What’s a Viva (Viva Voce)?
My hands were shaking as I stood outside since I was aware that my examiners were on the other side of the door. It had all been leading up to this one moment: my viva voce interview. I had put in a tremendous amount of effort to earn my PhD, and I had spent years honing my language skills. When the door finally opened, the committee chair remarked, “we are ready for you now.” At that moment, I was sitting there waiting eagerly to begin my defense. I took a deep breath as I walked through the door, and then I turned around and left without looking back.
The oral examination that comes at the end of your PhD program is called the viva voce examination, but most people just call it the viva. It is made up of a committee of both internal and external examiners who check through your work and, in essence, decide whether or not you will be successful in obtaining your PhD. It is similar to an interview, and there are a variety of approaches that can be taken when carrying out a viva. In certain circumstances, the viva will be open to the general public, which indicates that anybody who has an interest in doing so is welcome to attend. In some circumstances, though, they are closed, which means that it is just you and a group of examiners who are involved.
In either scenario, the examiners will typically consist of internal reviewers (a member of your department who has interests in your subject area but who has not assisted you with the PhD) and external reviewers (typically two to four individuals who are knowledgeable in your field but do not teach or work at the university that you are affiliated with).
A viva voce interview will often run anywhere from one to three hours and will consist of a variety of questions pertaining to the PhD thesis or dissertation that you have just recently handed in. Before the start of the viva, every examiner will have gone through the process of reading your PhD thesis from beginning to end and compiling a list of questions to ask you about it. In order to succeed in the viva, it is up to you to provide answers to these questions that are adequate.
When getting ready for a PhD viva, there are many different aspects to think about and keep in mind; we are going to go over some of the most important ones in this piece. If you want help, reach our professional tutors.
How to prepare for the interview
The process of getting ready for a viva interview is quite similar to the process of getting ready for a job interview. While it is impossible for you to anticipate each and every query that people may have for you, you can surely train to ensure that you present the greatest possible version of yourself from the very beginning.
Identify the weaknesses in your PhD
Let’s face it: no one has developed the ideal procedure for conducting research. There are restrictions present in every situation. These restrictions are a totally acceptable aspect of the process; but, as the researcher, it is your responsibility to explain why you chose to carry out your investigation using the technique that you did. These constraints are perfectly acceptable.
In most cases, you should be able to seek your supervisor(s) for assistance with this matter. They have the potential to be a really helpful resource. Additionally, it’s possible that they’ll have some insight into the kinds of questions the examiners will be asking.
In addition to the flaws, it is essential to be able to justify the method you are using. If you choose to conduct a survey, could you please explain why you felt that this method was superior to others available to you? Make an effort not to rely entirely on the existing conditions (for example, because of COVID-19 might be a viable solution, but is there a more satisfactory one?). Make an effort to consider all of the benefits that your research methodology offers, and then utilize this information to defend the decisions you make.
What should be worn when attending Viva Voce Interview
Even if you might not believe that the clothing you wear is a significant component of the viva, it is something that you should definitely give some thought to. Put on something that not only looks professional but also feels well. At a bare minimum, men should be wearing a shirt with a collar for this occasion; however, a suit jacket and tie are also acceptable options. For women, the appropriate attire consists of pants or a skirt paired with a sweater, shirt, or suit jacket.
Always be sure you wear shoes that look professional yet are nonetheless comfortable. There is nothing more distracting than developing a blister at the same time as you are trying to concentrate on what you are saying. Although the norms vary from country to country, in general, you should dress in something that is professional and conservative, such as you might wear to a job interview.
Important things to keep in mind
Before you go into the viva interview, it is highly possible that you will be given a list of the people who will be serving as your examiners. This information may prove to be rather useful in the long run. Go and have a look at the publications that each of these people has created as the first step in the process. You can acquire insight into what they find intriguing and what they do not find interesting by reading the most recent publications that they have produced.
In addition to this, if you have cited any of their previous work in your PhD dissertation, you may be able to bring this up during the viva to demonstrate that you are competent and that you have linked your work with that of other highly regarded academics (like your examiners). It’s never a bad idea to flatter someone every once in a while (but do not go overboard).
What questions are they going to ask?
Justifying your arguments during viva voce interview
It is important to think about your project. It is likely that the first question they will ask you is: Can you summarise your thesis? Try and have an answer ready that takes less than three minutes to explain and uses common language that someone who does not understand your field will be able to comprehend (i.e. keep it simple).
Justifying what you left out
As was just mentioned, there is no perfect research protocol. In addition, after you have all of the information, you will most likely have a lot to say about it. It is possible that some of the information you gathered did not make it into the final version of your thesis. You were tasked with deciding what should be included and what should be excluded. Your examiners may be curious about the information that you omitted (and why).
Usually, with these kinds of questions, you can draw their attention back to your research questions and then tell them that the other data fell outside of the scope of the research project, but that it might be worthwhile examining in a future project. In addition, you can tell them that the other data fell outside of the scope of the research project and that you can tell them that.
Putting your contribution to the research into question
Why do you think that your research was significant or worthwhile? It is essential that you think about the reasons behind why you started working on your project in the first place. In the existing research framework, what did you consider to be the most significant hole that needed to be filled?
Your response does not need to be some kind of monumental accomplishment (though it can be). Instead, you should reflect on what the issue was and how your participation contributed to it.
Having a conversation about potential areas of growth
Even that you’ve finished your PhD, what are your plans for the future? What do you have planned for the years to come? Even if your plans are to run as far as you can from the next possible research project, it is worthwhile coming up with a statement about how your research could be further developed (even if you, personally, have no interest in developing it further). You have probably made these suggestions in your actual PhD thesis, so this is just an opportunity to provide a bit more detail about how this might actually proceed.
Tips and tricks to succeed in the viva
Because it is possible that you will know people who have taken part in the viva procedure in the past, employing their services as experts might provide you with an excellent opportunity to get experience in this area. Now, despite the fact that I just said this, people frequently prefer to exaggerate what occurred during their viva voce exam, so if the person you are speaking with decides to depict a difficult and uncomfortable circumstance, you should probably attempt to locate other colleagues who are more sympathetic.
You can also build a list of practice questions that you can present to a friend, colleague, or family member in order to practice how you will react to them. This is another option available to you. Even if the person who is questioning you is not an authority on the subject at hand, they will typically be able to detect whether or not your response is excessively complex and repeated (which is a bad thing), or whether it is brief, organized, and clear (good). The more you train, the more at ease you will become with the concept of describing your research to people you have never met before, which is essentially what you would be required to do in a viva voce examination.
Pay close attention to the questions that are being asked In Viva Voce Interview
In a viva voce examination, one of the important locations where a candidate might go wrong is by not answering the question that is being asked, and this is one of those significant spots. First and foremost, if an examiner asks a question, you should not intervene or try to talk over them. Wait until they have finished asking their inquiry before you begin providing an answer (even if you think that you know what they will ask).
After the examiner has finished asking their question, you should pause for a moment to collect your thoughts and take a deep breath. The second common error that candidates make is deviating from the topic at hand and going off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the inquiry. You will be able to ensure that your answer delivers a clear and suitable response to whatever has been asked if you take that minute to compose your thoughts and use that time to ensure that your answer does so.
When you are contemplating the questions that you might be asked, it is common for human nature to gravitate toward dwelling on the downsides and attempting to excuse away the unfavorable aspects of your research. You had the opportunity to conduct a more in-depth statistical analysis of the data, use a different research methodology, or conduct a survey with a larger sample size. You might have chosen to concentrate on a different topic or offered additional information on a specific area of interest instead.
When you finally go to the viva, none of these things will really matter because the study will have been completed, and your PhD thesis will have been handed in, read, and evaluated. If you are presented with a question to which you can potentially respond in a good way, then you should select that alternative as your response. Examiners are not interested in hearing about what you might have done differently (unless they explicitly ask, which is possible). The evaluators are interested in knowing the reasoning behind your decision to go in the direction that you did.
Consider the following scenario as an illustration: in the course of your research project, you decided to conduct interviews. Instead of explaining to the evaluators why you could have also used a questionnaire, focus on the several ways in which interviews provided you with the opportunity to acquire comprehensive data that you would not have obtained via questionnaires. Explain to the reviewers how the detailed information you received from the interviews enabled you to go deeper into topics that interested you and ask follow-up questions about topics that you did not fully understand. Remain positive.
Smile (and breathe) as you prepare for viva voce interview
It is very normal to feel anxious before stepping into your viva voce examination, as this stage of the PhD process entails a significant amount of responsibility on your part. The people grading your exam will be able to tell that you are anxious. If they are seasoned, they will have worked with a great number of pupils who were in the same position as you. If this is their first experience with viva examinations, then it is likely that they will recall what it was like to sit in the candidate seat. Effective communication is essential in this situation.
Keep in mind that these individuals are also part of the human race. Even while they are, in a sense, the gatekeeper to your achievement, the fact that they are not monsters does not change that fact. Make an appeal to the kindness in them. Be friendly and smile, but if you discover that trying to mask your anxiety makes you feel awkward, don’t do it. Just be friendly and grin.
And finally, remember to breathe deeply. It’s possible that this information is already common knowledge, but taking deep breaths can actually help us keep better control of our adrenaline levels, which, when elevated, can wreak havoc on our normally appropriate behavior. If you fail to breathe, you might find that your words come out jumbled or that you lose your line of thought. Regularly and especially when the examiners are speaking, you should remind yourself to take calm, deep breaths!
GIANT’S TAKE ON VIVA VOCE INTERVIEW
After I finished my viva, my committee made me wait for their verdict in the corridor by sitting me down there. At this moment, there are actually four choices available to you: 1. Pass with minor corrections, 2. Pass with substantial corrections, 3. Pass with minor corrections, and 4. Fail the test.
I remember being confident enough to know that I passed, but some of the questions were really difficult, and so I was thinking about how many corrections I was going to have to make (and how long that was going to take because I’d already spent years working on this project). I was thinking about how many corrections I was going to have to make because some of the questions were really difficult. I had the impression that the most difficult portion was behind me at this time, and there was nothing I could do from this point on that would cause the outcome to change (but this did not make the waiting any easier). It was probably only about ten minutes after I left the room until they called me back, but it seemed like a lifetime to me at the moment.
When the Chair of the Committee opened the door to the room to bring me back in, all she said was two words… “You’ve earned your degree, Doctor.” I cracked a grin, let out a sigh of relief, and realized that this was going to be a fantastic day.