Viva la Viva: You wrote this, you got this

We submitted our work at the beginning of the new academic year. We anxiously awaited our provisional results upon our return after half term…

“What are the portfolio reviewers looking for? Have I represented myself well? Have I forgotten anything? It feels like a lifetime.”

We found out our provisional results and those of us who had passed were asked to make a poster for our QIP

“Oh gosh, what was it even about?! I did it months ago. How can I remember it all?

…for our Viva!

“What if I forget everything I’ve done? What if I come across unknowledgeable? What if they ask me a tricky question and I flail? I’ll be so embarrassed and this whole year will have been for nothing!”

Some of these thoughts may be resonating with you right now and some may not. These were some of my own honest initial thoughts during the process that many of you will be going through over the coming weeks and months. However, I hope this blog provides you with some advice on how to not only succeed in your Viva, but even enjoy it. 

Last year, as part of my role on the APConnect team, I co-hosted an ATS space with Phil Green (cohort 3) during our #FestivalFridays menu of events. In January this year I was prepping for my viva and having all the self-critical anxious thoughts above. I knew that my peers were feeling similarly lost when it came to the Viva and what to expect. So, I organised a Viva forum and invited three ATS holders to come and share their experiences. Although they were not able to share the Viva questions they supported those of us about to go through the final stretch of the ATS process. This is the collated advice that Phil Green (cohort 3), Dr Lynne Taylerson (cohort 1) and Cheryl Hall (cohort 4) gave to us: 

  • Make notes a few days before under the main themes you’re sent with your Viva information.
  • Have these notes on the side of your computer or wall. Not too many however as you don’t want to drown in post-it notes! You might also choose to have your QIP poster on a second device for reference when talking about it, the SET team will also have access to your poster.
  • Make a list of things you’re proud of to ensure you mention it.
  • Ensure there are no distractions (including the postman!) and you have water available as you'll be talking for a while. 
  • Read your portfolio a few days before but not just before. Instead, go for a walk outside or do something nice to relax (if you can).
  • Take your time with your answers and ask your reviewer to repeat or be more specific in their questions if you need them to.
  • Expect depth and vigour.
  • It’s not a memory test but it is necessary to check and verify that your portfolio is yours and you are who you say you are!
  • Talk about any external development programmes you have been a part of or plan to do, for example, with the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).
  • Focus on a key one or two of the ETF’s Professional Standards if they have had a significant impact.
  • Mention the three impact focuses: self, colleagues, and organisation - in particular any organisational strategies that have been changed or amended because of your work.
  • Be honest about what didn’t go well what you’re doing instead.
  • Remember that it’s a celebration of a huge body of work.

I want to thank Phil, Lynne and Cheryl for their time that day because I for one (and I know many others who attended) felt that little bit more prepared for their Viva and ready to face it head on!

Chloë Hynes' ATS Viva mind map

To end, I want to finish where I began and share something personal with you. A few days before my Viva, I went through my whole portfolio top to bottom and created this mind-map. You’ll notice it doesn’t really have any notes on it and it’s very brief (intentional so it didn’t overface me when I was in the middle of my Viva), but it was an excellent activity to help me see just how much I had achieved in my own personal development that year. This activity helped me confidently feel that “I deserve this”. I envisaged the poster would help me throughout the Viva to make sure I covered everything. However, the mere act of going through my portfolio and making these brief notes was enough to jog my memory and keep it all fresh. I only looked at it once throughout the whole meeting when I was asked if there was anything else I wanted to add. Ultimately, the most pertinent advice for me was something my mentor said and which I pass on to you (please remember it): “You wrote this, you got this.”