VIVA next week Friday


======= Date Modified 25 12 2010 12:12:42 =======
Hello All,

I wish I knew the existence of this forum earlier . It is so good to read all your threads about life as a PhD student. I would have felt less alone and miserable.

It took me 5 years to complete the thesis, I am mum of a 5 years old and I am 8 months pregnant. I know it is crazy but it is a long story…

I have my VIVA in 1 week and 5 days. I am so stressed, so so so stressed…

I am trying to get ready but find it hard to focus…it is like if my brain stopped working.
Do you think it is too late to get ready, did I leave it too long? Any advice?

I have read most of the threads on how to get ready and tried to follow the advices.

I did submit my thesis in January so it was a very long time ago and I had to rediscover my thesis. I finished re-reading my thesis today, it was like rediscovering my subject…LOL…I kept saying to myself: “Did I really write all of this my self”. I don’t remember some of the referenced papers.

Some might ask why it took me so long to get back to it. But since January I have lost three members of my close family including one of my parents. So life was not too easy. I wanted to give it all up but I promised myself not to after all that time.

It is the last days left of misery before I will finally get the answer about my PhD, so I want to make the most of them. But the stress is taking over and I am not efficient.

Even simple questions such as: “Why did I embark on this research?” I can’t think of an answer…it is true WHY ooooo WHY did I embark on this research???? What would you answer?




I had my viva yesterday, and know exactly how you're feeling. Yesterday before my viva, I honestly wanted to cry. I felt completely unprepared (having sunbathed instead of done prep over the weekend), and honestly thought I was going to make an idiot of myself.

Needless to say, I didn't. The viva isn't half as scary as people think. I found it enjoyable, but it was challenging. As long as you know your research (which I'm sure you do), you will be fine. You're examiners aren't there to attack you but to judge how well you know your are and your work. I think it's impossible to prepare for specific questions because you never know what your examiners will pick up on. The key is to just be confident in your own ability and in your work.

Good luck next week, and I hope to hear of a positive outcome for you!! :-)


Well I'm in exactly the same position as you - I have my viva next Thursday. I'm finding it hard to prepare too, and feel that I don't know enough. But I'm just telling myself that I can't be expected to know everything, and trying to read as much as possible. Having said that, I don't want to overdo it - I was feeling really tired and drained, so didn't do any work at the weekend, which has hopefully helped.

I'm sure you'll be fine next week. Although it's a long time since you submitted, your work will come back to you - after all, you wrote it! Be proud of the fact that you've submitted and got this far, especially as you've been through a lot recently, which I'm sure was really hard for you to cope with.

Think about your motivation for choosing your particular subject area. Was it something you liked as an undergrad and wanted to continue? Is your work similar to work by others, maybe your supervisor? Maybe part of your plan was to expand/generalise these results?

Good luck with the preparation, and don't stress!! 8-)


Thank you so much for your support. Is is so good to hear your experience and CONGRATULATIONS!!! you must be over the moon it is finished.

Some questions :
"How did you get started when they asked you the question "How did you embark on this research?""
Was it easy for you to find the right words when they asked you the questions?
When they test your knowledge of the area is it more philosophical or technical questions?
How much did you prepare on your examiners research?
What was your preparation like overall?

Some advice to hopefully have the same sucess as you LOL in my dreams


Thank you so much for your encouragements Squiggles, and GOOD LUCK TO YOU TOO!
I think you are right, we should not overdo it as it will be no use to be dead tired but at the same time as a PHD student I am so bad at knowing when enough is enough :$
I hope we will keep in touch until the big day, it is so good not to feel alone, most of the family and friends around have the same answer: "you will be ok"...but at the same time I think "they haven't done a PhD they don't know what it is like this anxiety killing you and his fear of failing and making a full of yourself with everybody waiting for the final results after all these years........ahhhhhhhhhh I want o hide in a cave until everything is finished! LOL I am becoming crazy"

I have just been told that I have to prepare a it common?


Squiggles Did you have a mock VIVA? or did you meetwith your supervisor to get ready? If yes what was his advice on getting ready.
My supervisior refused to organise a Mock viva saying it is useless as you cannot predict the questions that would be asked. I am hoping he will accept to give me some guidance on what to do and avoid for the viva.


I had my viva nearly 2 months ago, so the memories are still fresh. Don't worry too much. You've reread your thesis, which is the main preparation you can do.

The other main tip I'd give is to think about your answers to 5 key questions: originality of my thesis, contribution to knowledge, methodology, weaknesses/gaps/mistakes, and what would I do differently if starting again. This takes very little time, but covers question you are likely to be asked. I would not recommend looking at long lists of potential viva questions (often very similar to each other) and trying to answer those.

The why you undertook your research is an obvious ice-breaker that examiners often ask. I was asked this. My answer was simple: I found the topic while working half-time for a year as a Research Assistant. Then I found that it was hugely under-researched. Opportuity for me! Why did you start your PhD? Was it advertised, or did you devise your own topic? Be honest.

And above all don't stress too much. Try to rest and relax between now and your viva. Sleep well, as much as you can.

Good luck!


Also have you read any viva preparation books? I bought a copy of Tinkler and Jackson's book, and that was brilliant. It totally demystified the process and put me at ease from the moment I started reading it. I found it much better advice than I got from academics, because it draws on many many different viva experiences, far more than an individual academic would have.


My preparation involved re-reading my thesis, and making little notes here and there about how certain points related to the questions Bilbo highlighted. I also did some extra reading on different theoretical positions knowing one of my examiners was big on theory (lucky I did as well as one of my questions was about what other theories I could have used!).

Other than that, a lot of my preparation was mental... asking myself questions and thinking up answers/ taking to myself about the research (in my head, not out loud). I don't find much use in writing stuff down as I have a good memory, so it depends on what works for you really.

I didn't have a mock viva... just a chat with my supervisor, and pretty much just chilled for the 3 days before my viva. Again though, it depends on what works best for you!

When I was asked why I embarked on the research I was completely honest. One aspect was the fact that I have a family history in the main area of my research, and the other area of the research was something I found challenging as it was a topic I'd never been interested in at all and had always avoided. I liked that it was a challenge at the same time as being tied to something I was really interested in.

My questions were a mix of both theory and practicality... we did spend a lot of time talking about methods though

I wouldn't say I prepared on my examiners research, but one of my examiners featured highly in my thesis and so I suppose that helped. Otherwise, I'd say its fine to see what their interests are, but the viva is about your research, not theirs so don't fret about it.


I didn't have a mock viva - nobody in my department seems to. I'd agree with Bilbo about thinking of answers to the questions she mentioned. As for my examiner's work, I haven't cited any of his papers, so don't really know anything about what he does. I don't think it's particularly similar to my work. But I guess I should have a look... :p


Oh, and for those of you who've had the viva experience, did you find a lot of mistakes/typos between submission and the viva? I've typed a list, and I'm almost onto the fifth A4 page! They're all minor really, but I don't want the examiners to think that I didn't read the thesis before submitting!


Thank you all for your advices. I will try to follow them and keep my spirit up. I have re read my thesis and now planning to read it again but this time adding some notes where needed and start preparing the basic questions you suggested.
English isn't my first language so I would probably have to practice out of loud as I tend to speak my own language when stressed or tired LOL My poor students find it hard to follow me when it happens :p
Yesterday I went on Amazon and ardered this book: How to Survive Your Viva: Defending a Thesis in an Oral Examination (Paperback) by Rowena Murray
I don't know if it is really worth doind this but I suppose I did it as a conforting action...Is there anybody who read it?

While I was there stressed thinking of preparing the VIVA I thought of a silly thing: my tummy is now enormous so I won't fit the nice suit I bought (nice skirt and jacket) for the VIVA. I need to think of a solution but it is silly to invest into a pregnancy suit when I am 8 months pregnant, I will wear it only once...another question added to my mind. I was planning to do my best for them not to notice my pregnancy, but being tall and slim with a massive tummy I will have some problems hiding it. Yesterday, I had this nightmare where I gave birth during the VIVA I woke up crying asking them to keep going with the questions....oh god this PhD is really making me CRAZY.


I found quite a few small typos (not a huge amount, but a fair number). So I typed them up, and took 3 copies into the viva to hand out at the start to my 2 examiners and the chairperson. They were all very grateful, and it wasn't a problem.

I did look at my external examiners' research and thought about likely questions she might ask. But I got it totally wrong. I'd thought of certain areas she'd hone in on, but she didn't at all. I honestly don't think you can predict the questions you'll get in a viva in that way, and you can worry yourself much more by trying to do so.

Best thing is to prepare by rereading your thesis thoroughly, find out about how vivas work to put your mind at rest, and to relax.

And I didn't have a mock viva. I didn't think it would help me, and I only wanted to go through the process once! But a member of staff in my department gave me really good advice about vivas, and I had a chat with my supervisor about them too. But Tinkler & Jackson's book was best.


And don't worry too much about the clothes/tummy issue MumPhDStudent. I had to use my wheelchair on the day, so ended up wearing much more casual clothes than I'd planned, just so I could be comfortable when wheeling about. The main thing is you are there, ready to answer the questions.


======= Date Modified 25 May 2010 18:02:21 =======
Reeeeeelax! You've got the hardest part over and done with; you submitted your thesis, remember? The viva is your chance to shine, to tell them all about the info your brain has soaked up these five years and which you're probably not even aware is there! You'll probably know more about your thesis than anyone else in that room. Be confident, polite and don't be afraid to take a few moment to think before you answer their questions. Do some yoga if you get the chance in the next few days, or go for walks and clear your head - anything relaxing.
As for the question of why you did it, try to imagine where you'd be and what you'd be doing if you hadn't embarked on the PhD journey - aren't you happier where you ended up now? Go back to the time that you were applying to do a PhD; why did you in the end choose this topic? Was there anything in your life / studies that led you to this area, or motivated you, perhaps, in your personal life? Make a list (empty your head), then sleep on it. The next day go over it and then if/when they ask you at the viva, you'll have a few ideas to guide your response. Good luck! Let us know how it went!