Big, open questions in the viva like “How did you get started?” or “Can you tell us why this method is valid?” could have big, open responses. It might be necessary to talk about a lot of different things to really respond to a question, and it’s not unreasonable for a candidate to be concerned about saying everything they need to or staying on track.
What could you do in your viva to stay on point with a response? A few thoughts:
- Pause. Stop for a moment when listening to a question and just after to make sure you understand it.
- Think. Is there a way to break the big question down? Are there key points you have to talk about? Can you do something simple to keep focus?
- Note. Quickly write down keywords. Tick them off if you need to so you cover the appropriate points.
- Pause again. There’s no rush. Quick pause, sip of water maybe, and ask yourself, “Have I said what I needed to so far?”
- Check your thesis. Stay on the page relevant to the discussion. Flip forwards or backwards to find details. Does anything jump out that needs to be referenced?
- Ask your examiners. Ask if they want to know more. Ask if you’ve been clear on a point if the topic is complicated.
If there’s a lot to talk about it’s natural to be concerned about going off the point you want to make. Thankfully there’s lots of little things you could do to make sure that isn’t such a big concern.