Viva-voce Experiences and Anecdotes

Viva-voce is an essential and integral part of any professional curriculum. Its supposed to be just as scary as a theory examination and sometimes even more as its an oral examination. Though I had given viva voce at school level I don’t remember anything about it.  You can read Ishmeet’s experience of a school viva here. In a field like Engineering or Medical, practical knowledge is much more important than theory. Viva-voce tests just that.

I don’t know about all but in many private engineering colleges viva-voce serves as a source of entertainment and frustration for the external and the internal examiners respectively rather than an ordeal for the students . The increasing disregard in students for studying before practical exams and the decreasing sincerity and quality of students in engineering can be attributed to cropping up of engineering colleges like mushrooms and the trend of not failing anyone in viva in private engineering colleges.

Whenever I go to other colleges as the external examiner or when I am the internal examiner in my college, I am appalled and frustrated by most of the students’ replies.  This situation is when the viva exams are after the theory ones. The situation when viva is held before theory (in some universities) is unimaginable. The students don’t even care to shave and dress smartly before viva. College’s Director making a recommendation for a student before viva doesn’t help the blood pressure  either. Most of the students appearing for viva can be categorised into the following types –

# The Actors :- As soon as a question is asked to them, they pretend to think by frowning deeply and staring upwards at “memosphere” (the sphere of air where all memorized stuff goes when needed to recall). But in reality these students have no idea what on earth are you talking about!

# The Mouthers :- They do not answer the question asked to them but when the question passes to the next student and he/she starts answering, these students start mouthing the words so as to show they knew the answer all along!

# The Over Enthusiasts :- They answer their questions and the questions asked to the other students too.

# The Girls :- I don’t have any other name for this category. They are the ones that have enrolled in engineering which is already dis-reputed as a boys’ profession (god knows why) and make no efforts to prove the society wrong.  Recently I asked a “girl” – what is the type of electric supply you get at your home? She had no clue. And she was from Electrical branch. An Electrical Engineer not knowing that her home gets single phase ac supply is like a commerce student not knowing credit / debit or a Computer Science Engineer not knowing which OS his pc/laptop has!!! If you scold them, tears well up in their eyes. Strangely (or not?) the only person who is lenient with them is the male examiner.

And then there are those who just don’t open their mouths to utter a single word literally! Thankfully not all students belong to these categories.

Viva voce has its share of funny anecdotes too. One such anecdote from Electrical Engineering :-

This is how winding diagram of a machine looks like. It is of two types- lap and wave , the difference being in connection but basic look is same.


So this student during his 1st year Basic Electrical Engg viva tells me and the external that he knows the two winding diagrams. We are amazed and impressed!! We ask him to draw them. He draws and I take his copy with hope in my heart. He had drawn :-

Lap Winding

Lap Winding

Wave Winding

Wave Winding

I have never laughed so hard in front of students ever.

I have many other incidents but no Electrical Engineer in my blogosphere to share with.  😦

Nomad narrates another anecdote from Medical Profession –

Our anatomy dept had a lady lecturer (LL) too. So the story goes that the student was taking his viva- and the male external (ME) and LL were on the viscera table.
So ME gave the student a viscera, that was the uterus, and asked him to hold it in anatomical position and etc, you know. The guy could not identify the viscera, how much ever he tried. So ME prompted, ‘Ma’am here has it, you don’t have it, I don’t have it.. guess, what is it?’ Student replied with a wide eyed look, ‘Brain?”

I would love to know other viva experiences from my readers. Feel free to share in comments.

Related Posts :-

Education Boom or Education Doom By Me

Graduate Quality worries IT companies By Nita

Sakhi has written some more funny incidents of medical viva.

My First Biochemistry Practical Exam!

Child Birth!


50 thoughts on “Viva-voce Experiences and Anecdotes

  1. Hey, you didn’t share the story of how a motor works. 🙂 That one still brings a smile to my face.

    Reema: That would have made the post longer 😦

  2. Viva when I was in engineering was always fun .. Even when external examiners are going to conduct it ..

    But I used to prepare well for the practical examination and I guess I have done well all these years in Viva ..

    Last semester project viva was really scary .. it lasted for around 1 hour and the examiner asked even the minuest details of our project .. our team did well and we all got above 75% in the result .. But that was a hell of a viva for sure !!

    Reema: U seem to be the sincere type anyway so I have no doubt you were a good student!! 🙂

  3. OMG. You understand students so well! it’s scary..thank God, you were not my professor..I would have hated you. 😛

    Reema: Hehehe!

  4. ha ha ha…

    Remindes me of our conversation that day 😀

    Viva for me was a formality which I hated 🙂 so kucch yaad nahin….

    Reema: I always had a problem in viva during BE because one of my group members was an over enthusiast but actually gave all wrong answers!

  5. I always laugh at your insightful comments about students. Actors, mouthers, wow..but all of it is truth. 🙂

    Inviting and sharing anecdotes, you could send them to Life’a Like That section of Reader’s Digest and earn some bucks. THink about it seriously. 😉

    Reema: Thanks! Thats a good suggestion. 🙂

  6. oh my godlinessss… this is like greek to me… sheesh! i can never ever imagine studying engineering ever in my life… its so beyond my capacity… me simply happy ranting my life out thro words…


    Reema: Do degree courses except the science ones have viva?

  7. 🙂 Yeah I remember a few friends of mine in an extremely reputed institution saying the girls do nothing. The workshop either the LA does it or the other guys, sometimes even the lecturer!!
    Nice post!

    Reema: Thanks! Sadly its true but not for all girls. Me and my hostel mates used to do our own work in workshop. In fact there was this job of making threads on an aluminium pipe which took two boys to do. I did it alone 🙂

  8. ha you wrote this a while back 🙂 lol,I remember why viva in bio,the teacher didn’t want the other children to know the questions and was talking softly and i couldn’t hear anything,but thankfully she repeated it over and over again,until i heard it 🙂 Ha well I have an accounts viva for the boards 🙂

    Reema: I had the idea since many days but wrote it just before posting! Good luck for viva!

  9. Oh come on.. I am here.. I belong to Instrumentation and as known it’s a cocktail branch so we in IT study all.. E&C, CS, E&E…et al.. so I would be ROFLing to see more such DIAGRAMS….

    Reema: Oh now I will share more stories on my blog!!

  10. did you forget that i was the one who responded postiviely to you on the twitter ???

    I’m Electrically charged when its the viva ofcourse its the otherway to leave the hallway..

    Guess what here in private colleges of anna university the viva is mere formality for the gals and utter crappy experience for the guys if the external is in the mood of gruelling the guy.

    And i can help you classify the students further more..
    there is a batch of guys who say boldly “Sorry, I Don’t Know” and there is batch of guys who try to look studious to the external but they know where they lack..
    so they divert the external towards what they know..

    there are lotsa experiences that i personally have with the externals.. some times its extremely damaging to share it on the blogs :). You know why for sure 😛

    Reema: I do remember your response but if I wrote more anecdotes hen the post would have got too long to suit most of the readers! Yes those types also exist. Oh I know! I am always scared of my students reading my blog 😀

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  12. ROFL!!!!!!!

    btw we have got the viva -voce…n I belong to the 1st category 😀 …
    n even our teachers use to laugh at our blunders during this very stuff…

    Reema: All the best!! Come on make us girls proud!

  13. ROFL

    Your medical viva example makes up for “the girls” in engineering 🙂

    Another type are the “blabberers”. They will blabber about everything but the question asked. And this habit continues in work life. I have some in my office 😉

    Reema: Yes!! Thats one type.. thanks for reminding!

  14. The classic collection of approaches to a viva has not changed from my college days 🙂 perfectly analyzed and categorized I must say.

    Reema: Thanks! 🙂

  15. haha! very funny post 🙂

    In my engineering days, the girls were the ones who knew the most, so i have a different experience there.

    BTW: I used to think that you were a student, but now i get the impression that you are on the other side of the benches!

    Reema: Thanks! Oh it depends on college also. And yes in my BE days too students weren’t this hopeless and girls this dumb. Well I am a lecturer who is also pursuing her M.E. so I lead a dual life.

  16. U wudnt believe, I bribed my Viva teachers with foreign biscuits (during lunch break) and manage to be the university third for practicals. I am not being humble or modest here, but that should have been the only way that I scored those marks; I personally knew I screwed up the practicals !

    and those division of students, once again, classic ! I come under the Actors category always 😀

    Reema: Thanks! Umm..were the externals mostly ladies?? 😛 Looks matter 😀

  17. only funny story I have is when going over an English assessment with one of my 1st grader i asked him how many meaning the word ‘Jam’ has. He replied 3 (although i only gave them two). when i asked him what they were he said “Jam like what you put on bread, Jam like when there are too many cars on the rode and jam like when you go to a party’ (3 one was taken from the raggae song ‘I hope you like jamming too”). i had a good laugh.

    Do teachers ever not laugh at their students?

    Reema: 😀 good one! Oh we do laugh a lot within ourselves telling such anecdotes.

  18. Hahahhaha.. I rem my engg days. I used to be more scared of vivas more than anythiing else… coz sometimes teachers also take out their vengeance on students through viva… its like all year long you trouble me… its now my time :devil:


    Reema: I also used to be scared as it was a face to face examination!!

  19. hey..perfect post for me right now 😉 … I have my first Medical Viva-Voce going on…
    At first , I was very nervous because all my seniors had told that externals and internals will never be happy to see a smiling face of students. They will be very hard with students and all blah blah….
    My first experience was actually pretty good. It really went on well, more than my expectations. Though I was very nervous at that time, I was fine later.

    But 2 incidents which made me frustrated was:
    1. We were asked to be there in college by 8:30 AM. All of us were there on time BUT external and internal female lecturers had been to Iskon. By the time they came back, it was 11:30 and our Viva started at 12:00PM.
    2. I was called by the external lecturer for Viva. He asked me some question and I started answering. Instead of listening to what I say, he started talking with someone over his mobile. When I noticed that, I stopped answering and kept quiet. He started talking all his family affairs over the phone. He almost spoke for 10mins. I was literally frustrated. If students are not allowed to use their cells during exams then why should teachers??? That to talk all his family matters in front of students. All my friends thought that I was having a though time with that external 🙂

    I still have two more Viva-Voce left.
    Hope I dont experience such things!!!!!! 🙂

    Reema: Thats too bad! yes the teachers must also follow some etiquette while taking exams. All the best for viva!

  20. LOL, now I feel so bad about being clueless during my Viva. But I didn’t want to study those subjects. I’m okay in my College Viva. I think it’s important that you want to study what you are studying, no?

    Haven’t you had students who touch your feet, give you a lot of respect and ask you to “take care” of them. I saw one such guy at college during one of the Viva’s. His strategy didn’t really work lol.

    Reema: But sometimes we just have to study whether we want it or not!! No here students don’t do that as they know they don’t need to do all that. They get good marks anyway as its a private college!

  21. I always did quite badly in the viva. But once, one external examiner asked me a question (And an easy one): What’s your name? I told him. Then he thought for some time, and said : Are you the topper? (There is another guy by my name and he was the first person in the next batch, and some one had told the external examiner the name of the actual topper). I thought for a while and nodded my head. That was it, no more questions and full marks!!

    Destination Infinity

    Reema: LOL 😀 😀

  22. I know how it is.. i passed out frm a private coll…. viva meant some guy asking questions and you answer some crap which he used to mostly fall for…. I’m not kiddin mam but the level of prof’s we have in the country are equally bad!!

    Reema: It can be so due to so many engineering colleges popping up! Though I never met any such external ever.

  23. LOL 🙂 Don’t remember any Viva experiences but I do remember exchanging my dissection place with the boy on the next table, during the Bio practicals, I could never cut a frog, and he cut for us both 🙂
    He is a doctor now and me a home maker 🙂

    Reema: 😀 I had cut a rat in dissection and I became an engineer 🙂

  24. Well, there is another category who is quite and intelligent and who make all the 15 C++ programmes to be shown to the examiner and which the whole class copies. Incidentally, when companies start visiting their campus, they are the ones who are placed last. 🙂
    Loved the post and I agree with you about the various categories. Also, I have found that many lecturers who come for taking viva are not interested and usually give marks based on the feedback of the internal teachers. This I think is not entirely right and students should be judged based on their performance.

    Reema: Thanks!!! Yes you are right. But any good teacher gives feedback based on the student performance in class during the whole session and thats better as some good student’s viva may not go well!! In private colleges internals only fill the marks and its always very good even for the worst student!

  25. Amazing how I miss some posts! I didn’t get this one in my reader at all! And it is one week old! I got a pingback today and realise this post existed! I feel so bad because this is such a nice post! I enjoyed it thoroughly! Loved it in fact! It’s very funny!
    But I wonder why students tend to take these things lightly. Maybe the university should be more strict, and fail them!

    Reema: Thanks!! Better late than never 😀 Failing is not in the hands of university but the college. And private colleges don’t fail students in viva.

  26. in the classroom :

    ma’am draws something on the board. she asks 3 ppl one after another as to what it is.

    1st one : diagram ma’am
    2nd one : picture ma’am
    3rd one : drawing ma’am

    the 3rd one was me. done just to irritate her… 😛

    Reema: Naughty boys!!

  27. arey mujhe to aaj jaa ke pingback mila hai!! 🙂 Students are students and its fun to read such incidences and some times its frustrating thinking “yeah log kal ke doctors hai!!!!’


    Reema: sahi baat!

  28. bad viva experience::
    it was my micro processor lab exam.i loved that subject(i still).it was a lady external.she was conducting the viva for another batch mate and i went near her table to hav some water..the student is a malayali girl.this lady asked that girl to teach her 3 bad words in malayalam..the girl is tooooo girlish..she started blushing,etc..acting as though very reluctant to utter ..and finally i think she told some bad words..and i heard that the external was toooo kind to all and asked silly questions like family background etc..i was tensed to hear this frm my previous batch mates..coz,when something is easy for the others or if sumone is tooo kind and linient with the rest,that person is unusually tough with me(dnt knw why) 😦

    after some time it was my turn..the 1st question was
    1.are u a brahmin?
    me: yes mam..

    then u know,,she asked me questions about processors that were out of my syllabus..still i tried to answer them,and i got a few of them correct..
    she asked me the book that i used for my preparation.i was using both the prescribed and the local author books..she asked me to throw the book into the bin..

    then my viva got over and i came out..jus as i left,my internal mam entered the lab.later i got to know frm my frnds that when my internal mam asked the external about my performance, and she had expressed her hope to the external that i wud hav answered well,,the external had told her that i knew nothing and i dint answer at all..

    finally i got more marks in the micro processor theory paper than my lab marks..

    i hav many more experiences electrical lab experience,,vlsi lab..
    in vlsi lab viva went on for 45 mins..i answred well and the external appreciated me..i heard that i got 99.but my marks were reduced by my internal staff..cunning devil..

    such teachers must be sacked..
    but wat can be done if the management is sooo biased and against some one..
    bull shitt…im leavin this coll …im in my 8th for sure that i will have similar experience during my project viva this sem too though i am the only person in my group working sincerely on it..others just heat their benches,do nothing,smile and show off and get away marks easily and effortlessly..

    i hav several similar viva experiences..

    Reema: Welcome to my blog. I hope your project viva goes well. Keep visiting!

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  30. That was good.

    I wish to see more interesting incidents in viva-voce.

    One of my favourites is “How does an alternating sine wave manage to flow through a straight wire”.

    This was asked in my student days more than four decades back….

    I have tried to collect some anecdotes on my blog.

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  32. Hilarious post! Really. One thing I have to admit is that the content on this blog is awesome. And everytime I think – “OK I needn’t comment on this post” – my fingers just go to the keyboard.

    Yeah. Vivas can be really hilarious – and well – testing at times. In our college, we have the Grand Viva at the end of the final semester where you are tested all you learnt in college. Its supposed to go on for one hour. And the student is really drilled on the concepts. There would be one student and around him would be 6-7 professors questioning him/her. Eeeh… really gives me the creeps.

    (I have had dreams at night where I am in the middle of a Grand Viva. Its almost like an interrogation bench with one bulb hanging in the center of a dark room and the Professors taking the life out of you!)

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  34. i had the worst experience….my viva in pediatrics…that morning the department realized they don’t have enough exam cases so they brought in a case of down’s syndrome with ccf..n i happend to be the unlucky 1 who got it.also being the first in line and with such a lengthy case i had no idea how to deal with so i began taking history and examining the patient.already i was at breaking point with such a case…my internal ma’am told me that this case is not meant for undergraduates so we will remove it after your viva..i couldnt believe her at that was my final exam n they were so casual about it.the external asked me all sorts of questions like a rapid fire .i also didnt get tym to revise the case n he took my case somehow i recalled it not in perfect order though…..i was so panicky with the whole situation that i missed a lot of answers but did the best i could in that situation.i couldnt belive that the final viva could be that tough but as every1 else got regular cases hey seemed to have no trouble…except another girl with again an unusual case like me..cerebral palsy…and after i left the hall.people told me that its a case for post graduate so i need not worry about failing..turns out i got my result back saying i failed in the practicals…its been the worst experience of my life…people with gross mistakes were passed but my peculiar situation was not even considered..i had to give the exam again all for nothing .plus the depressin with it…it was very unfair.we heard that they don’t fail girls or that u won’t fail unless u make a gross mistake….but me n some others were failed for cases wch were never shown to us before as against students who got regular half the batch got internal for a long case but the unfortunate ones who had externals were failed..its really bad but there was nothing we could do..:( comments from readers are appreciated..i had a hard time believing that one isolated unlucky viva experience could cost me 6 months!!!!!!!…

  35. this was a post i dint search for!!
    im dng my MBA and i hav my viva 2mrw… jus googled to see “PROJECT VIVA QUESTIONS” and i ended up in ur post!! i would say that was so much………. FUN!! i would say i fall under the category “over enthusiasts”…. bt u knw… wat ever category u may be.. it is fun before the viva (worrying with peers) and after viva (chatng abt all the WORST that v did)…… good frnds make even bitter viva a lasting memory!!

  36. With the privatization of engineering education viva in practicals has become a formality bordering farce. The system continues as it adds to the kitty of examination fees which is disbursed among many beneficiaries including the internal / external examiners, lab assistants, attendants, and goes on to meet food bill, etc.and a portion of which is easily siphoned off to generate ‘tips’ for the management. Just recently in May 2012 being internal examiner in some engineering college, now a state University of Haryana in Gurgaon, I was not paid for conducting Practical examinations of GGSIPU, Delhi in spite of all the rules in books.

      • Goes to prove that all colleges in India are not that bad. There was a time when industry was regulated under ‘licence raj’ and IITs could provide a modicum of decent lab experience to students. Today even IITs do not have anything to show and and the industry-academia chasm has widened like never before. A petty job in any technical enterprise provides more hands-on training and hence research experience than what one can get to see in the whole career as academician in our country.

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