It’s been just over a year since my PhD viva, how mad is that?! It was an interesting experience and a lot of people gave me a lot of advice in the run up to the big day. To take that muddle out of all the info for you today I’m sharing my Top 5 Tips for PhD Viva Preparation.
Last week I shared my PhD Interview Tips and this week I’m going right to the other end of the PhD time line. It’s the one I think people forget about during (or don’t want to think about it). I must admit it was easy to get to the end and just freak out about it, with so many people telling me different things. I had a bash at many of the tips I was given, but I think the following 5 tips are most important for PhD Viva Preparation.
#1- Read the whole thing through
This is so important. Utterly important. You won’t work out what is a sticking point, or any missed mistakes if you don’t do this. Your examiner will know if you haven’t done this. Don’t read it all in one day. Read a chapter every day and summarise every chapter (or paper if you’re alternate format) onto a flash card (results/discussion points only). The flashcards will be useful for quick revision. I also recommend marking up your chapters so it’s easy to flip between them during the viva.
#2- A PhD viva is an open exam and too many of us forget this
I think my examiner had forgotten this too when I unpacked and laid out my material. The most useful piece of advice my PhD supervisor gave me was to print off, annotate and take into your viva the ten most important papers for you. These can either feature in your reference list or be any new important ones in (this is my most important tip as this made me look prepared when we were arguing over a discussion point and they couldn’t back down). I also took in a few diagrams of things I knew I’d struggled to discuss in my practice viva. It turns out I was quite over prepared in this case, but it paid off.
#3- Ten questions
Think of ten questions you think you’re going to be asked (even the simple ones like how did you end up doing this work) and go over what you might say. Don’t learn parrot fashion, but having answers to straight forward questions help for those curve balls. I highly recommend Viva Cards if you’re struggling.
#4- Take control
Take a pad and pen in. I scribbled notes that did in the end help me with my PhD corrections post viva. I also recommend asking for a break after an hour or so, at a point where a break feels like it will come naturally. Your examiner may beat you to this. I had a break, meant I could go to the loo and make a brew for the second half!
#5- Annotate in the text in your thesis
Do this, but don’t use red pen when annotating your thesis copy, just incase your examiners see it. Chances are it will attract unwanted attention, you don’t wanna open a hole to fall into. Don’t use highlighters either. I did have a few post it notes tucked away in mine just incase. But mainly stuck to pencil.
Have you had a viva type exam before? What are your tips? What revision tips do you have in general for PhD candidates? Let me know in the comments,