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Facing Viva Voce

Facing Viva Voce

The viva voce, or the defense, is the final hurdle in becoming a doctor (of philosophy of course). It is also often the most feared part of completing a PhD, fueled by horror stories of evil examiners and 8 hour long exams.

Calm down and breathe

Working yourself up is only going to make things worse, by stopping you sleeping and making you ill. Find a way to relax, be it yoga, running, meditation or video games; but find something to help you stay calm.

Do something fun

Don’t spend all your time revising. You still need to have fun, or you’ll wear yourself down before the exam. You want to be fresh on the day, so go out and have some fun (maybe with those friends you’ve neglected over the last months/ years).

Believe in yourself

You have spent the last few years reading about, writing about and doing your project. You are the expert; you know your stuff, remember that.

Go in with a good attitude

Don’t see the examiners as evil torturers who get kicks out of making you suffer. They want you to pass. However, if you go in thinking that they want you to fail you’ll not only be more scared, you’ll also be more defensive, which isn’t always a good thing. Instead try to think of your examiners as people who are really interested in what you have done and who understand all the problems and pitfalls associated with research.

Make a list of your own corrections

Unless you are perfect, or had your thesis professionally proof read, your thesis is likely to contain many mistakes. After reading it over so many times you often see what you think should be written, instead of what actually is written. Before your exam, take another look over your thesis (preferably after some time away from it, so you’re more fresh). Find all the mistakes, write them down and take them in to your exam. The examiners will be impressed that you did it, and you’ll be less phased by mistakes they highlight. Plus, you could save yourself some time and correct them before the viva, meaning less time spent on corrections afterwards.

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