Viva in a week.....freaking out


Dear all

I am a completing PhD student and is awaiting my viva next week. I am extremely worried and stressed about it. I have an internal examiner who is not in my field but has experience in conducting vivas, and my external is rather new to the game and she said she has little experience (I have referenced some of her papers in my thesis). Both of my supervisors believe that my thesis is excellent, and I managed to have 4 publications (3 original papers + 1 review) out of my degree. However I am still feeling super stressed and restless for the following reasons:

1) I may have put too many references in the introduction chapter, and I'm finding it extremely hard to remember them. I have also put 2-3 wrong references in this section, albeit on sections which have nothing to do with my results.

2) I'm finding little mistakes here and there throughout the thesis.

May someone provide some pointers as to how I can prepare myself better. Right now I am just going through my results chapters sentence by sentence, reading up on examiners' papers and trying to see what questions they will ask. I am having a mock viva with my sup later this week....

Is there anything else that I can do to prepare for my viva....thank you so much?


It's a good idea to write a list of all the mistakes you notice - then if they come up during the viva you can point out that you are already aware of them (but don't reveal your list to the examiners until they ask!). Having said that, if they are just minor formatting errors/typos they probably won't mention them in the actual viva, they will just be given to you as corrections. This will also save you loads of time post-viva when doing corrections as you can whizz through your list really quickly.

As for your references, try not to worry too much about remembering them all! You won't be expected to remember every single reference in your thesis. I tried to memorise the titles/journals and key messages of about 10 of the really important papers that were vital for my thesis. I made sure I knew my examiner's papers inside and out. Additionally, I found two or three papers that had been published after I had submitted and memorised the key points of these (this turned out to be a good move as my examiners asked me what I thought the 'next big thing' in my field would be, and so I was able to discuss these new papers and the direction they were taking).

I then went through my thesis chapter by chapter and tried to write a list of about 10 questions that might come up, and practiced answering them. For me, it really helped to just talk out loud about my thesis (in an empty room!) to get myself used to talking about it and explaining it in ways that made sense without stumbling over my words. I also rehearsed summaries of each chapter, again just to get myself in the mode of talking about my work.

Some general questions that came up in my viva:
1) Summarise your thesis for me
2) What are you going to do with your thesis afterwards? (i.e. publications)
3) Which bit of your work are you most proud of?
4) What contribution does your thesis make to the field?

At the end of my viva, my examiner told me it was nice to have someone that talked so much (!), as he said that so often students are so nervous they give really short answers which makes it really hard work for the examiners, so I would advise you to expand upon your answers wherever you can, without waffling too much of course! I think this also helps to show your enthusiasm for your topic, which is another thing they are looking for and want to see.

Finally, best of luck, and I can almost guarantee it won't be as bad as you are imagining! My viva was mercifully short (just over an hour) and I got minor corrections, despite convincing myself I was going to fail completely. Please come back and let us know how it went



thanks so much for the suggestions. I shall do the things you mentioned and write about my viva I am sure it will help others preping for it.


oh man why do my examiners have to publish so many papers >_<......


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Congratulations on nearing the last hurdle!

1) It's perfectly fine to go in with a list (or index cards) of your references. You're not expected to memorize every title and date. The advice I received was to focus on the analysis of the data, and the rationale behind the methodology. The examiners were interested in what I learned from the experience (a meta-analysis of the research process). I felt the dissertation and viva were an exercise to demonstrate understanding of how to do good research. The ability to identify mistakes, and ideas that didn't work, seemed to be the point of the exercise. Try to view the viva as a discussion, not an interrogation.

2) "Little mistakes" are just that - little mistakes! Focus on the big picture. If an examiner points out a little mistake, you can say something such as, "Yes, I noticed that too!..." and move on. Prior to the viva, my sup said that sometimes examiners like to show off for each other. Don't let it throw your confidence - it's just a bit of theatre.

When I'm nervous, my brain and mouth tend to disconnect, so before the viva, I recorded myself giving the opening statement, and discussing the project aloud. I also did a mock viva with a friend, which was helpful.

You can do this!!!

Good Luck!!!


Thanks Dalmation. I read somewhere that there is a difference between methods and methodology, where methodology refers to the rationale for doing what I did....can someone elaborate on that?



======= Date Modified 18 Jul 2012 16:22:00 =======
Off the top of my head...for example..."ethnography" is a methodology, and it usually involves using mixed methods (interviewing, surveying, participation observation) for data collection. A reasonable viva question would be, "Why did you choose ethnography to address this particular research question?"


Thanks. Man I am still a bit restless...

Even though I am not slacking, I am clinging onto the fact that I have publications, and I am in an advantage because of that heading in. However, there is this one unpublished chapter (I have 5 results chapters, three published, two not yet) which there is very little information outside my work about it. I am hoping that there is going to be a very open discussion, and that I can ask the examiners questions about what they think, because both me and my supervisors have little background knowledge of the topic.....


It doesn't sound likely that you'll get a "fail" or "R&R", so you should be fine! :-)


Thanks Dalmation.

So after a few days of depression but hard work, I have come to the last day before my viva. Iam still not sure if I have prepared enough, especially my introduction chapter I just sort of went through it rathe quickly. I feel alright about my results chapter, and I have a lot to say about future work and how my work can be carried over. I have prepared some generic viva questions and sort of have the ideas in my head....

I feel like I have really tried my best, not just preparing for the viva, but my past few years as a PhD student. Deep down I do feel that I can make it, but the wait to viva is so hand I want it to come now, but then I fear of facing my examiners and the potential of not being able to answer questions. Nevertheless, tomorrow I will try to take the day look forward to the viva (or try)


It sounds like you've done your best. Now, it's time to take a deep breath and clear this last hurdle!



So took me a while to come back to this, but just to say that I have passed with minor corrections. It was only nerve-wracking for the first 20 minutes or so, but I was fortunate to have 2 very professional and down-to-earth examiners who did very well in trying to ease me into the exam, and it was in the end a very good experience.


Well done. delighted for you:-)



Time to begin a long, celebratory weekend!