How to prepare for my upgrade panel?


Hi all,

I have my upgrade panel coming up in the next month, and was just wondering what I should do to prepare? I've produced a 5k report which my supervisor is currently checking, so I'm not sure how to really prepare for the panel.

How did you prepare for yours? I was thinking of reading viva books but thought this may be a bit OTT. I also thought about reading my report inside out and looking for any potential issues that my panel may ask about. This I will do, however there's always something I will miss. I don't know whether I'm thinking into it too much and should just do a bit of prep a couple of days before?

Any help is much appreciated!


Hi Button,

I had mine back in June, a 30 minute presentation of what I had done to date followed by 90 minutes of questions. The panel consisted of my supervisory team, an internal, independent expert in the field & an internal academic with no idea of the discipline at all! His take on the research turned out to be really interesting.

I gave them a copy of the presentation plus the preparation notes I had made, which they appreciated.

They took turns to ask questions ranging from specifics on wording (they didn't like one of my 'I contend's!), asking me to justify my method & clarify my philosophy (there's another couple of threads here somewhere saying how much fun that is!!). They also gave advice including for me to be less apologetic about my small sample size and make clear my own real-time transformation during the research process.

I made loads of notes - I'm not clever enough to have remembered all this detail!! It was a very useful, if stressful, experience allowing me to consider new avenues. Of course, you don't have to take on board all their recommendations but it's great having new eyes looking at what you've done.

Remember, you're the expert here, you know what you've done & where you want to go - chin up & let us know how it goes. Mog :-)


My report was about the same length as yours and I also had to present my research to the panel.  The panel comprised just two people from the faculty but one was a senior staff member (with a renowned reputation for being persistent and thorough). They gave me quite a grilling after my presentation mainly on the methodology, findings and originality. Also discussed was the further work that I thought was required to fulfill the PhD requirements.
I have to say that I didn't really prep for the 'candidature viva' as it was a recent change to the regs just prior to my candidature application. I was getting married and going away on honeymoon (which the admin office knew about) and most of the prior prep was to rearrange the candidature viva to a time when I was actually back home and in the country! Much stress prior to getting married lol. It was held shortly after I returned home and I was then in early pregnancy, so most of my focus of the event was to not throw up on the panel :$  I think it took about an hour post presentation. I was asked to leave for about 20 minutes while they discussed the 'result'. I was invited back in to be told that they were recommending that I be transferred to PhD status.


I had my transfer a few months ago.  I would say that your idea of reading your report and looking for potential questions is probable the best course of action. However i would also suggest that a lot of extra reading (depending on field of course) would be a good idea which you can then tie into your answers, as a lot of my peers received "need to read more" in their feedback. I also found it useful to prepare short answers to the easy questions they might ask, such as why are you doing this, why is your research useful, and where do you see this going.

Hope that helps and good luck


Thanks all, your comments are really helpful!

I guess I also need to work on staying strong about my decisions; I had my annual review and the examiners majorly criticised my ideas, and I just sort of went along with a few of them when I could have justified my decisions!

Any other feedback would be more than welcome :-)

Avatar for Batfink27

Hi BUtton

I had my upgrade viva last year (at my uni we do it in month ten of our studies, submit a 20,000 word report and have a viva with an internal examiner, who then recommends whether we are upgraded at that point or need longer to develop our research. We then also have to have another viva at the end of year 2 to be allowed to continue into the final year) - a bit different to your process maybe, but I hope this will be useful anyway.

The biggest problem I had in my viva was being able to talk about how the different bits of my report related to each other. The internal quizzed me about how the gaps I'd found in the current literature tied into my aims and objectives, and how those both tied into the design of my overall study and the theoretical approach I'd chosen. I realised that I'd been prepared to answer questions about each of those individually, but when she asked me to talk about how they related, my brain just froze up. I managed to stumble through it but at one point my supervisor stepped in and helped me out, and I found that quite a difficult thing - I really felt like I'd allowed myself to be tripped up. My preparation for my second year viva is going to include quite a lot of thinking about how the elements fit together as a result.