We all know the fear of viva from school, but giving an architecture viva is a completely different experience. The juror will haunt you and make sure that the thought of the jury will give you chills. Okay, this may be a little exaggerated but if you have studied architecture you know what I am talking about. Our college requires us to give a viva for building construction. 

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Study the portions, pray there is no drafting error and you’re good to go, but boy, were we wrong and how. The entire drama of a design jury is not there but this building construction viva was probably a tad less dramatic than a Bollywood movie. 

Doomsday | Architecture Exam

Morning of the viva, for a change there was panic in the air with a hint of coffee, third-semester students were completing their design sheets instead of studying for building construction.  At around 10:00 am the first student was called for viva and everyone was eagerly waiting for her to come out so we could turn into a swarm of bees and ask her details about the viva. 

Every minute that went by felt like an hour but we patiently waited, and finally, someone announced that the first student was leaving the studio. Thirty students stood right outside the door and the minute it opened, she sprinted, so fast that she was gone from our sight in a flash and disappeared into thin air. This was not a good sign; we were all waiting for her to shower us with relief and tell us that the exam was good. The second student had come out of the studio, didn’t say much but kept nodding his head. 

Now this led to chaos, design submission and a final exam isn’t a good combination and clearly, it wasn’t working out for us that day. Someone had cut their finger and there was blood dripping on the staircase, another was ‘suffering from weakness’ and finally fainted, one was chugging coffee like there was no tomorrow, someone else was crying in the corner, and everyone was screaming as we were running on two hours of sleep and were trying to cram as much information into our heads as possible as we didn’t know what was ahead of us. Amid all this chaos the first semester students were blowing bubbles for an art project, with happiness and dreams in their eyes.

Behind the Scenes of an Architecture Exam - Sheet1
Same story, different era_©https://inhabitat.com/living-sustainably-as-a-design-student/

I was fourth and was trying to revise five modules in twenty minutes. I couldn’t stop pacing up and down, I could feel the adrenaline rush, the nervousness and had a sliver of hope as I repeatedly told myself maybe mine won’t be this bad, maybe I’ll answer everything, who knows. The wait was killing me as I wanted to face the external and get done with the viva. 

At this moment, I saw the third student come out and she was smiling. No, this wasn’t the ‘oh the viva was easy the external is very sweet’ kind of smile, this was the ‘what just happened in there, I hope I pass’ kind of smile. This was the smile or chuckle one gives when their life is falling apart and another problem comes up and you lose all hope and are sitting there like lol, bring it on, what’s one more problem. 

The Mistake

I walked into the studio, as the door closed behind me, I could feel the weight of silence and uncertainty slow me down. The chatter and chaos from outside had slowly faded away and I felt like I was entering another world. I wished the external and sat down with my portfolio, ready to face it all. The external opened my portfolio and scribbled with an 8B pencil, she circled everything wrong, and a mini volcano erupted within me. I’m pretty sure they get some sadistic joy by doing this to students.  

Despite this, I managed to keep a straight face and answered probably two of the many questions that I was asked and after what felt like an eternity my viva finally came to an end. I thanked her, stood up to leave and without thinking I blurted, “Did I pass?”, her head shot up in an instant and she looked at me directly, without changing her expression, but her eyes said it all. Her eyes had looked into my soul and ripped it and I had then realised what I had done. 

I could feel my body melt into a puddle and was drowning in an ocean of panic. I stood still for the longest time and she finally asked me to send the next student in a stern tone. I thanked her and left as quickly as possible to save whatever dignity I had left. My hands trembled as I opened the door but once I was out, I knew there was nothing I could do to turn back time. 

As I stepped out of the studio I looked at everyone and said, “Guys, stop studying, it’s over, everything we studied is wrong, go finish your design sheets, nothing can save you from this viva”. The horror that swept the faces of thirty students was hilarious, and everyone wanted to know why what we had studied was wrong as we had given a couple of external exams earlier in that semester and no one had an issue. I picked up my design portfolio and left the building, walking away from the madness.


Now to answer the big question, did I pass? Three months later our results were out and yes, I had passed with flying colours, so did everyone. There is humour in pain and every architecture student will agree on this. What was once a terrifying moment is now a heroic experience. 

The uncertainty turns into certainty and positive emotions are attached to the incident because during times like these one comes up with quick fixes or you do some ‘jugaad’ to get through the situation. This is what gives you a feeling of accomplishment and you can happily say ‘I got through it’. These are the incidents which become college stories that we save for the years to come.


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