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Effective Strategies to Combat Viva Stress

Wed, 10 January, 2024

Preparing appropriately for the viva voce will help you reduce that stress.

You're not alone. Every PhD student feels viva stress, so if you're getting ready for your PhD viva, it can help to fully understand what to expect during the viva voce examination.

The PhD Viva, or viva voce as it is also known, is an oral examination that usually takes place after you have submitted your PhD thesis.

During the viva examination, you will be asked a range of viva questions about your research and thesis by external examiners.

The number one strategy above all to reduce anxiety is to read your thesis thoroughly and make sure that you know your research inside out. It must be fresh in your mind, and it may have been a while since you submitted your thesis.

A mock viva with your university or colleagues is also a great way to make sure that are ready to answer questions on your research question and methodology, as well as any other topics that you have covered in your PhD thesis.

By preparing well, you will turn that stress to your advantage and harness the difficulty.

To help you prepare, we've put together a list of strategies that will specifically reduce viva stress and help you be at your best:

  1. Get a copy of your thesis and study it carefully. Make sure you know your research inside out.
  2. Practice answering a range of mock viva questions. You can find a list of questions the examination panel might ask online, or speak to your supervisor.
  3. Be ready to answer questions on your research question and methodology, as well as any other topics that you have covered in your PhD thesis.
  4. Familiarise yourself with the different types of questions that might be asked, such as closed questions, open questions, and hypothetical questions.
  5. Be prepared to defend your research and thesis. You may need to explain why you made certain choices during your research, or justify your conclusions. Keep things conversational, but do NOT get defensive and confrontational. Be engaged and interested by differing opinions and let that build into a more well-rounded conversation.
  6. Be ready to discuss any major or minor corrections that you may have to make to your thesis.
  7. Finally, make sure to prioritise self-care in the lead-up to your viva examination. Get enough sleep, take breaks, and engage in activities that help you relax.

Remember, the viva voce is an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and expertise in your field.

By preparing well, you can feel more self-assured and ready to tackle any viva questions that come your way. Good luck!

Useful link:

How to prepare and strategise for your PhD Viva

Advice from NSIRC Alumni that will help you pass your doctoral defence