If you and the examiners agree, your PhD supervisor can also be present. The examiners' main objective is to ascertain that you've written your own thesis, so if you have and are ready to talk through how you completed it, there's no need to panic. You may even enjoy the viva voce. In addition to assessing your thesis, the examiners are also there to assist you in deciding how and where this research might be published.
There are various results between a 'pass' and 'fail' but it's very rare to slip up at this point of a PhD. Most Doctorate awards will be made upon the condition that a number of minor corrections are made, with re-submission requests far less common. However, while the pass rate is high, the viva exam itself can still be intellectually demanding.
This is because you'll be debating issues that are conceptually complex, so preparation is crucial to your success. At the end of it, whatever the outcome, be prepared to take on board any advice, as the examiners are there to help you improve your argument or the presentation of your thesis.
While you can be sure this isn't a memory test - as you're fine bringing notes and a copy of your thesis with you to the PhD viva - it's still important to gain a good understanding of what you've written and knowledge about your field of study. You'll need to think carefully about where this original piece of work would be placed in the context of the wider body of research carried out in this field.
Questions will surely be asked about this, as well as whether the project could possibly be developed further through any future research. As you'll be explaining parts of the document to the examiners who'll also have a digital or physical copy , make sure the pagination is the same in your version as the one they're looking at to avoid any issues regarding everybody being on the same page.
If you get stuck at any point during the viva exam, you can use looking at the thesis as an excuse to re-focus and gather your thoughts. The examiners will have prepared a series of questions for you to answer at the viva voce, but this is nothing to get too concerned about. The questions will all be based on your thesis - what it's about, what you did, what you found out and why this matters in relation to your field of study.
So when getting ready for the viva, consider the types of questions you're likely to be asked, including:. It can be helpful to practise your answers beforehand, ideally vocalising them by arranging a mock mini viva - although, as you aren't restricted in terms of referring to notes in the exam, you can leave room for spontaneity and you don't need to learn it all off by heart.
If your viva is being held online, you can ensure any technical issues are identified before the day by having a run through with your supervisor or a friend. While it may sound simple, stick to answering the questions posed. It's really easy to go off on a tangent and this can open up other lines of enquiry from the examiners - possibly in areas you hadn't expected to be quizzed about. On the other hand, it's completely fine to bring personality to your reasoning and use stories as a means of describing the learning process you've gone through and the techniques mastered over the last three or four years that have brought you to this point.
The senior and well-respected academics who'll be reading your thesis will have their own ideas on conducting PhD standard research. Therefore, it's worth taking a look online at their academic profiles to discover if there's any correlation with the research they've had published and your own work.
From this, you should be able to gain a better idea of their motivations, their possible views on your thesis and the kinds of questions they might wish to discuss after having read through it. You should research up-to-date theories, read any recent papers on the subject and speak to others who've recently had their own viva exam. Think about how your work differentiates from the research carried out by others in your chosen field.
Prepare to provide any supporting evidence asked of you by the examiners - for example, they may request to see experimental data you mention once the exam's over. It's also necessary to check the policies and practices in place at your university and be sure of what the roles of the examiners are and how the viva panel will be structured. In many cases, Doctoral students can choose the examiners conducting the PhD viva.
From the moment you know the date of your viva voce, work backwards and plan the steps you'll need to take before the day itself. Allow enough time to assess and review your work so that as the day approaches, you can focus on the practicalities. This encompasses everything from making sure you relax, eat and sleep well the day before to arranging transport so you get to the viva on time - if you're attending in person.
An online PhD viva will present its own challenges, so ensure your working space is presentable and you still make an effort in terms of what you'll be wearing. It's always advisable to adhere to interview etiquette and go with something that's both smart and comfortable. By looking the part, this should get you in the right frame of mind to communicate in a professional manner.
In the build-up, avoid any situations that might make you feel stressed and instead try to adopt a positive attitude, one that results in a genuine eagerness to engage in a debate about the work you've been toiling over for a substantial period of time. If you are travelling to the examination, be sure to check that you have everything you wish to take with you, including the thesis, plus any notes or other materials that will help support your claims.
The PhD viva can last between one and four hours - usually two - so it's necessary to pace yourself to get off to the best possible start. Remember, the examiners aren't trying to trip you up - they want you to pass and are primarily there to hear you talk about your project. So after the polite introductions they'll typically start with an ice-breaker to put you at ease and help calm the nerves.
It's meant to be an open and honest conversation about your work, so feel free to politely disagree with the examiners, especially on areas you feel strongly about. Don't forget to use examples from your thesis to back up what you're saying, remembering to be clear and concise. If you know your way around your thesis and can explain your thinking and way of working, this test shouldn't be a problem. And if you don't know the answer to a specific question - admit it, as it's better to concede your limitations in an area than ramble on and hope they don't notice you're struggling to come up with an explanation.
No research is perfect, so it's important to appreciate this during the discussion - but don't be too overcritical about your work either, as that's not your job. However, she explains that she was simply "burned out" from her studies and had "nothing left to give". But she got through it! She advises others to view the viva as a key milestone in the PhD journey but possibly not the final one, and, when tackling corrections, to distance yourself from your thesis and imagine yourself as an editor looking critically at somebody else's work.
Meanwhile, Vitae, an organization for the professional development of researchers, advises PhD candidates to take notes during their viva and write them up immediately, meet with your main supervisor to go over the changes required, and analyze the examiners' report carefully. Do this, and you can enjoy that bubbly fully -- as a fully-fledged Doctor of Philosophy! PhD students spend years working on their theses.
And while doing so is a labor of love, there's nothing wrong with maximizing your efforts Pursuing a PhD is an amazing opportunity, but also comes with many challenges, and the position of PhD students, in terms of finance, job pr List your programs. Doctor of Education. Online PhD. Student Tips. Joanna Hughes. September 3, The viva voce, usually referred to solely as a 'viva', is an oral test during which a PhD candidate defends their PhD thesis in front of a panel of examiners.
In the USA, it is called a 'defense'. It is common in the UK, US, and many other countries. The phrase 'viva voce' literally translates to 'with living voice'. For many students, the viva can be a thing of dread. After all, standing before a group of accomplished academics in your field and justifying your work and results can be intimidating. It is also an opportunity, however, to share your work, explore new perspectives, and network with experts. Before Your Viva Understand the process.
Know what your examiners are looking for. Revisit your thesis -- thoroughly. During Your Viva Bring supporting materials -- but know them nonetheless. Take your time. Know what NOT to do. Try to enjoy it. Joanna Hughes Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer.
She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family. Read similar articles:.
In order to assess the student and their work around their research question, a viva sets out to determine:. Note: A viva is a compulsory procedure for all PhD students, with the only exception being when a PhD is obtained through publication as opposed to the conventional route of study. In the UK, at least two examiners must take part in all vivas. Although you could have more than two examiners, most will not in an attempt to facilitate a smoother questioning process.
One of the two examiners will be internal, i. Regardless, both will be knowledgeable in your research field and have read your thesis beforehand. In addition to your two examiners, two other people may be present. The first is a chairperson. This is an individual who will be responsible for monitoring the interview and for ensuring proper conduct is followed at all times. The need for an external chairperson will vary between universities, as one of the examiners can also take on this role.
The second is your supervisor, whose attendance is decided upon by you in agreement with your examiners. If your supervisor attends, they are prohibited from asking questions or from influencing the outcome of the viva. In these situations, the student presents their work in the form of a lecture and then faces questions from the examiners and audience which almost acts as a critical appraisal. Since all universities have different guidelines , and since all PhDs are unique, there are no standard durations.
Typically, however, the duration ranges from one to three hours, with most lasting approximately two hours. Your examiners will also influence the duration of your viva as some will favour a lengthy discussion, while others may not. Usually, your university will consult your examiners in advance and notify you of the likely duration closer to the day of your viva.
Regardless of the subject area, all PhD vivas follow the same examination process format as below. You will introduce yourselves to each other, with the internal examiner normally introducing the external examiner. If an external chairperson is present, they too are introduced; otherwise, this role will be assumed by one of the examiners.
After the introductions, the appointed chair will explain the viva process. Although it should already be known to everyone, it will be repeated to ensure the viva remains on track during the forthcoming discussion. The examiners will then begin the questioning process.
This usually starts with a few simple opening questions, such as asking you to summarise your PhD thesis and what motivated you to carry out the research project. The viva questions will then naturally increase in difficulty as the examiners go further into the details of your thesis. In addition to asking open-ended questions, they will also ask specific questions about the methodology, results and analysis on which your thesis is based.
Once the examiners are satisfied that they have thoroughly evaluated your knowledge and thesis, they will invite you to ask any questions you may have, and then bring the oral examination to a close. Once your viva has officially ended, your examiners will ask you to leave the room so that they can discuss your performance.
Once a mutual agreement has been reached, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, you will be invited back inside and informed of your outcome. Finding a PhD has never been this easy — search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest. The reason for this high pass rate is that supervisors will only put their students forward for a viva once they confidently believe they are ready for it.
As a result, most candidates who sit a viva are already well-versed in their PhD topic before they even start preparing for the exam. Your viva will be arranged either by the examiners or by the chairperson. The viva will be arranged at least one to two months after you have submitted your thesis and will arrange a viva date and venue that is suitable for all participants. At most universities, you and your supervisor will choose the internal and external examiners yourselves.
This is because the examiners must have extensive knowledge of the thesis topic in order to be able to examine you and, as the author of the thesis in question, who else could better determine who they might be than you and your supervisor.
The internal examiner is usually quite easy to find given they will be from your institution, but the external examiner may end up being your second or third preference depending on availability. A viva is about testing your competence, not your memory. As such, you are allowed to take notes and other supporting material in with you. However, keep in mind that your examiners will not be overly impressed if you constantly have to refer to your notes to answer each question. Because of this, many students prefer to take an annotated copy of their thesis, with important points already highlighted and key chapters marked with post-it notes.
There are several ways to prepare for a PhD viva, one of the most effective being a mock viva voce examination. Every Doctoral researcher has to defend his or her thesis in front of an examination panel. No matter how many times you have done it before, reading your thesis a week or two before the viva is always a good idea.
Although, I have proofread my thesis several times before the submission, this time, my focus shifted: rather than looking for spelling mistakes, typos, and missing references, I concentrated on the quality of my arguments. What are the research questions posed in each chapter? What are the main findings? And, most importantly, what contributions am I bringing to the field?
From this, you should be able to gain a better idea of their motivations, their possible views on your thesis, and the kinds of questions they might wish to discuss after having read through it. Allow enough time to assess and review your work so that as the day approaches, you can focus on the practicalities.
If you are traveling to the examination, be sure to check that you have everything you wish to take with you, including the thesis, plus any notes or other materials that will help support your claims. One of the best things you can do to maximize your chances of a confident viva performance is to consider the potential viva questions and the way in which you could approach them.
There are plenty of websites that provide you with sample discussion points that are likely to be raised by your examiners and most of them are broad enough to be applicable to your thesis, regardless of the specificity of your topic. I personally used practice viva questions , top 40 potential viva , and unpacking the viva as starting points.
Considering the questions in advance will add to your confidence as you will be less likely to be taken by surprise. If you do, however, end up being mildly shocked by the question asked by the examiner, do not panic. It is perfectly fine to take some time to gather your thoughts, or even write the main points down on a piece of paper if the question is more complex. This, in itself, is quite reassuring. Talking to friends and colleagues about their experiences, however, might give you some interesting insights too.
By attending, you will have the opportunity to observe how they packaged their ideas, what areas they pay attention to. It is not about having too much data or graphs or conducting too many lab experiments, it is about knowing what to present, optimize the words you have limited time. Practice makes perfect! Even if you have conducted high-quality research, your points will not come across particularly strong if you mumble or are not able to express yourself clearly.
Before presenting any paper or a lecture I always, always make sure I practice my presentation in front of friends, family members, or anyone who is willing to listen. This gives me a better understanding of how I will behave under pressure. Take feedback from your listeners as an opportunity to improve. The feedback I received as a result of this exercise boosted my confidence. With consistent practice, I got familiar with the flow of the content and gradually became less nervous.
All viva examinations are different, so it is not possible to describe exactly what will happen - but there are general points which can be made which may be helpful, and you should have the opportunity before your examination to discuss what will happen with your supervisor or to attend the University's pre-viva examination workshop.
The purpose of the viva is to establish that your work is of a sufficiently high standard to merit the award of the degree for which it is submitted. In order to be awarded a research degree, the thesis should demonstrate an original contribution to knowledge and contain work which is deemed worthy of publication. Inevitably, your thesis will have strengths and weaknesses and the examiners will want to discuss these.
It is considered a positive thing, indeed an essential thing, that you can discuss both the strengths and the weaknesses. You can think of the weaknesses as an opportunity to demonstrate your skill at critical appraisal. Remember that examiners seek to find and discuss weaknesses in all theses - you should not interpret criticism as an indication that the examination will not end successfully.
Personal tools Web Editor Log in. Search Site only in current section. Advanced Search…. Search Site. Literally, "viva voce" means by or with the living voice - i. So the viva examination is where you will give a verbal defence of your thesis. Normally no one else is present in the exam.
Exam Venue and Arrangements Your internal examiner is responsible for arranging your viva exam and they will contact you with the relevant details - date, time, venue, etc. Format of the Exam All viva examinations are different, so it is not possible to describe exactly what will happen - but there are general points which can be made which may be helpful, and you should have the opportunity before your examination to discuss what will happen with your supervisor or to attend the University's pre-viva examination workshop.
This, in itself, is quite reassuring. Talking to friends and colleagues about their experiences, however, might give you some interesting insights too. By attending, you will have the opportunity to observe how they packaged their ideas, what areas they pay attention to. It is not about having too much data or graphs or conducting too many lab experiments, it is about knowing what to present, optimize the words you have limited time.
Practice makes perfect! Even if you have conducted high-quality research, your points will not come across particularly strong if you mumble or are not able to express yourself clearly. Before presenting any paper or a lecture I always, always make sure I practice my presentation in front of friends, family members, or anyone who is willing to listen. This gives me a better understanding of how I will behave under pressure. Take feedback from your listeners as an opportunity to improve.
The feedback I received as a result of this exercise boosted my confidence. With consistent practice, I got familiar with the flow of the content and gradually became less nervous. I even allow my friends to ask me questions on their own based on the presentation and even ask me some of my anticipated questions and judge my responses. Alternatively, you can arrange a mock viva with friends, or even video record your answers on your phone.
Whilst watching yourself might sound painful, it could show you that you never come across as bad as you think you do. Ensure you and your supervisor have a printed copy that is exactly the same as that of your examiners specifically the same pagination. Mark with tabs the key sections and highlight for reference important quotes and points you might want to refer to.
If you have some key diagrams it may help to have these printed larger on A4 sheets that can be used in a discussion. There is a chance that an examiner will wish to see some piece of experimental data, software, or other supporting evidence. Have this all neatly archived and accessible.
You can do this after submission. It is the contribution that makes your work doctoral level. Be sure that you understand exactly what your contribution is, and that you are able to express and explain it clearly and concisely.
Write it down in a paragraph. Discuss it with your supervisor and fellow students. Make sure that you can relate your contribution to other work in your field and that you are able to explain how your work is different. Remember your viva is meant to be an open and honest conversation about your work, so feel free to politely disagree with the examiners, especially on areas you feel strongly about.