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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 127 | July 12 , 2009|


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My Med School FILES:
The woes of facing the vivas!

Rumman Fatima Nizam

I stood there, a nervous wreck! My clammy hands were weighed down by the lecture notes, tired eyes scanning the jumbled letters, while my gray cells were trying relentlessly to coordinate with my visual senses and absorb the last minute details!

Suddenly I heard my academic roll being called out from the doorway. A fresh surge of adrenaline swept through my bloodstream…"why? Oh why, so soon?" my heart cried out and as if showing unanimity, my intestinal coils did another round of somersaults! Literally! I could sense my feet buckle and the 'LUB-DUB' of my heart get louder …but, yes, my head as usual took the upper hand, thankfully! In spite of the fear that had gripped me, I steadied myself, said a silent prayer to the Almighty and managed to walk into the room, ready to face the vivas! Woo! Scary isn't it? I am sure it is a common scenario for a medical student. The vivas become a part and parcel of our academic life, but yet we never tend to get used to it! I think the worst part is waiting the moment, when one is filled with apprehension of things going really wrong during the exam. What if I forget the muscle attachments? The drugs of the autonomic nervous system, or the WHO definitions; do the worries ever end?!

To add fuel to fire, most of us never get to sleep properly the night before the viva. (This is really a bad practice, I must warn the newcomers) drinking endless cups of tea and coffee to prevent the eyelids from drooping and even if some of us manage an hour or two of sleep, its most likely to be marred by nightmares.

Things get worse during the professional exams, because then the students have to face the esteemed examiners from other medical colleges as well. Even with the best preparations there is no guarantee that it will be an easy sail. Because at the end it all depends on how you prove your mettle when you sit across the viva board. One must be calm, well composed and answer the questions with precision. A careless answer might land you in a big mess from which you might fail to untangle yourself.

I remember vividly my first anatomy item (at a small viva) exam. I was asked to describe a typical rib. I did pick up the mentioned item from the tray, held it in front of me at its anatomical position. But alas, how my hands shook! It was as if my hands had decided to revolt against me. I still laugh at myself. It was so humiliating. That was my first year, and only the tip of the iceberg…it was during my community medicine viva. As I entered the room, one look at the professors and my mouth went completely dry. Sensing my predicament, the examiner actually poured me a glass of water, which I gladly drank and waited till I regained my composure. I will never forget the incident. Well, the aim of this write up is not to scare the budding talents out there who are aspiring to get into medical school…because in spite all the creepy experiences we do overcome the hurdle and come out successful! Perhaps these vivas actually play a big role into making us more confident, tougher, more vocal and very brave…both as human beings and as doctors. This hard work demands appreciation …and hence I never hesitate to salute my medical mates, seniors and juniors for your stamina and courage in facing the ever-tough vivas!

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