Your viva is a chance to show your in-depth knowledge of your subject area and discuss the important research findings that you have made - whether they are positive or negative.

A doctoral degree is a training process. Your examiners will be there to:

  • establish you have achieved this training and that the work contained in your thesis is your own.
  • see that during the course of your degree you have started to become an independent well-rounded researcher who is making a valuable contribution to the research community.

The Graduate School has put together a complete online resource Passing your Viva, including information on the processes involved, and videos on both a student perspective and an examiner's perspective.

If you want to request a remote Viva, you should read the Guidance for Students on the Modality of Final Thesis Research Degree Vivas

Preparing for your Viva

Before your Viva takes places there are some steps you can take in preparing yourself for the examination:


Anticipate questions that will be asked

Test yourself by doing some practice questions. Ask your supervisor to provide you with a list of questions that they would anticipate may be asked. Identify areas that you are uncertain about and discuss further with your supervisor if you have concerns about what you could be questioned on.

Mock viva

You may find your supervisor or department will automatically organise a mock viva. If not, ask your supervisor if they will conduct a mock viva with you, perhaps including another member of the research team who is familiar with your research work and could ask you relevant questions.

Review your material

Review your knowledge as you go along. Make sure you have not missed anything along the way. If there is anything you are unsure of, make time to focus on that area again. Mark up key parts of your thesis. Remember you are allowed to take a copy of your thesis into the examination. You can refer to it if needed, such as when discussing key figures and tables in relation to the data that you have generated.

Some time may have passed since you submitted your thesis, so make sure you are up to date with relevant publications published after your thesis submission. If you don't you may find that your examiners are more up to date on relevant published research findings than you.

Keep calm, relax, sleep well and eat well

When re-reading your thesis and revising for your viva do not let yourself get too stressed. Allow yourself plenty of time to prepare for the examination. Do not leave things until the last minute - especially not the night before the viva.

Allow yourself time to relax, eat properly, and sleep. You will function better in your viva if you are not tired, hungry and grumpy - and you'll make a better impression on your examiners.

You can review the useful videos and resources put together by a group of UK universities demystifying and giving advice to students who are preparing for their viva.

You may also consider attending some workshops to further develop your communicating research skills.

During your Viva

Just as when delivering any other presentation, remember to breathe, pause between sentences and engage with your examiners. Regular eye contact is key.

If you do not understand the question, ask the examiner to repeat it. If you do not know the answer to a question, just be honest and say so.

When answering questions, take a moment to think before you speak. That way you will ensure you give a detailed but concise answer and will avoid waffling in an unfocused manner.