Viva Experience


Hi, I hope that everybody has had a wonderful Christmas


I know that a few people have viva's coming up and I just wanted to share my viva experience to try to reassure people. I had my viva back on the 16th December and my PhD was based in the biological sciences. My viva lasted three and a half hours and although I was very very nervous, it really was not as I had expected!!! I was so worried about it and had crammed and crammed for about three weeks before hand and had completely worn myself out! Anyway, I just wanted to say that every single person on this forum can pass their viva and that the whole experience is not as bad as you initally think.

For me, I had two examiners (the internal and external) who were both experts in the field. The viva was held in the internal examiners office and was very informal. I forgot this but really do understand now that they are not out to trick you and they really do want to pass you. They are just interested in your research and want led you to your conclusions.


I sat down and there was a jug of water and glasses and they first of all asked me to explain a little bit about the background of my project. After this the viva was very much a discussion. To be honest they did not ask a hugh amount about chapter one (the literature review) but were more interested in the method I had developed and my results chapters. I had four results chapters and they focussed on two in particular. I got asked alot about how my work may contribute to the field and why I had chosen to do my experiements in the way I had done them. I then got asked "What would I have done if I had more time". I really hope I am helping to reassure people and I know that every viva will be different but I just want to say to people to try not too panic about it too much. Also, try not to over cram. I went in with post-it notes and pencil marks throughout my thesis and to be honest I didn't actually open the thesis that much at all. I did all these post-it notes etc to make me feel that I was prepared but please don't think you had to do this as you really will find that you know a lot more than you think, and once you get talking you will be amazed at what you remember!!


As I said, I'm sure that each viva is different and diffierent people find different ways of preparing which work for them, but all I would say is definitely don't panic and don't over cram!!!!! I think a few hours each night for about 3-4 weeks before the viva would be fine. Of course, it is a bonus to know as much as you can but they really will not expect you to know everything! I had spent an awful lot of time going over the other researcher's in the field but the examiners were much more interested in my work, not other peoples!!!!!!
I would prepare an answer for the question "Could you tell me a bit about the background that has led to your research?"

Also be able to discuss your results (I practised this by describing figures to my boyfriend!)
I would also think about the future experiments you would have done if there was more time.

The only other thing I was say is try to be confident. You are the expert in your field and research and you are just going to have a chat about your work. I know it is hard but try to think of the viva as a chance for you to shine, a chance where you have two researchers who are really interested in your work and they really want to hear what you have to say.


Try not to be nervous (hard I know as I was especially nervous!). I know this may also sound silly but try to enjoy the experience. As I said everyone here can pass their viva and although I understand that some people have bad experiences, the majority of people do pass. If your supervisor has looked at the thesis and you know your work (which you do as you have done it!!) then you will be fine.
Also, I was very worried about the fact I have not published my work yet. Although paper's do help, I promise that they are not essential to passing your viva. The examiner's were much more interested in my thought processes and why i had taken the approach I had. So don't worry if you have not published.
Anyway, just to say try not too worry and good luck to everyone who has their viva coming up. I'm really looking forward to reading about all the success stories on the forum!!!!!
Good luck and a happy new year!!!!!!


Well done TG and could I just say I found reading your posts in relation to the Viva very helpful.

Thank you and I hope all goes well for you.


Thank you for posting this, Tractorgirl! I will try to remember it when my time comes. The idea of discussing your own research for 3 and a half hours sounds a bit daunting. Or does time fly by?? I was told by one of my supervisors that some people enjoy this aspect of the viva, as it's the only time they get to talk about their work in such depth with people who have actually read it. I feel mildly sceptical about that at the moment, but will reserve judgement.

Oh, and well done again on passing it, and good luck with whatever you do next! (up)


thanks for this. my viva is coming up soon. I'm more worried about my mock viva - the examiner is known for brutality.


Thanks so much for describing your viva, its VERY helpful!! i've copied down the questions they asked you. and added it to my list of viva questions

thanks so much for giving the rest of us who are expecting viva, the reassurance, and the advice you have given us is VERY GOOD!!