Two types of questions can seem challenging: unexpected questions and tricky, topic-related questions.
You can’t prepare an answer for an unexpected question, but you can be prepared to answer. You can build confidence through a mock viva or by just finding situations where you can talk about your work and take questions. You’ll never predict every question, but you can at least get comfortable with thinking in those kinds of situations.
Tricky, topic-related questions could be more challenging to some candidates than unexpected questions. Tricky questions are the ones you’re aware of, or the aspects of your work that leads to them. They can seem challenging because there’s something there to focus on, something to worry about. Maybe it’s how you explain something, or a contentious detail, an idea that’s not 100% proved.
You can build your confidence for unexpected questions through practice, and you can improve how you think about tricky, topic-related questions through reflection and writing summaries. Take the topic apart, explore it and find the bits that you need to address. Thinking is good, but writing will help you shape those thoughts into something concrete.
Both types of question – the unexpected and the tricky, topic-related – can be challenging in the viva.
Thankfully, both types of question can be prepared for.