Likely viva questions


Can I ask for help with questions that examiners are likely to ask in a viva. 'What are the weaknesses in your study' and that type of thing.

A year or so ago there was an excellent thread started I think by Bilbo and I kept meaning to take notes but of course now I can't find it.

My viva is some years away however I have my major review at the end of he month and think it will be good to start to think about a sensible defense as i go into this and a I begin to write up.


My advice, particularly if you're pre/pre-viva is to consider how your work fits into the big picture of your discipline - broaden your contribution out beyond your specific topic and think how it contributes/advances your overall subject.

Surely if you're asked to identify weaknesses at this stage, will you not be expected to correct them before submission, given that you know they are present long before you finish. I did admit to weaknesses in the viva but at the same time tried to frame them as being weaknesses and things I would do differently but with the benefit of hindsight.

Best of luck with you review(up)


I am thrilled for Sneaks and her pass without corrections. However, her comment "Defo thanks Bilbo for the 'Bilbo-5' as I like to call it" is making me even keener to find out what it was that Bilbo was suggesting and hearing others comments. Can someone please pass this on.


Bilbo's 'core five' are 1) of your thesis, 2)contribution to knowledge, 3)methodology, 4)gaps/weaknesses, 5)things you'd do differently if did it again,

Can be found here



Ady and Phdee many thanks for your helpful posts. This was exactly what I was looking for. I had not seen the PhD Viva website which looks nice and calm and sensible.

Avatar for sneaks

I practiced the Bilbo-5 and then used that info to answer some of these (although none of them came up!)

In one sentence, what is your thesis?
What do you think you have done that merits a award of a PhD?
Why were you interested in this research topic?
Whom do you think would be most interested in your work?
Summarise your key findings. What was the most interesting to you?
What have you learnt from your research experience?
What would you do differently if you could do your thesis again?
What advice would you give to a new research student entering this topic area?
What are the most recent major developments in your area?
Which are the three most important papers that relate to your thesis?
How does your research relate to these?
What is your original contribution to research in your subject area?
Has your view of your research topic changed during the course of the research?
What are the main achievements of your research?
What are any alternatives to the approach or method you used? Why did you decide not to use them?
What published work is closest to what you have done? How is your work different?
How do you know that your findings are correct?
How long term is your contribution
Have you thought about publications? Which journals are appropriate?
What were the crucial research decisions you made?
What do you see as the next steps in this research?


Have a look at the PhD Viva website, there are plenty of people talking about their experiences and the questions they were asked:

Hope it helps :)


Hi there! I think it's only sensible to prepare for questions like those listed below, but also bear in mind that examiners may also have a lot of other questions specific to your project (obviously)! I only had 5 days between submission and viva, so didn't have a lot of time to prepare. In my viva we spent probably less than 10 minutes altogether on the 'big 5', although I'd ensured that I was more than ready to answer those, and had spent most of my time on preparation for those. The rest of the 2 hours was spent on really tough questions that I couldn't even have dreamed up- but the main point is that because I had designed my own project and made all of the decisions surrounding it, I was able to answer all of the questions. I think since you're still going through your project, one of the helpful things to do might be to make a list of decisions you make as you go along, and note why you made that decision (e.g. why measure X and not measure Y or Z? Why did your lit review include author X's work but not the work of author Y? and so on....). As long as you can give your reasons and justify what you have done, you won't go too far wrong! I would have been delighted if I'd spent most of my time on the 'obvious' questions, but examiners are all different! Great that you're thinking about it at this early stage! Best, KB