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11.2 Preparing for Your PhD Viva

In addition to your written examination in the form of your thesis, you will be tested orally: this is known as a ‘viva’ (taken from the Latin term ‘viva voce’ which means, literally, ‘with the living voice’).

As the above Ph.D. graduate testifies, there can be a considerable time between the submission of your written thesis and the viva, so you will need to prepare very carefully for your oral examination.

When the date has been set, you will be notified, often informally in the first instance, by your supervisor, then in writing.

You should try not to alter the date if at all possible because you will appreciate that getting two busy examiners together is no easy task and their obligations must take priority. (If you have a genuine reason – such as illness – for having to change the appointed time and/or date then contact your college or university immediately.)

The viva is usually conducted at the college or university where you undertook your research and is often fairly informal, just you and the examiners in conversation about your thesis.

However, you need to prepare very carefully as you will be questioned closely on various aspects of your research thus fat and the direction that you see future research taking.

It is wise to go through your thesis and make notes on the main points. You could also look at the various gaps that you identified during rewrites and see whether any of these might need further exploration in the viva.

Try to pre-empt any questions that might be asked. This could even include the rehearsing of your viva, if you think that will help.

Remember, the examiners are not trying to catch you out, only to make sure that:

a. You actually wrote the thesis yourself


b. That you can defend your thesis in an oral examination.

"Of course, a viva is bound to be nerve-wracking but everyone there wants you to succeed – and you will!"

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