This week I stood for my PhD viva and passed with minor corrections. So I thought where best to start my first blog for jobs.co.uk, than with sharing my viva experience whilst it’s still fresh.
For those who might not be familiar with what is a viva voce; it is an oral examination that takes place after the submission of a PhD thesis and therefore is the final assessment of the thesis and the student. The length of a viva assessment varies based on the discipline; my PhD viva lasted a little more than 2 hours.
Prior to the viva, needless to say, emotions are often high and therefore preparation is essential to success. My supervisors’ advice was that my thesis should be at my fingertips. So, I read the thesis several times prior to the viva and put some sticky notes across the pages to find topics easily. In hindsight, I think the most important aspect in preparation is to know your thesis and to be current with research updates since the date thesis was submitted. The following are pointers for viva perpetration based on my personal viva examination experience, which I hope might offer some insight and help for some.
– review your thesis chapter by chapter, and several times
– If at all possible, leave sometime between the submission and the revision for the viva; this can be useful to allow you time to reflect and distance your from own work and therefore can provide you a new outlook and the chance to ‘read things’ differently than when completely immersed
– make a note of the key points
– identify any errors, or possible corrections that you became aware of during your revision and make a list of it
– review updates and current relevant research since you had submitted your work
– don’t over do it and make sure that you have enough time prior to the day of the viva to relax
In essence, the viva is one of the most valuable opportunities to demonstrate to the examiners the extent and depth of your knowledge and the contribution your research adds to the existing body of knowledge. But also, it is an academic debate between equals, who although might not agree with your specific choices, their main goal is to ascertain the appropriateness, quality and rigor of your choices and your valid contribution to existing body of knowledge. Believe it or not, the viva experience quickly becomes quite enjoyable, once you had answered the first few questions, then anxiety subsides and confidence kicks in ☺
I hope the above is helpful and wish you a happy viva if you are undergoing one soon.
Best of luck.