[Adapted from Cascarini L and Lowe DG]

What is viva or
viva-voce exam?

most of the first year BDS students, viva is something very new. Oral
examinations [viva or viva-voce] are becoming more common throughout most of
other professional degree courses too. This viva voce serves as an excellent
tool to appreciate student’s understanding of a subject and their ability to
verbally explain the subject to someone else.
exam concept is an attempt to test your skills in subject, communication skills
and ability to communicate/explain your knowledge of the subject to others.
Being the first time, there will be a lot of room for misunderstanding and
misplaced apprehension about viva.
successfully pass a viva a candidate must not only possess a thorough
understanding of the subject but must also be able to convey this to the
examiners – clearly and loudly.
Vivas are different from other written forms of exams: you cannot deal first
with the questions you know best and come back later to the ones you are not so
sure about; and you cannot cross out previous answers and rewrite them.
assembling the knowledge base it may be helpful to remember facts in a way that
makes them easily retrieved and communicated in a viva. An intelligent,
structured, cogent answer wins the points.
I attempt to present an overview of the oral examination, remove some of the
mystery, promote your confidence, help you to prepare effectively and assure
you to exhibit the best of your talent. This forum I will only consider the
oral examination that occurs with an external examiner after the written final
exams of an undergraduate BDS degree.
this system is not a mere test of skill or matter of luck that depends on
examiner’s mood or whims and fancy. This has been developed on solid scientific
evidence. Interested students can see the scientific evidence at the following
the oral examination occurs after the written final exams along with the
practical exams. Hence always be ready to face your question paper again and prepare answers
for related questions. Most of the examiners have this as the starting point.
should always look upon the oral exam as an opportunity to improve your grade.
Remember: Oral examinations are not just an
assessment of the student’s performance- oral exams are usually an opportunity
for the external examiner to get feedback from the students on the performance
of the department and college.
Who conducts the oral
an External Examiner is appointed by
the university who chairs the oral exam along with an Internal Examiner, from among your faculty. The details of practice
vary amongst universities, and you will almost certainly be well informed about
the particular practices that occur in your Department.
The oral
exam is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your knowledge, your
presentation/interaction skills, as well as your ability to communicate. And
these skills are very necessary for scoring well.
may be chosen dynamically, depending on how a student answers previous
questions. As said earlier, question paper will be often the starting point.
Hence be ready to answer in the same.
To an
extent, the student who goes before you sets the mood of your viva. Hence align
yourself for a better frequency.
may be designed to test the in-depth knowledge of a student. Often, the
examiner continues to ask questions in a particular area until the student no
longer responds correctly.
Marks may be
awarded for problem solving, analysis and method, as well as interpersonal
communication and presentation.

Tips for the Oral Examination
1.    Be well prepared.
2.    Take all you need for the exam.
Particularly completed records with signature. In case you do not have your
records, inform your internal examiner early.
3.    Keep your record presentable with
neat covers. HP pencils, scales, etc. No borrowing inside hall
4.    Know the Process, Your Professor and
Your Ability to Speak.
5.    Be confident to present yourself. You
should have proper attire.
6.    Try to present yourself in the best
manner. Stay calm and pleasant. Don’t panic.
7.    Don’t argue unnecessarily with the
examiner. If you don’t know the answer, it’s better to surrender instead of
unnecessary arguing.
8.    Even if you feel the examiners are
unreasonably critical, do not become argumentative or allow the discussion to
become heated.
9.    Mind that the oral score will be positively
associated with the level of confidence of the student and negatively with
10. Talking to other candidates is
crucial to get the feel.
11. You might organize or join a local
study group to practise viva questions on each other. Senior doctors or
lecturers will often give up some of their time to work with a committed study
12. Consider how viva questions are
characteristically formulated. A common way is with a request from the examiner
to define, classify, or list: define what you are about to talk about; classify
it into a logical sequence of subdivisions.
13. Blogs and notes such as this one will
be useful in helping you store the information in a way that is quickly
retrievable and gives you an idea of the standard and style of questions to be
expected; but they are not comprehensive and should be used in conjunction with
broader texts.
14. Ask yourself why you really should
know the answers.
15. Examiners are always impressed by
16. Practice coping with the more
predictable opening questions.
Appearance and

1.    You need to feel as comfortable as
possible, psychologically as well as physically. What you wear will help both. You
will feel better if you look the part that you are hoping to achieve by success
in the viva.
2.  Suggested plain neat formals [for
men] and formal dressing [for women]. How you carry yourself in the most
dignified manner is important.
3.    Cleanliness and impeccable attire will
create a good impression. Clean, white coat is essential with exam number
displayed prominently. No names in the tag.
4.    Shoe should be polished. Buttons in
position and cuffed always.  
5.    Whatever you wear will really make no
difference at all if you are properly dressed.
6.    Women candidates can wear almost
anything they like but with modesty. 
7.    When you are in you will be offered a
chair. Accept it with a grace and thanks
8.    Put your backside as far into the
angle of the chair as it will go: this will throw your upper body forwards into
the appropriate posture for a viva. Cross ankles but not legs and never arms.
If you are an enthusiastic hand-waver, wave your hands; if you refrain you will
feel odd and look odd.
9.    Never seek to appear to be anxious:
if you aim for sympathy by showing excessive signs of anxiety you will get
none. The examiners will immediately assume that there is good reason (i.e.
that you are not properly prepared). By the same token, if things do not go
well, pick up the pieces and start again.
10. Eye contact is not essential. If you
usually make eye contact with people, meet your examiner’s eyes. With two examiners,
engage both or all staffs seated even though only one is asking the questions.
They will feel more comfortable if you do.

Answer the question

1.    Examiners are looking for a clear and
logical dissertation on a subject, usually within a few minutes because of the
pressure of time.
2.    They tend to stick to their favorite
topic or a definition that shows that you know what is going on, and you need
to make yours as watertight as possible.
3.    You may need to refine some parts of
your definition if the examiners challenge it and play the game according to
4.    If you do not understand a question,
ask for it to be rephrased or ask for clarification, such as ‘I’m sorry, would
you like me to tell you about…?’
5.    If you are asked several questions at
once, the examiner is clearly at fault: pick one of the questions that you are
happy with and answer that.
6.    If you cannot respond, say so early
with a use of words that suggests that, although you cannot immediately recall
the answer, you do know really.
7.    In the viva you may be hit with a
heartsink question [that is perfectly simple yet for some reason completely
unanswerable at that instant]. Be always prepared. Rehearsal is the only
8.    If you don’t know the answer, consider
how to move the questioning on – Sitting quietly saying nothing is a waste of
everyone’s time. Practise saying ‘I can’t recall’ (better than ‘I don’t
know’—especially as you almost certainly do know but cannot at that instant
retrieve the answer).
9.    When both the examiner signals the
end of viva, say ‘thank you’, stand up and leave the room immediately.
10. Do not wait for comments or praises
or reprisals. Do not grimace, weep or look desperate.
11. Do not attempt thank the examiners
for their time or any additional words. Do not say ‘I’m sure I could have done
better’; it invites the response ‘Yes, I’m sure you could’.
12. Don’t try to have a look at the mark
sheet or get to know the mark by foul means. That irritates the examiners.
13. If you have more viva’s next day, put
the last one from your mind and start all over again as if nothing has
happened. You will inevitably think of all the things you forgot to say or got
wrong. You will not think of the many things that you said that were correct
and so you will have a distorted view of how well you did. Try to avoid
this—easy to recommend, very hard to do.
14. Share the questions asked in viva
with friends but don’t discuss in detail so that you discourage others or get

2 Responses to “How to prepare for viva? – 2”

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  2. Gauransh Shishodia

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