Oral examinations are more threatening than the written ones and we don’t have an exception here when we talk of the PhD VIVA. I don’t see too many reasons to be really petrified of the PhD VIVA. It is of course natural to feel some anxiety and I think that is symptom which in a good context, indicates that you care about your performance. However, the anxiety has to be eustress and not distress. The best way that you done feel negatively anxious about your PhD VIVA is to very clearly know its purpose and to be also well prepared for the same. The main objective of a VIVA is to give you an opportunity to defend your research, your thesis. It really isn’t a standalone examination and surely only your VIVA cannot decide whether you would pass or fail in your PhD.
Remember if your thesis has good standards and has innovative and worthy research, it may be already decided to pass your thesis, even before the VIVA. So your preparation for this oral examination starts from the first day when you start your research as submitting a well written thesis is the first thing to be done. Have confidence in the arguments that you have presented as that would go a long way in preparing you well for the VIVA. Keep in mind these few things for best results in your VIVA:
Be very thorough with the argument you have presented and how it is contributing in the existing body of research.
When you do your preparation and rehearsal, look at it from a third person perspective to get a holistic picture. Seeing it as someone else’s research also helps you to understand how would the examiner look at it.
Identify the strengths of your research and know the weaknesses. Keep awareness about the practical weaknesses in your research and what kind of scope it leaves or creates for future research is also important.
If your supervisor agrees, try to do a mock VIVA, rehearsals always instill more confidence
Do make an attempt to explain your thesis to a person who has the knowledge and interest in your subject but is a not a researcher. You would understand the perspective of a layman which is imperative for a researcher to know of defences in the VIVA
Try to be spontaneous and natural rather than mugged up, remember it is your work and nobody understands it better than you do so there isn’t a need to be artificial in the VIVA. Refer the thesis if you so need to in the VIVA.
If you have some tips for better performance in VIVA, do share with us.