Viva or Oral Examination: Learn to face it

Even the toughest of the students have gone blank, messed up viva exam and have led to failure. Some examiners conduct viva with an intention of failing as many students as possible. So viva-voce is a matter of uncertainty and an iron gate for many. 

Such viva horror stories brings immense pressure on students which can drag down their confidence and make them nervous. May be true to some extent but lets keep them aside and focus on ways to improve the viva skills and performance. Always remember: a good examiner will conduct viva to test the understanding and expressiveness of knowledge of student rather than to rag him.

It is indeed regarded as the most feared component of the whole examination but we have some tips for you to improve your performance:

1. Prepare well: Viva is a different entity, unlike written exam. Be prepared for viva type questions rather than descriptive questions. Be well prepared on at least 2 or more chapters because examiners are likely to offer you with an option about the topic to start viva from. So be prepared for such juicy moments and don’t let go in vain. Not knowing the basics can lead you to failure as they are the “must know areas”. Consult your seniors, find out what topics the examiners are fond of, which books to refer to and what are dos and don’ts for any examiner, because these things vary as per person.

2. Know about your practicals or projects: Your viva is likely to be started from the practicals that you performed or the project work that you completed. Get your books ready to know your practicals thoroughly as soon as you complete it.

3. Create a good impression: Appear neatly and decently dressed. Wish him with a confident smile and ask him if you can take the seat. Display respect and good attitude towards the examiner. Never give prepared speech as an answer to question; try to be short and to the point.

4. Be confident and fearless:  Make eye contact with the examiner, listen to the questions carefully and answer questions steadily and calmly without rushing. Tension during examination is natural but develop a positive attitude and avoid anxiety before and during examination regardless of your preparation. Fear and anxiety during examination won’t improve your knowledge but can turn you blank and speechless.

5. Be loud and bold: Often examiners are irritated with unclear, hard to hear pitch when you answer. They are lazy enough to say “ Pardon, I didn’t get you”. Be clear and loud.

6. Bluffing won’t help: Avoid bluffing because examiner is an expert in the field and you do not want to irritate him and send a wrong impression.

7. Never Argue with the examiner: rather be polite- for that while examiner is your god, be superstitious for a while. Don’t argue with him. You can instead quote your source or reference as a strong and indirect argument. Often good students have failed an exam, because they argued with the examiner and got him humiliated. Actually its immoral on the part of examiner to do so, but frequently it is what happens “ viva is a test of discipline”.

8. Avoid Blunders: Blunders often lead to Failure. Example: you call clavicle as femur, trachoma as benign tumor of trachea, allopurinol as treatment of pneumonia. These all show your poor knowledge of basics and provide an examiner with an easiest way to fail you.

9. Guide your examiner: The subsequent questions depend on your answer of previous question. Always show priority to the topics you know and speak them first instead of topics you know less and try to skip topics you don’t know as far as possible. Examiner is probably going to interrupt you in the middle of your answer and move to the next question which is likely to be about the answers you gave high priority.

Example: If an examiner asks you to list the causes of Edema and you know more about Congestive Heart Failure and Nephrotic syndrome. 

A Good viva technique:

Examiner: “ Ok tell me some cause of edema”
Student: “ Nephrotic syndrome, CCF, Liver disease”
Examiner: “ Ok , why there is edema in nehrotic syndrome”
Student: “ Due to hypoalbuminemia and fluid retention”
Examiner: “ what are the components of Nephrotic Syndrome?” ……

A Bad Viva technique

Teacher: “Ok tell me some cause of edema”
Student: “ NS, Milroy’s disease, CHF”
Teacher: “ Good, what is the Milroys disease?”
Student: “ ummm……. Not read sir”

10. Blackhat tips:

  • Ask your friends who just came out of Exam room, about the questions they were asked. Most examiners have same set of questions to ask for everyone.
  • Have a good rapport with the internal examiners. They always want their students to pass the examination and can help you cleverly during the examination by redirecting the externals to ask easier questions or even telling you the answers indirectly.

Source: Based on the experiences of viva in medical school.

4 Comments
  1. June 19, 2012
  2. February 13, 2013
    • June 18, 2016

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