Preparing for my viva

I was asked to write a bit about preparing for the viva.This  broad framework was suggested and I just doggedly follow it:

1) how did you prepare for the viva? What was your strategy?

I did all the usual things. My strategy was to know what I was talking about, to be prepared for all the usual questions and try to relax and enjoy the experience.

I did the training provided by my university, that was a good exercise. It gave you a good idea of what to expect. Especially if you are doing your viva in a second language it is good to get practical things such as pronouncing the word pedagogy well practiced.

I had a mock with my supervisors, very useful, they provided a list of typical questions an examiner might ask.

I read through the thesis in the week before.

I tried to talk about my work with people all the way through from first ideas till the end. Very difficult for me as I am not very talkative but it was really helpful when ever I managed to do so.

2) what did you do the night before?

I rested, I ate well and went early to bed. But before that I stuck multicolored stickers to mark chapters and important pages in the thesis. I suspected there would be pages I would want to refer to and use to explain such as models, diagram explaining the methods and important tables and figures. (see photo
A multi-coloured thesis!

A multi-coloured thesis!

3) how did you talk about what you want to do with your thesis?

My work has a strong practical side and I want it to have direct impact on teachers. I had actually started such work before and talked about that in the viva. I had also made a plan how I would produce papers from the thesis and had given some thought as to what journals I was aiming towards.  To bad that plan is not being followed well enough :/

Give these things a thought before your viva, know what you would want in your wildest dreams.

4) where you fretting over what to wear? Be honest 

Of course ! I feel it is important to present yourself properly. I came to England especially for the viva and had planned the wardrobe back home and was ready to be spotless and wrinkle free. I even decided not to walk to Uni but splurge on a taxi. But as fate would have it, it rained, A lot! and everybody wanted a taxi so the wait was longer than the walk so I walked. Maybe a good idea anyway, because walking gives you plenty of oxygen and space to gather your thoughts.

3) were there any questions that you couldn’t answer or whose details escaped you?

I can´t say that a detail escaped me or that I could not answer something. I got a mix of really easy questions and some tough ones.  A thesis is something you know pretty well  at the end of the journey and you know the weaknesses and limitations. My supervisors had advised me through the whole process to be upfront about them. Doing research in education is fraught with limitations and you can never do everything in one thesis. But you can always say how you made your choices and why, explain these reasons and justify them.

On the other hand the issues raised in the viva were not the ones I had expected. My examiners focused much more on small details in the methodology than the findings. The main product from my thesis, a revised model was hardly mentioned, but I really struggled justifying why test results were presented on a 1-10 scale and we had a discussion about the scale, whether test results can be a true interval scale.

4) would you do anything differently?

I woke up several times the next mornings thinking „we did not talk about X and Z“ but getting somebody to talk to who has read your work is valuable and not an opportunity to be wasted.

I would prepare a list of the things I want to raise, my viva was fairly quick and at the end they asked me if I wanted to add something. Not having anything to add after five years of study sounds rather lame, but in such a stressful situation memory evades you. But probably examiners expect that.

Anyway I survived and you will too

On the day of the viva