I think a huge part of viva confidence for a candidate is based on feeling comfortable when talking about their research.
Examiners need to ask the candidate questions, they need to share opinions and they need the candidate to respond so that they can have a discussion and examine. Candidates have to do their part and want to do their part, but too often worry that they won’t be able to in the moment.
- “What if I forget something?”
- “What if there’s a long pause?”
- “What if I don’t know something?”
- “What if it’s a bit awkward or I’m hesitant?”
The short answer for all of these questions and worries is that the viva will still happen. It’ll continue however you feel, but will feel better for you if you’re able to talk with some confidence about your research and all the related things your examiners want to discuss.
How do you get to talk comfortably? You prepare. You read your thesis and think and make notes. More important than anything you take time to rehearse for being in the viva through opportunities like a mock viva.
You can’t be ready with pre-loaded responses to every conceivable question or comment.
You can be ready to engage with whatever question your examiners ask by taking time before the viva to rehearse.
Have a mock viva. Talk with friends. Talk with your supervisor. Make opportunities to be in situations where you’ll talk about your work and respond to questions. Make sure you have real experience before the viva so that you feel more comfortable talking about your PhD research.