French higher education system is quite singular: besides traditional universities (following Bologna Process scheme with Bachelor (3 years), Master (2 years) and PhD (3 years)), there are so-called grandes écoles – mostly in the business and engineering fields. To enter a grande école, one must traditionally attend classes préparatoires.

One distinctive feature of these classes prépa is the significance of frequent colles (1 every two weeks per student and discipline – sometimes also written khôlles), which generally consist of 1 hour oral examination, where a couple of undergrads solve a problem in front of an examiner – the so-colled colleur.

Colleurs are mostly professors teaching in classe prépa. However they can also be university assistant professors, high-school teachers, PhD-candidates, or post-doc lecturing on their part time.

Question: What is the most appropriate translation of "colleur" into English?

("TA" or "tutor" both seem too broad in my opinion.)

  • The term TA (and "undergrads") usually refer to university-level settings. I wouldn't use them in the context of pre-university teaching.
    – Cape Code
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 16:56
  • How this is different from "examiner"?
    – svavil
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 16:57
  • @svavil I'd say it would be too vague, or doesn't sound (for me, as foreigner) as a proper job title... I might however be wrong!
    – ebosi
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 16:59
  • 4
    @CapeCode: I understand. However, classes prépa are not "pre-university" per se - it's rather a parralel track, since most classes prépa student don't do to university. Students in "classes prépa" are at the same level as first and second-year bachelor students.
    – ebosi
    Commented May 4, 2017 at 17:01
  • @ebo If examiner is too vague, you can always add some complementary information in the job title, e.g., the discipline or the lycée. This also gives you the opportunity to give a brief description of what khôlles are, what topics were treated, etc.
    – PatW
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 6:20

2 Answers 2


I would suggest using the official title and then adding a brief sentence describing the job duties. This way you provide ask the information in an accurate and accessible way. Having to look up a job title is not a big deal when evaluating foreigners.

  • 1
    I agree. The job sounds particular enough that mapping it to job titles in universities that don't have anything comparable is only bound to confuse.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 15:45
  • I think that’s the best option too. I have never really seen something similar outside the classes prépa in France (I was in classe prépa myself). For the job duties I would write something like "Examiner for weekly oral interrogations in small groups (x hours and y students in total, over z months)." Commented Dec 10, 2019 at 15:48

In English universities, the equivalent exam is usually called a "viva", short for "viva voce". We do not have a specific word for a person who assesses oral exams though, I'm afraid, so "viva examiner" is probably the best you're going to get.

  • But isn't the "viva" normally the PhD defense? If that's the case, "viva examiner" sounds like an opponent in a PhD defense (i.e., something completely different).
    – xLeitix
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 15:44
  • @xLeitix a viva can be used for any exam/assessment which involves some delivery and q&a - that style is not limited to PhD afaik...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 16:12
  • @xLeitix As Mike says, a PhD always involves a viva, but not all vivas are for PhDs. My ex-wife had vivas for some of her undergraduate philosophy modules, and for her final-year project.
    – Graham
    Commented Dec 9, 2019 at 20:47

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