Kelly Louise Preece is the Researcher Development Manager for PGRs in the Doctoral College. You’ll recognise her face from workshops, her voice from WEBINARs, and her jokes from the 90s. You can follow her on twitter for musings about Researcher Development and the PGR experience…interspersed with tweets about superheros and sewing.


We’ve had a few PGRs tweeting us recently asking for viva advice and top tips. Although we have some great advice and resources of our Preparing For Your Viva ELE page, I thought it would be useful to write a short post about the advice we share in our viva workshops and WEBINARs. So here are our top ten tips:

  1. Before you start preparing, take a break. You have been working flat out on your research you at least 3 years, and have no doubt spent several intense months engrossed in the writing and editing of your thesis. Take some time away from it. Go on holiday like Dr. Emily Johnson did. Get perspective on your thesis to better enable you to defend it in the viva.
  2. When you’re reading your thesis, you’re bound to notice spelling, grammar and typing errors. It’s normal. Make a list of corrections, print them out and go in to the viva prepared to share them with your examiners.
  3. Re-reading the thesis is useful preparation, but it’s not enough.
  4. Do a mock-viva – with your supervisors, your peers, your friends, your family…practice talking about your research again after months of focusing on your writing.
  5. Practice summarising your research – vivas often beginning with a question asking you to summarise your thesis or key findings, to help settle you in.
  6. Prepare answers to your nightmare questions – whatever you fear being asked about the most, prepare and practice your answers. Chances are your nightmare questions won’t come up, but you’ll feel better knowing how to answer if they do.
  7. Read new material that has been published – your examiners may ask you how a new piece of research impacts on your thesis!
  8. Remember what is being examined – there is nothing mystical about research degree examination – your examiners assess your research according to a fixed set of criteria.
  9. Remember – you are the expert! Your examiners are experts in their field, and they may be an expert in yours – but they are not the leading expert on your research or thesis. You are.
  10. As much as you can, try and relax. Nerves are normal. You’ve done the hardest bit already – doing the research, writing the thesis. What an achievement! The viva is your chance to demonstrate and affirm everything you have learnt throughout your research degree.

Still have more questions? Why not download Preparing For Your Viva – Frequently Asked Questions, which compiles all the questions and answers from our Preparing For Your Viva Q&A Panels.

Written by: Kelly Louise Preece- Researcher Development Manager for PGRs