Managing The Mock Viva

A key part of viva prep is using opportunities to rehearse for the viva.

You have to read your thesis to prepare, make notes, check references you might have forgotten, and so on – but in the viva you need to talk. You’re not called on simply to present but to respond to questions. You have to be ready to be a participant in the discussion your examiners are facilitating.

A mock viva is probably the best opportunity you could have to rehearse. By design it is supposed to be like the viva you’re expecting. It’s run by your supervisor and maybe a colleague of theirs; while they may not have had the full prep time your examiners will have, they can draw on their own relevant experience to help you prepare.

A mock viva doesn’t have to be a big deal to arrange but there are key questions to consider first:

  • Do you really want one? They’re a great opportunity but not for everyone. Think carefully about yourself, your relationship with your supervisor and what you need for your prep.
  • When could you have one? Talk to your supervisor about their availability and schedule a time that will suit you both – giving plenty of time to debrief and build on your rehearsal.
  • What do you need to do to be ready for the mock? Probably everything you’re already doing to get ready for the viva at that stage, so nothing else!
  • What do you want to get from the experience? If you just want to have something like the viva, then you don’t need to ask for anything else. If you want questions on a specific topic or aspect of your work then prime your supervisor.

Remember that this will not be a run-through for your real viva. Your real viva will be different. Your real viva will matter more, have different questions and come with the real expectations and anticipations of the day. A mock viva helps you rehearse how you might feel and behave on the day, rather than allow you to test responses to questions.

There’s not a lot to manage to have a mock viva. Think ahead a little and you can manage your expectations, then do something to help with your viva preparation.