I've passed mine less than 48 hours ago and during the lead up to it I found it helpful to read others experience, so I thought I'd add mine to that list. (In the hope it might help someone else).
To start with, I WAS a nervous wreck in the final week leading up to the viva. I felt ill through the anxiety of it all but learnt that the more I prepared for it, the more the anxiety eased off a bit. In hindsight I'd rather have spent more time in the preparation, but as it was, due to commitments, I spent a solid week organising my thoughts and I mean SOLID (like 10am through to 10pm or later some nights). I hadn't really been briefed what to expect by my supervisor other than "A presentation would be helpful, no more than 30 minutes", and "It's ok to disagree with them. Defend your work. Be confident.".........well, a presentation of almost four years work (in my case) condensed into 20 slides and being "confident" were no small task. I took it apon myself to check out my external examiner's latest publications AND my internal examiner's. After going through a huge list I found one or two publications which had topics of relevance to my own thesis. I read them. I am VERY glad I did this as I was able to then appreciate the thoughts of both examiners in regard to some of the subject areas that cropped up in my thesis. I was then able to prepare my presentation with some forethought and bring out my defence in areas where I could see there may be some questions, preemptively! I disarmed the questions before they could be asked. I also took in journal publications to back up my defence (more on this later). I didn't summarise my thesis into one page per chapter (as is suggested on some websites) as I understood that in preparing my presentation, I was essentially doing the same thing. I read a great deal online about viva preparation and experience whilst preparing my presentation which I think in hindsight DID help. The best sites for me were the ones that explained it from an examiners point of view and those where the emphasis is on boosting your confidence, NOT the ones with all the horror stories!
Mine was brought forward by an hour earlier than I had been previously informed. GULP. This meant a very rushed light lunch for me (which I forced down my throat because I really didn't want to eat anything). EAT breakfast. EAT lunch if yours is in the afternoon. Take in water (I actually got through almost a litre in mine and I'm not a big water drinker, but at least I was well hydrated, which we all know helps the brain). Take in biscuits. (Mine were untouched). I was nervous but attempted to be assertive and courteous at the same time. I DID take time to think things through before answering and I didn't worry about making the examiners wait for my answers. I couldn't answer everything but didn't bluster about it, I simply said so. I defended HONESTLY and was congratulated for this.
Part II (copied over from seperate thread)
My examiners had what looked like an awful amount of sticky notes all over my thesis and I was terrified that I was going to be ripped to shreds, but as it turned out I think I managed to disarm some of the questions in my presentation anyway and others came out as I was talking generally. In my case I found my external examiner, though he asked more thought provoking questions, easier to deal with than my internal examiner, who it seemed was there just to make my life a bit difficult (I might feel a bit different about this once I've had some time to reflect). I'd say DON'T let the number of sticky notes you can see on the dissetation put you off or make you more nervous. I don't think any examiner gets through all the questions they might like to pose.
As for journal publications which might help you defend contentious points, I DID use mine and it did give my internal examiner no room for manouvre when he asked me questions about how I'd gone about using a certain technique. His paper was a conference publication which had said what I'd actually done in my thesis wasn't possible. I had a journal publication which showed why it was, and I'd implemented it. If I hadn't had this with me (through doing some background reading on my internal examiner) I would have had a much harder time defending it. Do try to find things that are relevant to your research that your internal and external examiners have published. It will show their train of thought when reading your thesis and give you a little bit more of an advantage.
I was asked all manner of questions. Do remember that some of these questions ARE a matter of opinion of the examiners and not gospel. Don't roll over if you disagree. But at all times, be polite and courteous about it. It ISNT personal, and you do have to keep reminding yourself of this.
My viva took roughly three hours and I was asked to leave the room. I wasn't left waiting long at all which did surprise me. I know it was less than ten minutes, and I have a feeling it was much shorter than that. Essentially I didn't really have time to worry about the final conclusion, I was only ust starting to think about the relief of no more questions. It was quite an intense experience but it did go quicker than I realised and at NO point did I feel as rough as I had done in the lead up to it. In hindsight I'd have sat there alot longer if needed and didn't feel I needed to call time on it. The examiners just suddenly seemed to stop.
When I was called back in, I was given time to get myself seated again and I was immediately told that I had done enough to warrant passing my PhD. I was GENUINELY shocked. I was told I would have some corrections to do (minor). To be perfectly honest it hasn't really sunk in yet.
I hope this helps someone, I had two proper panic attacks before mine.
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