How to prepare for a Viva Voce
You can prepare for a Viva and this preparation is vital to your chances of doing well. It is an examination of your work and deserves the same level of preparation as any exam. You cannot predict every possible question you might be asked, but you can certainly focus on areas that will prepare you for giving a good account of yourself.
Try answering these questions:
- What is original about your thesis?
- Which authors/journals/research studies proved most useful to your work?
- What do you consider to be the outstanding/most meritorious parts of your thesis?
- Can you identify the limitations/ weaknesses of your work/research?
Discuss the methodology you selected for your primary research....how does it compare with other leading research studies which you cited, such as X in (2010) and Y in (2012)
The examiners conducting your Viva may focus on particular parts of it, so expect to have to address questions on, for example your literature review, such as e.g.”Why did you choose to concentrate on authors/studies that were conducted exclusively in the USA? Do you think this might have added bias to your work?”
Some questions may sound aggressive however the examiner’s role is to identify strengths and weaknesses in your work. Be prepared to answer questions such as these, by realistically acknowledging limitations of your work and showing that you have considered these maturely. Good research studies clearly indentify new knowledge acquired, establish gaps still existing and point towards future research required. Do not take offence at any questions that seem confrontational or aggressive.
Practical Preparation Tips
Ask a fellow student, your supervisor or friends to give you a mock viva. It may help if the person(s) have knowledge of your subject area. It really helps to talk about your thesis out loud to someone rather than prepare it all in your head.
Practice answers to questions that are very specific e.g. “you chose to do qualitative research whereas the vast majority of studies in your area employ quantitative methodologies”. Was this because you lack confidence in statistical research?
Prepare also for questions that are very general e.g.” you appear to favour particular authors in chapter 1 – Why did you select these?”
Practice answering so that you are talking for at least two minutes e.g. “what would you do differently if you were starting again?”
Remember and refer to particular highlights of your work – be able to quote page numbers.
Earn easy points by be able to quote the names of key authors, titles, research journals, books and articles you have used e.g. “You refer to ...... as an important influence on your research study. Elaborate on why .......was so influential”.
You are allowed to bring a copy of your thesis with you to the viva, but avoid getting flustered by knowing very well where particular parts of your work are located.
On the day of the Viva, do all of the things you would do for a job interview e.g. work out travel times to the location of the viva, ensure you dress smartly, project a positive image of yourself and a sense of confidence in your work.