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Overcome those viva woes

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Ample preparation, and a calm mind will ensure success

After a seminar presentation, it is customary to ask questions from the writer of the report. The purpose is to verify if the student has actually studied the topic and written the report himself/herself or plagiarised it. This part is called the viva voce. The Latin words mean examining a student verbally with the intention of awarding an academic qualification.

After the supervisor has read through the seminar report, the student is asked to present a seminar. A panel of examiners is arranged. Generally, one or two examiners are from the student’s department and the third will be the external examiner. The panel together evaluates the student’s overall performance.

Answering questions is one of the most intimidating aspects of a seminar presentation. The examiners, especially those other than the supervisor, can ask anything from the report, but if students prepare systematically, they can easily swim through the challenge.

Part I : Preparation before the viva voce

1. Always re-read your report carefully, the day before the viva voce, to familiarise yourself with the contents.

2. Based on the contents, frame some likely questions that the examiners can possibly ask. They will question you mainly on the different sections of your report.

3. Now, read around the topic of the report. Catch the latest research papers and go through them to be more thoroughly prepared. Next, frame a few more questions based on the latest findings.

4. Plan the answers to each question and write them down precisely but completely. Writing gives you clarity. The advantage is that if you can answer a few questions confidently, you will be able to answer unexpected ones as well.

Part 2: Taking the viva voce

1. Listen to the examiner’s question carefully, request the examiner to repeat it if you are not clear. Paraphrase and check if that is what the examiner has asked, and answer every word in the question in sequence.

2. Some examiners like to provoke students. Keep calm, listen carefully without becoming emotional, and answer them in a matter-of-fact manner. Some examiners tend to be long-winded. Listen attentively and then answer. Often, their question lies in the last sentence; the rest is their opinion. Don’t get perturbed.

3. If you don't know the answer, you can tell the examiner honestly but make sure not to say ‘I don't know’ more than once. In some cases, a question could be asked in a twisted manner. Just concentrate, request them for time to think the answer through before replying. The key is to not get nervous, and you will not, if you have prepared in-depth.

4. Open defences are the norm these days. So, expect students and faculty from your department/other departments to attend. Stay cool and answer questions to the best of your ability.

Last, thank the examiners and the audience before leaving.

If you prepare well and answer questions satisfactorily, you are likely to make an impression and earn good marks.

The writer is former professor of English, IIT Bombay. vineykirpal@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 1:08:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/overcome-those-viva-woes/article30887324.ece

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