Viva Voce !

The other day I was chatting with CJ.  After the usual inquiry of health, bowel movement and grandkids , we drifted  to our favourite topic  “the good days”. In the process we were wondering about the “VIVA VOCE”   Exam, (a high sounding name) we had before we entered medical college. 
“viva voce” means by or with the living voice – i.e., by word of mouth as opposed to writing. (Google)

Unfortunately for me, thanks to senility and JW of many hues, red, black and blue,  helped by Chivas, I do not recall any questions. CJ and Thillaivasan remembered theirs. All I remember was we gathered outside the interview location on Reid avenue, prior to our turn, quizzing those coming out after the interview what they were asked. This was for us to get prepared for the exam. But remember, this was a competitive exam. So, some did not want to share. I did not witness this personally but was told one of the candidates was not willing to share his experience and some tension developed, immediately one his classmates came to his rescue and was ready to rumble! Saner minds prevailed and there was peace. The first of these two went to Peradeniya medical school and the other in Colombo with us. I will reveal his name after I get his permission .  We had to borrow a white coat!We thought it would be fun to hear from the experiences of our batch mates. We seldom talked about this.
viva voce” means by or with the living voice – i.e., by word of mouth as opposed to writing. (Google)

I am under the impression that viva voce was to make sure you were not merely a bookworm  but a well rounded personality fit for the medical profession. Secondly I thought the interview was not on subject matter. (Botany, Zoology, Physics or chemistry.) In fact  I thought most, if not all, the examiners were non medical faculty members.Third Question is what was the consequence  if you did not measure up. Was this the basis for allocation to Dental or Vet school, Agrculture or bioscience.?


1.  We thought it might be fun to hear the QUESTIONS  You were asked and by whom if you remember. 2. Your ANSWER.  3. Any special PREPERATIONS You made  for the Viva voce.  
Few years after our batch, the Viva Voce was dropped. Perhaps it was because there were a larger number of Medical school admissions with more medical schools. Also there were possible disadvantages to students from rural areas.   English was a second language.  Also because this process did not make a difference.  If you wish to be anonymous send directly to us and we can put it up as anonymous.

Dharma and CJ

22 thoughts on “Viva Voce !

  1. As our Ranjit Almeida said – we buggers are looking for something to do during this Covid lock down !
    Anyway, I think that this idea from Dharma & CJ might keep some of us occupied. Trying to recollect what happened 57 years ago is challenge to our memory.
    As per your request, I hereby submit what happened at my Viva.:-

    SPECIAL PREPARATION :-
    After I received the letter calling me for the viva, I consulted my elder brother who was a Governor’s scholar educated at Royal college & became an engineer with triple qualification. At that time he was the chief design engineer with the electricity board. He suggested to put “House wiring” as my Hobby & he taught me few details involved in house wiring & predicted some of the questions.

    When I Walked into the viva room, the chairman ( I think it was Prof Attygalle ) said – “Hey Myle ( Physics Prof Mailvaganam), looking at his hobby it looks like this candidate is for you”

    SUMMARY OF QUESTIONS:-
    Q: What made you to take up house wiring as hobby?
    A: Our village had electricity connected only about 10(?forgot) years ago & I was fascinated by the work done by the electrician who was one of our neighbor. Few years ago, when time permitted, I started following him as a helper.
    Q: then he asked me about Current values, different voltages, safety measures like fuses, earthing etc.
    A: I knew all of them – learnt from my brother.
    Q: only question from one other person was: Can you come to my house & do some wiring for me?
    A: I am not licensed but unofficially, I can – if you trust me
    Q: will you charge me?
    A: No Sir,I will do it for free.
    Laughter!!!
    Comment from Chairman : ” keep up your good work & you may go now”
    I thought that I am FINISHED – wont be selected for medicine & may be directed to Science, because of my hobby. 😢😢

    I think that we were the last batch to go through this nerve wrecking procedure. – I went to the toilet twice, while waiting for the viva & occasionally, I dream about waiting nervously for the viva but when I wake up, I am the happiest person on earth 😜😜👌👌

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  2. 1. What is Patricide ?
    2. I was clueless, thinking of suicide and father is pater my answer was Killing your father!!! correct . Now example ,lucky for me remembered King Kassiappa . correct answer.
    3. Did not have any special training for viva

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    • Thanks Saha. Quick thinking. Yes, i doubt if we would have prepared for this 2nd language question. Hope your kids don’t get any ideas. dharma

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  3. Thanks Seelan, typical of you, leading the way. You will get requests for free wiring. However much I like you , you have to be licensed and INSURED before you work on my house. dharma

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  4. Thanks Dharma and CJ for opening this discussion. Thanks Sam for posting it.

    Very nice Seelan . That is you alright.

    I was questioned by Prof Cocq
    Q. What have you been doing since you sat for the exam.
    A. Sir I got a job as an asst. Chemist at the Panagoda battery factory.
    Q.Oh ! so what do you do as an asst. Chemist.
    A. Sir I analyze the chemicals that go into the battery manufacturing process for purity. I started explaining in detail the process , but I was stopped half way because it was taking too long.

    Then Prof. Hoover took over.

    Q. So you went to the Philippines for a Boy Scout Jamboree.
    A. Yes sir.
    Q. Before the Americans went over to the Philippines who ruled the country.
    A. They were under the Spanish rule sir.
    Q. Are you sure I think the Portuguese were there before the Spanish.
    I did not know the answer . Therefore I had to agree with him.
    A. Yes sir I think you are right.
    Prof Hoover was right . Ferdinad Magellan ( Portuguese ) was there in 1551 and Miguel Lopez De Legazpi (Mexico ) in 1565 . I checked it. I do not know how he knew this trivia.

    Q. So what is the one thing you liked about Philippines . I was stuck for an answer I uttered the only thing that came to my mind
    A. The pretty girls sir.

    Everybody laughed and that was the end of the viva. I also knew that I would get in.

    Nisantha

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  5. I can’t remember many details, but do remember the ‘highlights’.
    I recall the biggest problem was finding a coat -I still can’t remember from where I got one though my younger brother says he can remember the local tailor who lived at the top of our road coming home to measure me up for one.
    I can’t remember how I got to College House. Remember being nervous (mainly for being in a coat, I think it was rather big for me).
    The interview (sorry! Viva Voce) itself wasn’t a big ordeal. I can’t remember who was on the panel. There was a ‘White’ gentleman who struck me as being kindly disposed of towards me (might have been Prof Koch).
    Amongst my interests I had put reading, sports and Hindi Films (I was so mad over Hindi Films and that is why I must have put it). I can’t remember what other interests I mentioned – probably none. The questions were –
    What are you reading now? The Razors Edge. Who was the author? Somerset Maugham.

    Why is Lake House called Lake House? Because there is a lake near by. What is the name of the Lake? Beira Lake.

    What is the only game that has two referees? Hockey. Why? Because it is too fast as the ball is hit from one end to the other in a flash (I had played Hockey for my College, so I knew).

    What is the fastest game? Basketball (I still have no idea if this is correct).

    Mister, you like Hindi films. Do you understand the language? I hazarded a guess – A little Sir.
    Go on tell us something in Hindi (I could see them getting ready to have a bloody good laugh). My favourite film at the time had a title as long as someone engaging in a conversation – I said, ‘Sir, Jab Pyar Kisise Hota hai. Mujje pyar karenge’
    That’s enough. That’s enough. You can go.
    That was the end.

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    • Cj, i do remember your passion for Hindi movies. I remember distinctly, we had a histology class at 1pm. you let me into your secret plan. you opened a window on the Norris canal road side, It was fortunately on the ground floor. you planned to sneak out of the window after the roll call. I was to to take your note book back to Bloem. Y You could have “put a cut” but you needed to have enough attendance in order to appear for the exam. All this for what. FIRST day First show at 2:00pm at Rio(?) cinema at Borella. The movie “Sangam”. i am sure, subsequently you saw the movie multiple times. We of course heard your rendering of the songs joined by Naghawatte (RIP)

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  6. The fastest game at the time CJ was Badminton. I think it is still the fastest ? The shuttle cock has been clocked at 300 MPH. This is when the world champions play the game.

    Nisantha

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  7. Reminds me .I have put down Badminton as one of the games I play. Prof Mailvaganum asked me have you seen a temple flower falling. Yes I said it twirls down like the Shuttle cock & when it comes down.
    That was the only question he asked me & he was Happy Prof Cocq asked few more questions all unrelated to each other on general knowledge, will put down those later as I remember now as old age is catching up.
    Dalpe

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    • Thanks Dalpe, Did you know it was the fasted game with shuttle or “bird’ as it is sometimes called has been clocked at 300mph. Now we know, thanks to Banda .The beauty is it can be played at any speed.

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  8. I did not have any special preparation and I have no recollection of where I got the white coat from. I remember only one question which was asked by Prof Koch. I must have mentioned Table Tennis as a sport I play. He asked me ” What is the Ping Pong ball made of ? ” I had no clue and I said ” sir, when it burns it had a camphor smell” as I had burnt a few ping pong balls before.” That’s right ,it forms an aromatic compound” Prof replied.
    On the subject of some students from rural schools being disadvantaged, I recall the very 1st student from Telijjawila Central School in Matara Province being called for medical admission viva-voce. He was knocked back and selected for Bioscience and ended up as Prof in Botany at Ruhuna University
    As regards fastest game my impression was Basketball being the fastest game on dry land (as I played for school) and ice hockey being the overall fastest game at that time.

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    • Thanks Abey, my dear sig gp member for 5yrs of trials and tribulations of med school . I know that when ping ball got dented we put it hot water to smooth the dents. Burn it ??? any hidden ‘pyromania’?!!!. Regards the student from Matara, (special interest for me, I was born in Matara.) He and his family must have been devastated . However he did well to become professor of botany. On the other hand he could have been a brilliant doctor. Did the Viva voce make difference? I know a relative of mine who at the Viva was asked as she said “civics question” – govt etc. She had no clue. That is she says why she had to go to vet school with tears. Yes, it is possible some brilliant students were not admitted for medicine because of the performance at the Viv voce. Was it fair? Any way it was dropped after our batch. Did our immediate junior batch have Viva voce. can someone enlighten?

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  9. Gosh, some of you have good memories.

    I remember a few questions asked. The questions depend on the hobbies and extra-curricular activities you put down. They also have our Principal’s school leaving report in front of them, so they probably go through that before we enter the room.
    I was first asked about Girl Guides and then on books I have read. (cannot remember who questioned)
    Like C J, I spoke about Somerset Maugham, among others. (I think I did well on those)
    I may have mentioned History as a subject I was interested in. Unfortunately Prof Rajasuriya decided to question me on Ceylon History. After some time I got stuck on Queen Anula – he kept asking me what else she was famous for and I was getting desperate because I could not answer!
    Professor Koch – he was so sweet – he saw me getting flustered and began questioning me on “travel” which I had put down as an interest. He asked me to name the waterfalls you see on the way to Nuwara Eliya and I started batting – Prof Koch kept nodding his head and smiling encouragingly – and the viva ended well.
    (Much later in life when I seriously started studying Ceylon History, I realised that Prof Rajasuriya probably wanted me to say that Q Anula had several husbands murdered !! Typical male chauvinism!)

    Ours was the last viva voce. I know of one girl who did not answer a single question (did not open her mouth at all) and was demoted to do bioscience. I suspect she did it on purpose because she did not want to do medicine.

    Anoja

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    • Thanks Anoja. The two waterfall you see on the way to N’Eliya by train were the St Clares and Devon. are ones I know, that only after I started working at Agarapatana! While driving i remember Ravana and Ramboda falls. Maybe some can educate me. Regards Q Anula I am glad i did not marry her!! ” male chauvinism” no comments. I was totally taken aback by “No talk girl.”. I am sure everyone who got dental, vet, agriculture or bioscience would have taken her place. I suspect she came to the viva voce due to parental pressure. As you said, she did not want to do medicine. Hope she was happy doing Biochemistry.
      I guess this answers my question what role the viva voce played in the selection process . Some of us thought the selection was already made but the viva was a formality.except perhaps the “No talk Girl”. Perhaps they allotted some scores, perhaps 10 points ,to be added to the exam scores for the final ranking. Any comments anyone?

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  10. I was one of those who had rural education that Abey mentioned although my father enrolled me at Richmond for A-level, rescuing me from certain failure trying to get in to Med-school from my hometown. Viva was certainly challenging. I was clueless but determined. So I did some exit interviews as someone already mentioned.
    My brother, was the Director of Educational publications Department (he translated English text books to Sinhala) His office was the entire upper floor of the College House. Before the viva he summoned me to his office and gave me some “tips” in preparation for the Viva.
    I learned that they were asking about books we have read. I was never a voracious reader. I borrowed a book from a friend, and started reading it a week before the viva. Name of the book was “Doctor in the house” . True enough the first question by the Dean Abeyratne (“Pachaya”) was what books I had read. I replied “I am reading the “Doctor in the house” which is one of the series of novels by Morton Thompson Sir.” He was impressed.
    Professor Koch was very kind. His question was on Ice- Bergs. He wanted to know why the Ice-bergs floated and what proportion of an ice-berg was under the water. This was an easier one as I was able to use my knowledge of O – level Physics. I recognized Rajasooriya and the Parasitology guy on the panel but got no questions from them.

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  11. I knew the story about Anula Devi. I knew the story even before I was a teenager. My aunt , fathers younger sister was Anula. I was always afraid of her, growing up. When I was able to understand things better , my fears fizzled out because she turned out to be a very nice aunt.

    Nisantha

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  12. I couldn’t resist reposting this email I received from a friend of mine!
    “When I was young, I decided I wanted to be a doctor so I took the entrance exam to go to Medical School. One of the questions asked us to rearrange the letters “PNEIS” into the name of an important human body part which is most useful when erect. Those who answered “spine” are doctors today. The rest of us are sitting at home sending jokes via email.”
    Sam

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