in a mess

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My viva is imminent, but I've done pretty much NO prep.

I've read my thesis ONCE since submitting, and done nothing else. My friends who've done this have all done months of prep and had mock-viva's etc. I haven't had any guidance and I work full time, so have had NO time to do anything. All my weekends and evenings have been taken up with marking or working for deadlines this week.

Is there anything I can do to salvage this? I have about 4 days (although teaching for 2 of them all day!)


I passed and only started reading my thesis the day before - that's being totally honest. READ your thesis, KNOW your thesis.

1. Explain how it contributes to knowledge

2. Explain why it makes an original contribution.

3. Do you know its gaps, strengths and weaknesses? If not, learn these.

Why did you do the things you did? Justify your decisions but acknowledge what you would do differently.

More preparation would not have helped me and, again, that's being honest.

For what's it worth, I believe in most cases the decision is made prior to viva.

Calm down, you've been working on this for years and should know it better than the alphabet.

Good luck



Also, by all means defend your work but don't get defensive (uptight with the examiners).

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my head feels like cotton wool though. I know I know those answers, but when I try to extract them from my brain I just go blank.

I am just about to submit a paper based on one of my PhD studies (so at least I've been doing that!) and sup has said I need to sum up the findings in 2 sentences for the conclusion. I've been sat here completely dumbstruck for about 2 hours.


If you know the answers to those questions and know your thesis (you definitely do as you wrote it) I think you have prepared. If your brain feels like cotton wool, and I can understand that, revision is not the answer (unless it helps calm you down) but dealing with your nerves, learning to relax is the key. Hopefully, your examiners will appreciate the stress you are under and ease you into the viva with some straightforward questions to help give you confidence. The difficult thing about a viva is you only have so much control over it, even with ample preparation, and the examiners will dictate the course of events. No matter what, you can't fully prepare for viva as not everything is within your control and try to remember that but in a positive way.

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I guess at the moment, I don't feel like I know it. Its only been about 6 weeks since submission, but so much has happened - xmas, start of new term, it feels like it was 2 years ago! I'm going to sit and read it through tonight but I'm slightly concerned :-(


If it helps, I didn't have a mock viva (wasn't offered one but made it clear I didn't want one) and my supervisors offered no advice, except to say rather vaguely (and not long before the viva) that the examiners would have issues with it. That was said so close to the viva there was nothing I could do and my supervisors didn't go into any detail whatsoever about the 'issues'.


Quote From sneaks:

I'm going to sit and read it through tonight but I'm slightly concerned :-(

Trust me, I went to bits the day before my viva (no tears but nerves completely shot) and I think what you are feeling is perfectly natural, not a good feeling but perfectly natural for viva.


I didn't have a mock viva. I was encouraged by one supervisor but didn't want one.

Prep wise I read my thesis once in the week before. Copied down some generic sample questions and thought about how I might answer them (and didn't get asked any of them!). I looked up new research in the field (didn't get asked about it!) and re read a couple of key papers.

The most important prep was re reading my thesis. I was asked to summarise main findings from chapters, and had done that at the end of each chapter so could refer to it. Other than that they asked a lot about methods, some of which was explaining tasks or quesionnaires used where the examiners were not familiar with them.

Try not to panic. I think (based on y experience) that some people must seriously over prepare. I could have done a lot more than I did, and didn't end up needing half of it!

Good luck


Try not to get too worked up about this. Just focus on the key areas, like contribution to knowledge, strengths and limitations, future work, what you liked and didn't like, what you found challenging, conrtibutions to knowledge. I've got some very short books on last minute preparations for the viva that I used - pm me if you would like me to send you any.

Chances are, they've already largely made up their minds (all good, I'm sure). One of the main aims of a viva is, afterall, to establish authenticity.8-)

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Thanks all, Wal - I don't think I've got enough time to read the thesis, let alone books about the viva :$

Doesn't help that I've just submitted a journal paper from my thesis and sup has emailed me saying that the argument for one of my findings is fine for the paper but needs to be strengthened for the viva - I mean what the feck does that mean? how am I supposed to know how to 'strengthen' the argument, what does she want from me???

The only contact I'll have with her is the day before, I just feel like she's going to pull apart every answer I've tried to prepare and say its not good enough, leaving me feeling awful about the viva and no time to prepare different answers.


The viva is supposed to be a fair, balanced and intellectual discussion of some research, between a group of people who are supposed to have shared interests. The examiners are unlikely to rip your work to shreds. They'll put you at ease, most likely complement you on some things and perhaps ask for clarification on other points. Don't see it as some dramatic defence, more as a beaurocratic, box-ticking exercise. It really is just a discussion. I never had a mock and really didn't need it.

Remember too, some of your work has been published, you already work as a researcher and that's pretty good validation for passing your viva. Bilbo wrote some stuff on organising your thoughts and provided a broad overview of how to prepare - and I think it's more than sufficient. Just bear in mind though that you've sort of been preparing for over 3 years - that the work is yours through and through will clearly be evident to the examiners. You'll be fine!:-)

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Where is this stuff from Bilbo - I keep on seeing it mentioned but never seen it (to my knowledge)


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What I would advise is read your thesis again (and again if you have time). Then I would verbalise Bilbo's five key questions. I was working full time in the lead up to my viva so although it was on my mind I didn't do much prep at all. The only other thing I would advise is think how your thesis slots into the bigger picture of your subject; so not your topic per se, but how you advance your discipline.

Best of luck(up)

Bilbo's stuff (from memory): originality of thesis, contribution to knowledge, what you would do differently, possible limitations, methodology. I think of it as why this topic, what was done, how it was done, findings and implications of findings.

Edit(2) I didn't have a mock viva at all either!

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I guess I feel a bit like "isn't this all obvious" when it comes to contribution and "look in there - I've written it down morons"