How do I prepare for a PhD Viva, PhD viva presentation, PhD viva questions

It is a matter and pride great amount of pride to get done with your Ph.D. degree. A great number of efforts goes into making it happen. But preparing dissertations, thesis and getting it reviewed by the panel is no less than a herculean task. Even though you are done with preparing your thesis, yet the journey continues. There exists one big task to complete or to say a bridge to cross before finally getting your thesis approved and being conferred with the doctorate. This essential part during the doctorate or Ph.D. program is the viva. After you have prepared your thesis, the next step is submission to the panel wherein it will be reviewed and the student will be intellectually tested for their knowledge that they have put into the process.

Passing through this hurdle will ensure your doctorate degree which requires little more labor and a lot of sharp wits. So, before heading on to discuss how one can manage or survive the rig-ours of Ph.D. viva let’s take a sneak peek through the actualities of why the viva is conducted and later move towards tips and tricks to ease the entire process:

Why is a Viva required?

Viva is an oral examination wherein students are tested on their thinking caliber in front of a big panel of experts. The primary purpose of a viva is to understand how much does the student know about the topic and to understand their level of contribution. Well, doesn’t that make you read through your work and prepare well for the viva before getting through the actual process?

What does Viva include?

As any other viva session, a Ph.D. viva includes a lot of question and answers with you on the latter side of the panel. The thesis prepared by you will be thoroughly reviewed by experts right from the topic to the format. The formal purpose is to have a direct discussion with the students to test their knowledge of the subject.

Ph.D. being an important degree and thesis being the most essential aspect of the course. Thence one cannot deny its level of crucial and importance. Viva also includes Ph.D. viva presentation wherein the student will be required to prepare a PowerPoint presentation surrounding the topic. The PowerPoint presentation will include all the minute points and details most importantly those points which you wish to highlight in your study, mentioned in a gist. This not only makes the entire process less cumbersome or writing, preparing and presenting viva but also throws out light about the student’s knowledge of the topic.

Summarizing of the topic

The Ph.D. viva begins with the student asked to summarize the entire topic in a gist. The student must thus prepare themselves in advance to speak about your topic, the reason for choosing the topic, what does it convey. Additionally, it is recommended to read the entire thesis well before the presentation and viva, jotting down important points which can be put forth as questions. The summary will be the first ground to set your impression on the invigilator. The topics may also lead to debates, wherein your caliber and expertise in the subject will be tested further.

When preparing for Viva:

Be well abreast with the university’s terms and policies. Each and every institution and university have their own set of terms and conditions. Therefore, it is imperative to primarily read through the conditions and accordingly prepare yourself for the big day. You could also try to find about the panel that would be conducting the viva and get an understanding from peers about the kind of questions they pose and what to expect during the viva, which will prove to be cherry on the cake for your preparation.

  • Go through your thesis

Go through your theses, but now not as a student but as a third person. This will help you see through the prism of your thesis and help you gauge any loopholes and whether the research is up-to-date. Moreover, never underestimate the time spent by the examiners in reading through your thesis. And thus, this calls for you to be an equal expert who can handle the questions tactfully.

Along with reading through your thesis, check whether there have been any recent papers which are published in the particular topic same as yours and if so, ensure to read through them to be abreast with the latest happenings.

  • Hit the bull’s eye

During a Ph.D. viva, there are usually two examiners who would be present during the process. One who is an external expert from the field, who is not usually from your university and the other an internal one who is a subject expert associated with your field. Your onus is to win the minds of both. It is usually the external examiner who will be shooting the questions. Thus, being pretty updated with the subject knowledge, reading about the contributors who are related to your topic in some way is the best way out for winning the doctorate.

  • Prepare your answers

This is an important aspect of the viva and it all depends on how you defend your research.From this perspective, it is necessary to defend your point of view and claims, explaining your contribution and knowledge of the topic. Remember that no project is ever perfect, however, letting the examiner know you have contributed your best to the project is all the more important. For this, you can kick-start with anticipating some of the most sought questions and probable ones which you consider will be asked during the viva. Primarily looking for those which are most asked during a Ph.D. viva will ease your task to a large extent. Mostly the questions will be related to your literature review and conceptual points.

  • Practice the technique of answering

Well, you are not going to get a chance for reading your answers from your laptop verbatim in front of the examiner. However, being well prepared like knowing the answers like the back of your hand is the most important aspect. Articulate your answers and try to present yourself an answer in the tone you would be using for answering the examiner.

  • Take a printed copy of your thesis at the time of viva

It is always better to have an extra copy of your thesis present with you at the time of viva. In this copy, mark the important points and highlight them which you think might be useful at the time of viva. This will surely leave an impression on the examiner about your commitment to and involvement in the topic.

Now coming to what to do during a viva:
  • First impression matters

The first few minutes of introduction is all that can create an impression. Therefore,,keep a calm demeanor with no pinch of nervousness (though it is bound to exist). You will be getting a total of 15 minutes to articulate your knowledge to the examiner regarding the project. You must hence prepare well for your answers which showcases your knowledge of the topic, thinking-process and more importantly your confidence.

Avoid short and non-specific answers, this can turn the whole viva upside down.Thus, ensure you break the ice of silence and march ahead in the journey of achieving the Ph.D. degree and adding the prefix of Dr. to your name.

  • Do not think negative

Often examiners do not render comments to the students. This gets students into a pickle wherein they consider the answers to be either wrong or not so impressive to the examiners. Most often the institutional policy prohibits giving comments and sometimes the examiner notes it in the thesis remark.

  • Be ready for a healthy debate

A presentation or viva might not always be a smooth ride. There might be moments of debates that would require you to showcase your prowess. So don’t miss the opportunity, answer each question tactfully. The student here must know when to be more tactful, conceptual and when to apply a friendly tone.

  • When in doubt better to get it clarified

No one is a wizard and during the viva, there might be moments due to nervousness and a constant hit of questions when you need to look through your thesis for reference. Thus, herein you can ask your examiner for some time to write it down and during the time conceptualize your answer.

  • No time bar

Be well prepared and know that your viva might go on for one to 3 hours or even more. So accordingly, be well prepared with your answers and focus on explaining and expressing your contribution to the topic in a precise and concise manner.

  • Enjoy it

While it might seem stressful, a Ph.D. viva is quite easy if you have a good understanding of the topic and confidence in yourself.

So running through the whole points:

  • Be confident
  • Read through the thesis
  • Mark important points

Be tactful with your answers to sail through the viva smoothly.

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