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4 tips for preparing for your physio vivas

Exams are daunting at the best of times. Even with weeks of revision, they can feel overwhelming – especially when it’s your first exam at university.

In physiotherapy, students undertake a special kind of examination: vivas. In short, vivas are a practical method of assessment in which students must perform as a physiotherapist in front of an examiner.

We sat down with Emma Montgomery, a first-year physiotherapy student and member of the Student Led Association of Physiotherapy (SLAP), to find out how she prepares for viva week and how being in an academic club helps her succeed.

Tip #1 Prep early!

According to Ms Montgomery, getting started early is essential to performing well in vivas.

‘The earlier you get practicing, the less stressful viva week is, and the better you’ll go. Remember, you can get examined on anything you do in class, even if the condition seems unlikely, so practice as you learn,’ she says.

Practice with and on your friends. Not only does this make prepping more fun, but your peers can give you feedback as to whether your technique is correct.

While SLAP primarily functions as a social club, she says it also gives students like herself the opportunity to meet people in different stages of their physiotherapy degree.

‘It’s a great place to meet people from both your own cohort and the years around you, giving you the perfect place to chat and ask for assistance from older students, and peers you may not have met yet,’ Ms Montgomery says.

Tip #2 Familiarise yourself with the viva format

‘If you know what’s expected of you, you can practice the whole viva from start to finish, mimicking your assessment,’ Ms Montgomery says. ‘Time yourself and practice with less time than you get in the viva. You want to ensure you’ve got good time management and that you cut out anything unnecessary for your examination and intervention.’

The things you learn in the classroom will undoubtedly help you identify the things you need to know, but it’s also important to focus on how you express that information. Focusing on your time management and other practical skills is one way of ensuring that you not only know your course content, but that you can explain it to other people quickly and accurately.

Tip #3 Practice with different people, not just your friends

It can be easy to fall into the habit of working with the same core group of people, but Ms Montgomery says it’s also important to diversify your study group.

‘While you should definitely practice with friends, don’t get stuck practicing physio on the same three people,’ she says.

Practice with people of all different shapes and sizes, and make sure you practice all the little things too, as they’re what you’re most likely to forget!

Tip #4 Know your stuff

This seems obvious, but to do well in any kind of exam, it’s important to pay attention throughout the semester and engage with course material.

‘Do your study, know what is expected of you, make sure your anatomy is spot on, and you’ll do well!’ Ms Montgomery says.

Although it seems like a high-pressure start to university, Ms Montgomery describes the vivas as a great way to learn and prepare for a career as a physiotherapist.

By giving us that practical experience under pressure, we will perform better and feel more comfortable over our 25 weeks of compulsory placement.