I am an examiner and I want you to love me.
(Ed – that’s a bit weird and probably referrable to the GMC! I think you should explain)
Fair enough it is clearly a bit weird to ask for love in the exam room, but I want to try and give you the idea that exams, particularly vivas are based on a relationship between the candidate and those that are giving the marks out, i.e. the examiners.
It’s a strange relationship really, you as a candidate come to the exam with your piece of work (in this case the CTR) and place it in front of the examiner who has a bag of marks that they may…., or may not…., give out. You as the candidate really, really, REALLY, want the examiner to reach into the bag of marks and give as many as they can to you.
So, in order for this rather asymmetric relationship to work it makes sense for you to make the giving of marks as easy as possible and that is why you must love your examiner. You must love them so much that you want to please them and to make their life as easy as possible by writing and presenting your CTR in a way that makes it oh so easy to return your love with marks.
In the near future you will only be invited to a VIVA if your CTR is borderline. If it’s a clear pass then fantastic, you’ve done a great job and you will not need to present yourself. Similarly if it is truly awful you will fail outright. In other words this VIVA is a high stakes one – it truly is pass or fail depending on your performance on the day.
How shall we do this then?
The most important lesson here is that you must write and present your CTR in the same manner as the marking scheme. Hopefully you will have done this already when you submitted your print version, but now we must think about the VIVA, so let us review what the examiners will have in front of them as a marking scheme (click on the table to make it bigger).
To be honest there should be no great surprises here and if you know your CTR well then the questions asked in the VIVA should be pretty predictable as you should know the subject better than anyone else.
So where might we run into trouble? Arguably in my experience most CTRs that fail are usually well on their way to a fail before they get to the VIVA stage. Borderline CTRs can be pulled up to a pass with a good viva though so it’s always worth putting your best effort in on the day. Problems that I have seen vary, but I would take note of the following.
- Failure to defend your subject. Remember that you are being examined at a point just before you enter your consultant job on a subject that you know well. Whilst it is important to be polite you should not simply appease an examiner who disagrees or questions one of your findings. It should be a converersation between peers and you should keep that in mind. Be prepared to explain and debate your findings.
- Don’t panic if you find you have to defend something. I remember one absolutely fantastic CTR which allowed me to really disuss and debate the topic as a peer who was also interested in the subject. The candidate was excellent, with insightful and thoughtful answers. At the end she rose from the chair and the tears came forth as though she knew she had failed. Perhaps it was just bad examining, but I’ve heard from so many candidates (with different examiners) that they thought they had failed when in fact they did really well.
- Show enthusiasm and interest in your subject. Be passionate and excited about talking about it. There are no specific marks for this but it makes it feel as though it is easier to give marks away.
- Don’t take it personally. The examiners are there to test your knowledge and take you to the edge of what you can justifiably say about the subject. It’s not a personal attack, just a robust chat between colleagues.
The bottom line is to try and make the examiners job easy, they are really there, poised and waiting to dispense marks and a happy future for you. Make it easy for them, if you love them, they will love you back and the world will be a better place.
Before you go please don’t forget to…