Prior to the “big day” aka diploma exam day, I ask my students to do three steps in terms of viva voce preparation for me (assuming they have already done all other steps I have given them in the course of diploma exam preparation). And I would like to share with you these three important steps that would give any candidates feel much more prepared and confident to perform well in the coming exam.
The three steps to prepare for a successful viva voce session are:
THINK about what and how you are going to answer the questions the examiners pose during the exam. I always give my students a bunch of potential questions the examiners will ask. It is very important to prepare ahead. Don’t just think, “oh, I will know how to answer them during the exam.” No way! Even you have the information at hand/in your head, it is crucial that you think about how to put the information together in a clear, simple presentable speech. And that leads to the second step..
WRITE. THEM. DOWN. Seriously. This is the next step you must do especially when you worry a lot about how to say what you need to say in the real exam. I hear a lot of this or a variation of this, “oh, I will know how to answer them because I have the information in my head.” Really? I don’t think so. If you cannot write them down, you cannot answer them. It doesn’t have to be written in full paragraph/sentences (although it certainly helps), but at least in point form, using clear, simple sentence structure. And for those who are not native speakers: this is NOT an oral English exam, so don’t worry too much about the grammatical mistakes or trying to sound like a native speaker or Shakespeare! – actually they might not even understand you if you speak like the latter anyway. The easiest way is to speak clearly and slowly in simple sentence (just use present tense in all circumstances to make it easier for yourself when in doubt), so that you can present your ideas through effectively and get points for that! I do advise those who worry about their oral English ability to write out everything in full sentences first, not to memorize them, but to…
SAY IT OUT LOUD! It is very important for anyone to not only practice their speaking, but also practice talking about music. I have met so many musicians/candidates who might know a lot about music yet fail to deliver their ideas through speech. It is great you can perform well for the recital part, but you do also need to speak well in your viva voce too! Therefore, I always advise my students to TALK TO ME in our lessons, especially in the last few sessions prior to the exam. I ask them questions, and they give me answers in terms of the general repertoire, background of pieces, form and analysis, composer information, etc etc. I also check their programme notes and pose some questions based on what they wrote (and help with some editing- they do have to write their own notes first!). I encourage students to practice talking out loud at home for the viva voce practice and come back with the answers so I can help correct the content as well as sentence structure. That way students feel much more prepared and confident going to the real exam session.
I welcome any questions on the viva voce/programme notes/piano diploma exams in general.
A guided video to how to revise for your viva voce exam part: