Viva preparation


Hello everyone

I have my viva in October, and was very interested to know what kind of preparation people who had gone through the process felt I should be making at this point. For example, how did you account for things that the examiners were unsure about/wanted rewriting? How did you prepare your thesis document that you took into the viva - e.g. putting notes in, bookmarks, etc. Did your supervisor play a role in helping you prepare for the viva, and if so how?

Thank you very much for your help. I hope this thread will be useful to other people coming up to their viva too. I will of course be happy to share the lessons I learned from the viva experience with everyone after it has taken place.


One thing I might have done differently is I wish I had either taken clearer notes, or asked the examiners permission to tape record the viva. Although I took copious notes, I was very nervous, and trying to listen to five people at once was challenging. Deciphering my chicken scratch a few days later was a bit time-consuming, and frustrating. (At my uni, the examiners are required to type up comments only if the outcome is revise and resubmit.) Although I was able to recall the minor revisions requested, they made a lot of other helpful comments - I just couldn't wrap my head around everything at that moment. It's my understanding that there's no rule against recording at most unis, but it's good etiquette to ask first.

Good luck in October!


I absolutely agree that taking a recording of the event would be great for doing corrections. As you say, I guess it's just finding out if the examiners are happy with this or not. It would be interesting to know if anyone else has actually used a dictaphone in their viva? I find the whole process of listening to a recording and transcribing very helpful to understanding the point someone was trying to make in an interview/meeting.


Before the viva I prepared my thesis by putting markers in for the beginning of each chapter, and also for areas that I thought might come up - for example I had a paper published during my PhD, so I had a marker highlighting which bit of work that came from. I also had markers where I had written what I felt to be slightly 'controversial' statements that I thought the examiner might pick up on.

As it turned out, I didn't use any of my markers - my external had a list of things he wanted to bring up, and we went through them one by one with him giving out which page number he was on before we discussed each point. I also took in a load of relevant papers so that I could refer to those if necessary, but in the end I didn't need them.

A few days after the viva I received a copy of the corrections from my external. They were basically just a page of hastily scrawled notes, but they were mostly typos/grammatical things that I had already spotted so fairly easy to correct. If my corrections had been more extensive then it would have been useful to have taped the viva in hindsight, because I didn't take any notes at all - I was far too nervous to think straight and although I had a pen and paper at the ready I never thought to actually write anything down!


Hi Smoobles - yes your approach to bookmarking starts of chapters and other key pages in the thesis sounds sensible. Hopefully this can act as part of my preparation to know the thesis well, even if ultimately the bookmarks are not used much in the viva itself.


I think it is important to be able to summarise your thesis clearly and be able to summarise the main findings. The opening questions are usually quite general to get you relaxed and the summary question is one that will come up. This may sound easy to do but under pressure it may be more difficult so it may be best to write this up and go over it a few times. If you any theory/framework guiding your work the examiner may test why this was chosen- be able to defend. I think it is important to try to highlights the strengths of work wherever possible. Be clear of your main conclusions and what your thesis contributes to knowledge.

In preparation for my viva my superviser arranged a mock viva with two other members of staff. This was a great idea and gave me a good indication of what the examiners may pick up on. It was great to get someone else's perspective. My superviser just kept saying "remember defend defend defend!" I brought in a copy of my thesis and tagged each chapter so it was easy to flick through. I had a list of page numbers where I had found mistakes that I brought with me just incase these were mentioned and to let the examiner know I had picked up on them.

Good luck in October and let is know how you get on :-)


Thank you everyone replying to this great question from Nearlyfinished. My viva is in October too, so I am reading all replies because I was about to ask the same question! Thank you for asking it and good luck.....


Welcome to the thread Pinkneuron! Perhaps this thread could become somewhat of a sticky for viva preparation given the quality of replies received so far. :-)


I'm expecting my viva to be in October too so this will be a useful thread.


Very useful post. I had my viva next week!!! Brain is in panicky mode and concentration out the finding it very hard to open the thesis! What I have re-read of it so far is making me cringe....Anyway, must get over this as have draft paper to write from it and mock viva to do before the viva --- eeek! I swear I don't know what I've been doing.
All I can think about it what to wear (haven't got anything yet even though I have looked and looked!) and getting on place abroad the day after... Priorities are definitely all a squiff..
Good advice though here and am going to correct/take notes and have my main findings/contributions clear before mock viva next week. Gulp! Wish me luck...


Maybe you've done this already, but you could search this forum using keywords "viva experience" and "viva preparation" (including quotation marks). I found many useful tips in the old discussion threads.


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Hello to all just about to play the Viva Game!

I wondered if anyone has a Viva in the next week or two? What kind of preparation are you doing at the moment. Mine is in October. Is anyone using Rowena Murray's guide, 'How to survive your viva?'. It has some potentially useful practice viva questions in it.


Okay, I have ordered 5 different types of Post-its, to make notes in my thesis, from tomorrow!
Have you all also had the problem of just not being able to 'open it'?
If I open it, I will start to see the errors I know must be there, I was so exhausted towards the end and I know I will start
panicking, which will just melt my brain.....
Post-its come tomorrow, I can do this...opening day tomorrow.
(Just received my 'viva pack' from my uni. honestly felt sick), I have dreaded this moment for nearly 5 years but just want it to be over.


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Hello Pinkneuron

I'm not sure if my university do a viva pack, but it sounds a good idea - I'm sure the examiners will receive the rules etc even if I don't - so it seems democratic that everyone should get the same materials really. But, yes I have noticed annoying niggling little errors of punctuation, grammar etc, and that can lead to not wanting to re-open the document. And that's before the bigger issues of substance that the examiners may identify, even if I haven't!