Tips for performing well in vivas


The viva invite emails were sent out this week. My commiserations to those who did not receive an invite, it’s a tough email to get. Different coping strategies work for different people but at least part of the right answer for most people would be to take a break to recharge yourself for a new approach to study.

For those who were invited, congratulations. You’ll find your knowledge, understanding and verbal fluency leaping ahead in this period – verbalising your understanding and being challenged on it is an incredibly effective learning technique. I think this is where the value lies in viva practice, not in gaining ‘viva technique’. Behind the scenes examiners become expert at ‘examining techniques’, you should become expert on the subject matter covered by the primary examination.

An ex-examiner colleague directed me to this reference the other day – Twelve tips for performing well in vivas – which I have shown to some other examiners and we all pretty much agree that much of the material is not relevant to a science viva as opposed to a clinical viva. Some may find some comforting tips in there though, and it’s worth while reading through to tip 12 which I think is very useful.