Viva in a week!


OK, that was quite scary to write. But my viva is a week today, so a week from now I'll either be Dr Spiderpig or propping up a bar somewhere drowning my sorrows.

I'm not really sure if I'm looking for specific advice as such because there's already a load of it here. I guess my specific worries are that I've interpreted something in the literature incorrectly which has led to a glaring error, or I've passed incorrect comment on one of my external's publications.

Although in some ways, I'm feeling exactly the same as I do before making a conference presentation - it's not so much giving the presentation, but knowing there'll be questions, yet not knowing what to expect.

I'm taking heart from the stats in some way, in that it's exceptionally rare to get any worse than "6 month" major corrections for a thesis that's been properly supervised and submitted with supervisor approval (and if that happens, I'll take stock but then do my damnedest to beat the deadline and then some). We have 6-monthly monitoring meetings where supervisors fill out a form about progress and in all mine my supervisor was "very satisfied" in all areas so I've presumably been doing something right.

Reading this back it looks unbelievably disjointed! But I think I just needed to get my thoughts down somewhere so apologies and thanks for reading :)


Hi spiderpig,

Everything you have written here is exactly how I felt the week before my viva. I swung between feeling that I was doomed to failure, and feeling fairly confident that my supervisors wouldn't have let me submit a rubbish thesis. Overall, I was pretty convinced I would get major corrections, as I expected my viva to go fairly badly (like you, I was dreading the 'unknown' of the possible questions they could ask).

As it turned out, I had a really 'nice' viva, if it doesn't seem too weird to use that word! I expected my examiners to be really tough on me, but actually they were firm but fair. Having spoken to other viva survivors since then, I have come to realise that the vast majority of examiners want to help you bring out the best in yourself and are not actually out to get you! Therefore, even if a question comes up that you aren't sure of, it's ok to say you don't know or only give a partial answer. Feel free to ask them to explain the question if you haven't understood. I got a question that I couldn't really answer, but the external examiner actually helped me out quite a lot and I got there in the end!

For preparation, all I can say is know your thesis inside out, and study in detail the 5 or 6 main references. I also got asked a few questions about how my work would develop in the future, so it is handy to know if any relevant papers have been published in your field since you submitted.

Best of luck, and I hope to see another post from you next week with your successful viva story!!


I just wanted to wish you good luck! My viva was last friday and for the few days beforehand I felt exactly like you - but from your comments you sound like you have worked hard and your supervisors are probably confident you will pass. I know people say 'calm down you'll be fine' and it doesnt do much good - if you are a worrier you are going to worry, just know that in a week it will be all over and you will (hopefully) never have to do it again!


Thanks for the replies. It's always reassuring to get comments from people who have felt the same and been successful.

I found some tips on which had some general questions that could be asked. So I've just answered them to myself and I found I was able to actually do it! Obviously I can't guarantee being asked the same, but it was good to let myself realise that I do actually know what I've done!

My biggest concern still is that I'm asked about how my work compares to X, where X is something I've somehow missed. I've noticed there's one paper that did pass me by which is unfortunate in that my external is a co-author, but not such a big deal in that it's a companion paper to one I have cited and the two would go together in the same set of referencing brackets anyway.


I'm now in full prep mode and I've realised that given the citation I missed, I could and should probably strengthen the argument I've made as to why what I've done is different to and, for certain applications, better than an existing approach.

If that's picked up on, would such a change still be classed as "minor", i.e. it's not that I'm wrong to propose my new approach, but the justification for doing so needs to be tighter?


Well tomorrow's the day! I've decided not to look at my thesis tonight because if I'm not ready now...

I've taken another look at a recent review paper on my subject (which my external co-authored) so that I can confidently say where my work fits into the view of the topic they present. I've also recapped a couple of the other approaches that exist so I know not necessarily how I'm better, but what's different and why it's good that it's different.

I do keep reading about horror stories on here but they seem to focus on bad externals. I've met my external at conferences and he's been really nice and friendly, so I'm hoping it's the same tomorrow.

I was looking at the regulations for my uni and they don't seem to have a concept of major corrections - aside from the dreaded fail, my options are pass outright, 1 month minor corrections, 2 month minor revisions (whatever the difference between corrections and revisions might be) and revise and resubmit.

What's struck me is the latter is for addressing "substantial deficiencies" in the thesis. That's making me feel reasonably confident, because I couldn't see my supervisor letting be submit anything with "substantial deficiencies". But not over-confident - I still have an impending sense of doom and can't visualise myself being called "Doctor".

But I won't know until tomorrow!


Good luck for tomorrow! Fingers crossed everything will go well and you can relax after it - I think you are very sensible for taking the night off - have a bath, go for a walk, go to the cinema or treat yourself to a nice dinner and a movie in bed like I did the night before. Let us know how it goes!


I passed with "1 month" minor corrections :D

I can fill in the details later, but I was surprised at how much my internal steered the discussion, and so was the convenor when we bumped into each other in the toilets at the half-time break. But it was a good experience in the end and I was told I put up a robust defence of things that my internal was picking up on.



Congrats Dr Spiderpig :-) go get celebrating. Good to see all these positive stories as I ahv ea meeteing with a potential supervisor on Fri. I come on here so I know what I'm letting mysefl in for! Well done xxxx


Congratulations! Good luck with your corrections, hopefully they are straight foreward & before you know it you'll be handing in your hard bound copies