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Best 5 Tips to Excel in Your PhD Viva.

Updated on December 5, 2012

Postgraduate students are used to hearing those horror stories about viva scenarios of aggressive examiners and long cheerless assessments of their thesis that lasts for ages with loads of major corrections to do afterwards. You just wish after submitting your thesis that you won't become another folk tale added to the outstanding stories of viva disasters. After finishing four frustrating years of lab work and conveying those data results to a written formal dissertation, you will be confronted with an oral examination to defend the originality of your work and show its novelty, after which; the examination committee will decide if you deserve to pass with a formal award or not.

There is lack of reliable information on how should the viva be managed and the exact elements that the examiners should focus on when assessing the student. This makes the whole process volatile and unpredictable to students. In the viva you usually have two examiners; an internal examiner from your university and an external one from another institution and in most scenarios the external examiner has the deciding vote on your viva outcome. A mismatch between the student and the external examiner is the main reason behind most viva miserable outcomes so choosing the right examiner is vital for a successful viva.

1) When preparing for your viva keep in mind that in this examination you actually know more about your work specific details than your examiners, this alone should give you confidence when answering their questions which can reflect positively when evaluating your answers. You should be ready for a classical question about a brief summary of your work and any new findings you achieved. Basically, you can stress here on what your results accomplished to be awarded a PhD. If you already have peer-reviewed publications out of your thesis, this is not the time to be modest about it. Feel free to show off about publications, posters and any awards your work have received.

2) It is also important to know all the weaknesses and strengths of your research; this will give you the advantage of knowing most of the anticipated questions that you might need to elaborate and correlate to. You can also predict the examiners questions if you knew their research interests and previous publications, as most examiners will have genuine interest in the fields of your research that relate to them. Try not to challenge your examiners if you're discussing a contradictory point, save their time and yours by complimenting their valid point and thanking them for any productive remarks.

3) Prepare well and highlight the important points in your thesis, read literature thoroughly and try memorising key articles, famous people in the field or even journals titles and dates. You're an expert in your field of study, but you don't have to know everything in science. If you don't know the answer to a specific question, don't hesitate to admit that you are not familiar with the subject. The examiners themselves will learn new things from this debate and thus won't expect you to know every detail in science.

4) If the discussion becomes a bit timid, try to raise your game and lead the debate to some interesting points in your thesis that the committee might have missed. Of course, in doing so, don't offer to expose your thesis weak points and focus on the positive outcome of your work.

5) Remember that it is ''YOUR'' viva, and you have all the right to shine on this day, enjoy the discussion and celebrate the outcome.


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    • Lovely 7 profile image

      Lovely 7 4 years ago

      Very informative hub ..