The EAS Master Beekeeper certification program is a rigorous, four part examination of a candidate’s knowledge of honey bees and beekeeping. The Oral Exam portion of this testing looks at a candidate’s ability to communicate their knowledge of honey bees accurately and positively. Master Beekeepers are teachers and it is critical that they be able to “stand and deliver” under virtually any circumstance. They provide education and support for other beekeepers and serve their communities as experts in beekeeping.
In the Oral Exam, the examiners create an environment that simulates real life for a Master Beekeeper. One part of the testing is to ask the candidate to prepare a presentation on a topic given to the candidate on his or her acceptance into the program. This tests the candidate’s ability to discuss beekeeping as they would to a town planning board, bee club, or other organization where they are able to prepare in advance. In addition, the candidates are given three impromptu questions to answer during testing. These questions are the type beekeepers are asked wherever they might go, including in front of a TV camera or during a radio interview.
Each MB candidate is tested by a panel of three examiners. They have 5 minutes to give their prepared talk, with a few minutes after for follow up queries, simulating a “real” audience. Props such as posters, handouts, or computers with power point assistance are permissible and encouraged for this portion. In each of the three impromptu questions, the candidate is allowed 3 minutes for the answer. The entire interview is recorded.
The examining panelists complete an evaluation form that weighs the potential new Master Beekeeper’s accuracy and completeness, delivery and presentation, ambassadorship, preparedness and listening skills. Each question is worth 25 points; the candidate must earn a score of 85 or higher from two of the three examiners in order to pass. Constructive comments as feedback complete the form, which candidates receive for their personal review when they receive their test results later in the conference week.
The testing of a Master Beekeeper is a learning process whether the candidate is successful in passing or not. It is not unusual for a candidate to pass only a portion of the four exams on the first try.
The Oral Exam is an opportunity to let a candidate’s knowledge and confidence shine. A Master Beekeeper will represent the beekeeping industry to the public and press, and bears a weight of responsibility to educate beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike We have found the best way to prepare for the oral exam is by studying sample questions and practicing with fellow beekeepers. Here are two sample questions with suggested responses.:
Sample Question 1: You are a Master Beekeeper selling your hive products at a local farmer’s market. Booths on each side of you are full of perfect flowers and plants. A customer making a purchase from you compliments your products and identifies themselves as a member of a garden club. This person really wants to help honey bees, but is afraid that it means they will not be able to treat their carefully tended garden or fruit trees for pests or diseases. How can they do both?
In your 3-minute response you might point out how the neighbor should approach pest and disease control with some specific examples. Following labels and adjusting spay applications for pollinators are important to include in your response. Other points that might be included:
Sample question 2: From just about anyone, anywhere you go, when individuals learn you are a beekeeper they are likely to ask: “How are the bees doing? Why are the bees sick/ dying? I keep hearing about this neonicotinoid chemical that is killing bees and maybe even leading to Colony Collapse Disorder. It sounds like the experts have found the answer. What do you think?”
In a 3-minute response acknowledge the sincerity and importance of the question
Since this question had multiple thoughts expressed it is important to try to respond to each of the points asked. As to the question about neonicotinoids and CCD you might say:
“Engage with others and you will have no trouble engaging the 3-member panel on the EAS Oral Exam.”
The EAS Oral Exam is about communication. How effectively can you pass your knowledge and bee skills on to another person? Once asked a question, take a few seconds to organize your thoughts, jot down the major points you want to cover and the supporting some bee facts you will use to weave an informative, forceful response in the allotted time. The time will fly by quickly. Seek to include an introductory sentence, your major points and a concluding sentence. Do not recite fact after fact but try to include relevant information that is appropriate for your audience. Present your comments in an interesting and engaging manner.
A good method to prepare is to ask a question of a beekeeper, say at your local association meeting, and listen to how they respond. Do this several times to different individuals and analyze which answers were more effective and, just as importantly, why they were effective responses. Volunteer to serve as respondent for a Question & Answer session at your local bee group or listen to those who do such Q&As. Seek feedback. If such opportunity is not available get some beekeeping friends together and organize your own session – respond to 4-5 questions (using the example questions above, adding others). and ask for feedback from those listeners. Repeat this – practice will give you confidence and the opportunity to sharpen your oral responses.
YOU MUST be fully prepared for the 5-minute presentation. The prepared talk must be complete in and of itself. It is NOT an introduction to or a segment of a longer talk. Practice this talk with an audience or in front of a mirror. Five minutes (300 seconds) goes by very fast. Have your visual aid(s) ready and use them. Keep it lively and interesting and DO NOT exceed the time allotted.
Practice getting several major points on each question across to listeners. Practice before friends, family members or in front of a mirror and time your comments. Jot down your major points and glance at them to stay on track. Avoid sidetracking, keep on topic and make what you want to say on the topic be of importance. Practice will make it better. Ask the listener(s) for feedback—did they understand your major points, did it make sense, did it answer the question? Engage with others and you will have no trouble engaging the 3-member panel on the EAS Oral Exam.
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