Viva next week: tips and advice for before and during?


I've really enjoyed being a part of this forum over the past year or so. I have my viva a week today. I searched the forum for threads about this, but most of the results I found are not that recent, so I wondered if you all had any specific tips/advice on how to prepare.

I've been going through my thesis, marking the starts of chapters and any sections that I feel I may get asked about. Should I take anything apart from my thesis with me on the day, such as copies of key papers that I may need to refer to? I don't know if that will be any help at all.

I'm worried about being asked a 'killer' question on the day, or my emotions getting the better of me. I know it should be an opportunity for a conversation between myself and my examiners, but it's also quite an intimidating experience. My supervisors say that I have nothing to worry about, and I range from feeling really well prepared and able to take on whatever they throw at me to feeling really anxious and stressed! I know this is probably all 'normal', but any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks ever so much in advance


My first piece of advice would be to do something relaxing the night before and don't look at your thesis. Make sure you revise and prepare before that and then give yourself a good break and a good sleep.

Have you prepared answers to typical questions? I took along notes of answers with me and read over these while waiting to be called in.

I wouldn't take other papers with you, they will be asking about the thesis and it's just more stuff to worry about. Take a notepad and pen for notes and some water to drink.

During, make sure you listen to questions and then take your time to answer. It isn't a test and you will be able to refer to your thesis and your notes. Clarify anything that wasn't clear and remember to breathe!
Best of luck!


Thanks so much CR1980. That's really helpful. I have been preparing answers to as many of the typical questions that I've found in books and on the Internet. I think it's a great idea to make more structured notes for those that I can read through leading up to going in.

Thanks for the advice =D


Hi glowworm,

I had a horrible viva experience.

Define horrible: first of all they were almost an hour late (IMO extremely rude).
They asked me primarily the standard questions you find online in a standard google search.Very few technical questions (mostly from my external).

I had the wrong mind set. Let me try to explain what I mean. I know I will sound like an arrogant pr*ck but this really happened, and I guess it might happen again in multi-disciplinary PhDs. It is very hard to put yourself in the examiner's position, and try to guess what they understand/know (and more importantly what they don't) from their questions. In retrospective, this is what I should have done. Instead, the very basic questions caught me unprepared. I stared blank. When I received the comments and read them in the comfort of not being in the viva, I sighted "Blimey! they didn't know this chemical reacts with the other chemical, that's what they were asking". So you need to understand the question, rather than guess the question


I imagine every viva's different. There are questions you're very likely to be asked like "why this project?", "what are your main findings?" , "where does this research lead next?" , "why did you choose this methodology?"
It's also OK to say "I don't know". My external asked me if a particular legal decision contradicted one of my conclusions, and I said I didn't think so because of A but I would go back and read the case again. Better than seeming a know-it-all or arrogant I think.
Above all, remember the results rests on the thesis. Your performance in the viva is probably neither here nor there.


During my viva one examiner agreed with my seperation of complexity and risk and the other didn't, to the point they nearly started questioning each other!
My experience was that I had spent so long on the subject I could speak about it until the cows came home, so I wasn't nervous. I tried not to paraphase anything in my work because my thinking was they have already read it and are looking for supporting or different answers to test the depth of my knowledge.
Sit back and enjoy it... you know it all and this is your chance to shine! It sounds arrogant but I went in with the mindset that this was my opportunity to make them listen to me bang on for a change :)

P.S. I did well in my viva!


Dr Jeckyll - I'm so sorry to hear about your bad experience - what was the result of your viva, if you don't mind me asking?

DocInsanity and AOE26 - thanks for the tips. I'm definitely trying to look at the whole thing from a positive perspective. (and I kind of want to just get it over and done with now, whatever the outcome!)

Not long to go now! I really appreciate everyone taking the time to reply and tell me your stories.
Thank you!


Hi glowworm ,

I got minor revisions. And I really really don't want to scare you. You will be fine. Most people have a positive viva experience, a stimulating discussion with academics that care about your work.

I am sure I am the minority, and it boils down to poor selection of the examiners.

Good luck, let us know how it goes


Thanks for letting me know, DrJeckyll. I know both of my examiners (I've got 2 externals), and their work perfectly intersects my research, but both in slightly different ways, so i feel relatively confident that they will both have something interesting to contribute (but also worried I'll get grilled on something that I'm not sure about).

I will definitely let you all know how I go. Thanks again. g


Good luck, glowworm! I've still got a year to go before that stage, but my supervisor has already said to me not to worry about not being able to answer all viva questions perfectly.....she said if there is anything you just don't know on the day, in all likelihood they will put it down as a minor correction. Let us know how it goes!


Thanks, Chickpea! I will =D


Hi everyone. I just wanted to let you know that my viva went really well on Monday and I passed with minor corrections!! Thank you to everyone on here that has helped me along the way. This forum really has been amazing and such a source of support over the course of my PhD.

Thank you!!!


Well done Dr Glowworm! Congratulations. :)


Congratulations, fab result!


Congratulations Dr Glowworm!

Hopefully I will be following you soon; my viva is at the end of October!