute Primaries (including my brothers) right before their oral round.  I didn't see it, but I found this screenshot, and I decided that it was appropriate for this post.  I didn't even realize that I had my hand over my face like that at the time, so when I was watching the live-stream later, I was quite surprised and embarrassed!  For those who don't know what is going on in the picture, I was in the middle of a passage and was making the big decision of whether the next words were "they said to him" or "they answered him".  Neither was correct; it was actually "then they said to him".  I was eliminated.

Now while that may seem extreme if you are not in Bible Bee, you contestants know that this is not at all unusual.  We are scored for very little words.  Even saying the plural instead of the singular is considered a 10-point deduction in the oral round, and an elimination in semi-finals.  At first, this seems pretty crazy and pointless, but when we spend so much time fixing the little things, we will naturally get to know the whole passage better and will retain it for a longer time.  Additionally, Scripture comes from God's mouth, so we want to quote it as accurately as possible.

You're probably expecting tips now.  None of us want to be the girl in that picture, and the title of this post does suggest that there will be tips in it :).  I don't want to disappoint, so here they are.  A quick little note first, though: orals is my weakness.  It is very hard for me to recite passages consistently perfectly.  Because of this, I don't want you to think, "Anna Moss says to do _____, so it must be a good thing to do."  God very graciously allowed me to get a perfect oral round score last year, but that may very well be a one-time thing.  Just take the advice that works best for you.  And now, here are the tips...

REVIEW!  REVIEW!!  REVIEW!!!  I don't think that that has enough emphasis.  There is no way that you can be absolutely certain that you are prepared for the oral round.  There is always room for improvement.  I would encourage you to come up with a plan and goal for these last three weeks, and stick to it to the best of your ability.  Because orals is my weakness, it's important that I spend much more time reviewing than I do studying.  This can be hard at times, since there's still so much to learn, but I know that this is my weakness, so I must work on it.  Ideally, you will have a dedicated family member who tests you very regularly.  If you do not, you can record yourself saying your verses, and then play it back.  Make sure that perfection is your standard.  There really isn't any "in-between" room for mistakes.  If you want to have a good oral score, you need to be strict and aim for nothing less than perfection.  This isn't my philosophy for most of my studying, since it is very discouraging for me not to complete goals, but I've learned that it has to be for my memory passages.

Recite to other people.  I'm very comfortable reciting to my mom.  She tests me faithfully and tirelessly, and I know that she understands what I'm going through and is prepared for me to leave out the "that" for the third time.  However, when I recite to other people, I tend to freeze up.  Even reciting to siblings who are particularly good at their verses can make me nervous.  But it is very important to recite others, because you know what?  You will be even more nervous reciting to your judges.  You may not immediately think of anyone to test you, other than your usual tester, but maybe your friends, neighbors, grandparents, or people in your church would be interested.  I know that my grandmother is always very happy to test me, and yours probably is, too.  You just need to ask.

Recite with distractions.  You will be distracted in your oral round.  It may not be the usual distractions that you have at home, but the judges, fellow contestants and their parents, your headset, and cameras (if you audition for Game Show), will distract you.  Personally, I haven't gotten to the point where I can recite in a loud and busy room, but if you can get to this point before Nationals, that's great.  If you can recite with normal distractions, then you will probably be able to handle the ones that you'll have at Nationals.

Recite with a time limit.  To get a good feel for what six minutes is, try to recite five passages in that time limit.  Obviously, we don't know the length of the passages that will be in orals, but you can try different passages to figure out how many verses you can say in that time.  There will be a countdown clock in orals, but if you've never figured out how many verses you can comfortably say in that time, the minutes and seconds won't really mean anything.

Imagine.  When you recite, close your eyes and picture yourself standing in front of two judges.  As you recite, think about how you would handle mistakes in your oral round.  Prepare yourself for how you will respond if you make those types of mistakes, what to do when you get stuck, or when to pass.  Prepare yourself for anything in your oral round.  You may not make that same exact mistake in your oral round, but if you do something similar to it, you will have a better idea of how to fix it for the maximum good.

Read or review all the passages the day before.  This helps you to have them all fresh on the brain.  Frankly, if you haven't said a passage in a few weeks, you're probably not going to be able to recall it very well, so you need to review them all shortly before your round.  If you are a Senior and could say them all in the time between written and orals, that would be great, but if that makes you too nervous, don't worry about it.  I don't think that reading or reviewing them the day before would be too nerve-racking, though.

Alright, we've gone through the pre-Nationals tips now.  These tips are all pretty basic, but it's good to have an overview of what we need to be doing these last few weeks.  I'd now like to give you the tips for during the oral round.

Make sure that you are hydrated, have had a good meal, and your lips aren't chapped.  Reciting for hours on end to prepare for your oral round can make your throat hoarse and your lips chapped.  Bring chapstick to Nationals, and drink plenty (but not too much) water before your round.  The past two years, there has been water very near the room for orals, and I would guess that there will be this year, too.  It's a good idea to take a small drink before you go into recite.  Also, eat enough (and protein) that day.  If you are very nervous, you may not feel like eating, but you'll feel sick if you don't.  It will also help you to focus better if your stomach is not growling :).

Recite at a steady pace.  Don't rush -- if you do, you'll probably end up stumbling over your words.  On the other hand, if you recite very slowly, you'll have trouble finishing within the time limit.  Try to recite about as fast as you normally talk.  You may need to go a little faster or slower, depending on your normal speed, but there shouldn't be a very big difference.  To pace yourself, think about what is coming up next in the passage.

Start-overs, helps, and passes.  If you've been to Nationals a few times, you've probably had an experience where you agonized over whether or not you should start-over, if you needed to get a help, or if it would be a good idea to pass a passage that you sort of know.  There really isn't a "one-size-fits-all" kind of answer to this.  However, you should only start-over if you stumbled over your words and accidentally said them wrong, or if you know that you have messed up.  If you think that there is a possibility that you messed up, but aren't at all certain what you actually should have said, then don't start over.  You'll probably just get to that same part and go back and forth with yourself for awhile about what the correct words are.  For helps/prompts, you just have to know your own personality and tendencies.  If you're not very self-confident, you may feel that you want to ask for more helps than you really need.  On the other hand, just guessing at what comes next can be very bad!  As far as passing a passage goes, you should definitely do this if you are certain that you do not know the passage.  If you think that you might know it, it may be a good idea to ask for a few prompts.  If you can't get started after that, then you can go ahead and pass the passage.  Keep in mind that passing a passage that you are very weak on will give you more time to recite the ones that you are confident on.  However, you will definitely get a score of zero on that passage (which could be considered a 100-point deduction from the maximum total score).

Focus.  You would be surprised at how easy it is to let your mind wander during the oral round.  You feel confident on a passage, so you allow your mind to slip away while you recite, and the next thing you know it, you're at the end of the passage and have no idea what you just said.  Not knowing what you said makes you panic, so you decide to completely start-over the passage to be sure that you are actually saying it correctly.  Of course, this will use up some of your precious six minutes.  This is the story of my Nationals 2014 oral round.  I learned from this that it is very important to stay focused the whole time.  Remove distractions from your mind.  Don't think about how you look or sound.  Don't worry about whether or not you say your verses as eloquently as someone else.  No matter what, do not think about yourself.  Just focus on saying your verses accurately and for the glory of God.  Do it heartily for the Lord!

Remember the One who planned your oral round.  Even though the oral round seems small and insignificant in the eyes of the world, God knows that we care about this oral round, and He loves us.  He planned the oral round to happen exactly how it will happen -- whether you get a zero or five hundred.  He knows that this round is important to you, and He will give you exactly what is best for you in it.  But guess what?  Sometimes the best thing in our mind isn't what is actually best.  The Father knows what His children need much better than they do.  We won't immediately see why God allowed us to blank out at that moment or make the mistake that we've never made before, but we can be sure that it is best for us.  Maybe it will make us more like Christ to make that mistake.  Maybe the fact that we added one letter and missed semis by ten points is going to work something far better in us than we imagined.  Maybe this is just a different opportunity that God is giving us to praise Him.  Whatever happens, we know that God has perfectly planned it for the good of all His people.  Easier to say than to remember, but I hope that the Holy Spirit brings this truth to our remembrance as we compete in three weeks.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
Romans 8:28

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4 comments

  1. Thank you Anna! Orals are definitely my weakness, so this was helpful! And God will help us through our rounds, no matter what the outcome is, because He is faithful!

    And what's funny about that picture+passage at the beginning is before I read the first paragraph I saw it and thought, Oh, that's the passage that she messed up on! (For the record, I don't remember all of the passages that people had, just a few, but I happened to remember this one =D)

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  2. Hi Anna! Just wanted to say that your posts have been such a blessing + an encouragement to me! Keep looking to Him! See you soon!!!

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  3. This is really good. While orals has always been my strong point (though thankfully the past couple years my test taking has gotten better), this was still really helpful. Funny story about quoting with distractions: It was right after our church service, and everyone was standing around talking. I asked someone to listen to me recite a passage. Right then my brother standing next to me asked someone else to listen to him. So we ended up each quoting a different passage to two different people at the same time right next to each other while everyone else was standing around us talking. We each got it right. :P

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    1. Haha! That's great! I should do that to practice reciting with major distractions :).

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