How to structure your viva presentation (with examples)

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Most PhD vivas and PhD defences start with a short presentation by the candidate. The structure of these presentations is very important! There are several factors and approaches to consider when developing your viva presentation structure.

Factors to consider when developing a viva presentation structure

Structuring your viva presentation traditionally, structuring your viva presentation around key findings, structuring your viva presentation around key arguments, structuring your viva presentation around case studies, final thoughts on viva presentation structures.

A PhD viva or PhD defence is often one of the last steps that PhD students have to pass before receiving a doctorate. The viva or defence usually starts with a short presentation of the PhD candidate on the PhD thesis.

Presenting a whole PhD in a short amount of time is very challenging. After all, a PhD is often the result of several years of work!

It is simply impossible to include everything in a viva presentation.

Therefore, tough choices have to be made in terms of what to include, what to highlight, and what to exclude.

The structure of a viva presentation plays a crucial role in bringing across the key messages of your PhD.

Therefore, there are several factors to consider when developing a viva presentation structure:

  • Available presentation time : Viva presentations usually last between 10 and 20 minutes, but every university has different regulations. Developing a structure for a viva presentation that lasts 10 minutes is different from developing one for a presentation that lasts 20 minutes or more. Thus, find out how much time you are allowed to present!
  • The key contribution of your thesis: The structure of a viva presentation should reflect the content and key messages of the PhD thesis. For instance, if you have written a very theoretical PhD thesis, it makes no sense to structure your whole presentation around your data collection and analysis. Make sure that the viva presentation structure is in line with your main messages.
  • University standards: It is recommended to discuss your ideas and plans for your viva presentation structure with others, as each university may have may be different (and even unspoken) rules and standards. Ask your supervisors about their preferred viva presentation structure. And talk to your peers who defend their theses before you.
  • Clear storyline : Every presentation should have a logical structure which allows the audience to follow a crystal-clear storyline. This is also true for viva presentations. Thus, clarify your storyline and develop a presentation structure that supports it.

A very traditional viva presentation structure simply follows the structure of the PhD thesis.

This means that the viva presentation covers all parts of the thesis, including an introduction, the literature review, the methodology, results, conclusions, etcetera.

Example of a traditional viva presentation structure

The advantage of this rather traditional format is that it provides information on each thesis chapter. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to prepare.

The disadvantage of this traditional format is that it is very challenging to fit all the information in a – let’s say – 10-minute presentation.

Furthermore, it can result in a presentation that is quite boring for the examiners, who have read the thesis in preparation for the viva.

One interesting way is to structure a viva presentation around the key findings of the PhD research.

For instance, you can select your three main findings which you each connect to the existing literature, your unique research approach and your (new) empirical insights.

Example of a viva presentation structure around key findings

A viva presentation structure around key findings emphasises the unique contribution of a PhD thesis, particularly in empirical terms.

A challenge of this structure, however, is to narrow down the presentation to a handful of key findings.

Furthermore, it might be tricky to find enough time during the presentation to discuss your theoretical framework and embed your discussion in the existing literature when addressing complex issues.

A viva presentation structured around key arguments is very similar to one that is structured around key findings. However, while key findings place more emphasis on the empirical data, key arguments operate at a higher level:

Arguments are sets of reasons supporting an idea, which – in academia – often integrate theoretical and empirical insights.

Example of a viva presentation structure around key arguments

So, for example, your key argument 1 is your stance on an issue, combining your theoretical and empirical understanding of it. You use the existing theory to understand your empirical data, and your empirical data analysis to develop your theoretical understanding.

A viva presentation structure around key arguments is probably the most difficult viva presentation structure to choose.

However, if it is well done, it is probably the most academically strong and advanced way of defending your PhD.

Another common way to structure a viva presentation is around case studies or study contexts.

This structure is only applicable when the PhD thesis includes a comparative (case study) analysis, which is quite common in the social sciences and humanities.

A presentation can, for instance, first discuss the theoretical framework and research approach, then present Case 1, and then Case 2 or more if applicable.

Example of a viva presentation structure around case studies

A viva presentation structure around case studies can be easy to follow for the audience, and shed light on the similarities and differences of cases.

However, as always, you need to reflect on whether the structure supports your key message. If your key message does not centre around similarities and/or differences in cases, this is not the structure for you!

Every PhD thesis is unique, and therefore also every viva presentation structure should be unique.

The key to a good viva presentation is to choose a structure which reflects the key points of your PhD thesis that you want to convey to the examiners.

The example viva presentation structures discussed here intend to showcase variety and possibilities and to provide inspiration.

Never just copy a viva presentation structure that worked for others .

Always think about what fits best to your thesis, asking yourself the following questions:

  • What is the main message of my PhD that I want to share during my viva?
  • How do I develop a crystal clear storyline to bring this main message across?
  • How can I structure my viva presentation to support and facilitate this storyline?

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  • PhD Viva Voces – A Complete Guide
  • Doing a PhD
  • A PhD viva involves defending your thesis in an oral examination with at least two examiners.
  • The aim of a PhD viva is to confirm that the work is your own , that you have a deep understanding of your project and, overall, that you are a competent researcher .
  • There are no standard durations, but they usually range from one to three hours, with most lasting approximately two hours .
  • There are six outcomes of a PhD viva: (1) pass without corrections (2) pass subject to minor corrections, (3) pass subject to major corrections, (4) downgrade to MPhil with no amendments, (5) downgrade to MPhil subject to amendments, (6) immediate fail.
  • Almost all students who sit their viva pass it, with the most common outcome being ‘(2) – pass subject to minor corrections’.

What Is a PhD Viva?

A viva voce , more commonly referred to as ‘viva’, is an oral examination conducted at the end of your PhD and is essentially the final hurdle on the path to a doctorate. It is the period in which a student’s knowledge and work are evaluated by independent examiners.

In order to assess the student and their work around their research question, a viva sets out to determine:

  • you understand the ideas and theories that you have put forward,
  • you can answer questions about elements of your work that the examiners have questions about,
  • you understand the broader research in your field and how your work contributes to this,
  • you are aware of the limitations of your work and understand how it can be developed further,
  • your work makes an original contribution, is your own and has not been plagiarised.

Note: A viva is a compulsory procedure for all PhD students, with the only exception being when a PhD is obtained through publication as opposed to the conventional route of study.

Who Will Attend a Viva?

In the UK, at least two examiners must take part in all vivas. Although you could have more than two examiners, most will not in an attempt to facilitate a smoother questioning process.

One of the two examiners will be internal, i.e. from your university, and the other will be external, i.e. from another university. Regardless, both will be knowledgeable in your research field and have read your thesis beforehand.

In addition to your two examiners, two other people may be present. The first is a chairperson. This is an individual who will be responsible for monitoring the interview and for ensuring proper conduct is followed at all times. The need for an external chairperson will vary between universities, as one of the examiners can also take on this role. The second is your supervisor, whose attendance is decided upon by you in agreement with your examiners. If your supervisor attends, they are prohibited from asking questions or from influencing the outcome of the viva.

To avoid any misunderstandings, we have summarised the above in a table:

Note: In some countries, such as in the United States, a viva is known as a ‘PhD defense’ and is performed publicly in front of a panel or board of examiners and an open audience. In these situations, the student presents their work in the form of a lecture and then faces questions from the examiners and audience which almost acts as a critical appraisal.

How Long Does a Viva Last?

Since all universities have different guidelines , and since all PhDs are unique, there are no standard durations. Typically, however, the duration ranges from one to three hours, with most lasting approximately two hours.

Your examiners will also influence the duration of your viva as some will favour a lengthy discussion, while others may not. Usually, your university will consult your examiners in advance and notify you of the likely duration closer to the day of your viva.

What Happens During a Viva?

Regardless of the subject area, all PhD vivas follow the same examination process format as below.


You will introduce yourselves to each other, with the internal examiner normally introducing the external examiner. If an external chairperson is present, they too are introduced; otherwise, this role will be assumed by one of the examiners.

Procedure Explained

After the introductions, the appointed chair will explain the viva process. Although it should already be known to everyone, it will be repeated to ensure the viva remains on track during the forthcoming discussion.

Warm-Up Questions

The examiners will then begin the questioning process. This usually starts with a few simple opening questions, such as asking you to summarise your PhD thesis and what motivated you to carry out the research project.

In-Depth Questions

The viva questions will then naturally increase in difficulty as the examiners go further into the details of your thesis. These may include questions such as “What was the most critical decision you made when determining your research methodology ?”, “Do your findings agree with the current published work?” and “How do your findings impact existing theories or literature? ”. In addition to asking open-ended questions, they will also ask specific questions about the methodology, results and analysis on which your thesis is based.

Closing the Viva

Once the examiners are satisfied that they have thoroughly evaluated your knowledge and thesis, they will invite you to ask any questions you may have, and then bring the oral examination to a close.

What Happens After the Viva?

Once your viva has officially ended, your examiners will ask you to leave the room so that they can discuss your performance. Once a mutual agreement has been reached, which can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, you will be invited back inside and informed of your outcome.

PhD Viva Outcomes

There are six possible outcomes to a viva:

  • Immediate award of degree: A rare recommendation – congratulations, you are one of the few people who completely satisfied your examiners the first time around. You do not have to do anything further at this point.
  • Minor amendments required: The most common recommendation – you obtain a pass on the condition that you make a number of minor amendments to your thesis, such as clarifying certain points and correcting grammatical errors. The time you have to make these changes depends on the number of them, but is usually one to six months.
  • Major amendments required: A somewhat uncommon recommendation – you are requested to make major amendments to your thesis, ranging from further research to collecting more data or rewriting entire sections. Again, the time you have to complete this will depend on the number of changes required, but will usually be six months to one year. You will be awarded your degree once your amended thesis has been reviewed and accepted.
  • Immediate award of MPhil: An uncommon recommendation – your examiners believe your thesis does not meet the standard for a doctoral degree but meets the standard for an MPhil (Master of Philosophy), a lower Master’s degree.
  • Amendments required for MPhil: A rare recommendation – your examiners believe your thesis does not meet the standard for a doctoral degree, but with several amendments will meet the standard for an MPhil.
  • Immediate fail: A very rare recommendation – you are given an immediate fail without the ability to resubmit and without entitlement to an MPhil.

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What Is the Pass Rate for Vivas?

Based on an  analysis of 26,076 PhD students  who took their viva exam between 2006 and 2017, the PhD viva pass rate in the UK is 96%; of those who passed, about 80% were required to make minor amendments to their thesis. The reason for this high pass rate is that supervisors will only put their students forward for a viva once they confidently believe they are ready for it. As a result, most candidates who sit a viva are already well-versed in their PhD topic before they even start preparing for the exam.

How Do I Arrange a Viva?

Your viva will be arranged either by the examiners or by the chairperson. The viva will be arranged at least one to two months after you have submitted your thesis and will arrange a viva date and venue that is suitable for all participants.

Can I Choose My Examiners?

At most universities, you and your supervisor will choose the internal and external examiners yourselves. This is because the examiners must have extensive knowledge of the thesis topic in order to be able to examine you and, as the author of the thesis in question, who else could better determine who they might be than you and your supervisor. The internal examiner is usually quite easy to find given they will be from your institution, but the external examiner may end up being your second or third preference depending on availability.

Can I Take Notes Into a Viva?

A viva is about testing your competence, not your memory. As such, you are allowed to take notes and other supporting material in with you. However, keep in mind that your examiners will not be overly impressed if you constantly have to refer to your notes to answer each question. Because of this, many students prefer to take an annotated copy of their thesis, with important points already highlighted and key chapters marked with post-it notes.

In addition to an annotated copy of a thesis, some students also take:

  • a list of questions they would like to ask the examiners,
  • notes that were created during their preparation,
  • a list of minor corrections they have already identified from their viva prep work.

How Do I Prepare for a PhD Viva?

There are several ways to prepare for a PhD viva, one of the most effective being a mock viva voce examination . This allows you to familiarise yourself with the type of viva questions you will be asked and identify any weak areas you need to improve. They also give you the opportunity to practise without the pressure, giving you more time to think about your answers which will help to make sure that you know your thesis inside out. However, a mock viva exam is just one of many methods available to you – some of the other viva preparation methods can be found on our “ How to Prepare for a PhD Viva ” page.

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Ace Your Viva Presentation: Tips and Tricks

The thought of an oral presentation can be a huge source of stress and anxiety for many students, while some just blossom in such situations. If you’re one of the former, though, don’t panic. With decent preparation and practice, you too can successfully master your viva presentation.

But first: what is a viva presentation?


Viva voce is a Latin phrase most often translated as “by word of mouth.”  In academic circles, a viva presentation is an oral exam in which you defend your thesis.

After the thesis is defended, it’s discussed by a small panel. Among those present are the examining professors, but there may also be research assistants, members of the relevant department or even fellow students.

The purpose of this defense is to show examiners how knowledgeable you are on your research topic, that you have internalized what you have learned and know how to apply it.  In effect, it shows that you are well prepared to enter into academic discussion.

In principle, the viva presentation won’t make an entire grade’s difference, but it can tip the proverbial scale in your favor. It does offer some major advantages: You can clear up any ambiguities, assuage any doubts your examiners may have, and show that your stand by your research.

Viva Presentations 2 1024x683 1

Preparation is key

After months or even years of hard work, the thesis is finished, the last formatting mistakes corrected, the bibliography painstakingly checked one last time and hooray, it’s finished! Time to celebrate! And then you get an invitation to the viva …

So, the wine bottle is re-corked and it’s back to the desk. But the good news is: you’ve actually already done most of the preparation. That’s what all the in-depth research you did to create your thesis was. You’re already an expert on your topic, so now you just need to explain it to your examiners clearly and calmly. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to start preparing for your viva before your thesis is finished and you’ve answered all your own questions.

Your supervisor should already know what to expect and the purpose of the viva is to present your results. Some people just hand in their thesis with huge relief and then put the whole thing out of their mind for a while.

This isn’t necessarily a problem but when the viva presentation is due, you really need to give yourself time to familiarize yourself with the topic again. Re-read your thesis a few times to get your results and methods fresh in your mind and you’ve already done much of the prep work for your viva.

Kolloquium Prasentation Vorbereitung

Organizational details

You need to check the examination regulations of your institution to find out what will be required of you during your viva presentation. How long should the presentation last? Who will be present? How will the discussion group be structured at the end? Studies have shown that anxiety is significantly lessened if you know exactly what to expect. Don’t ignore these details.

Make sure you have the right power supply for the projector and whether your slide format is compatible with the projector. An article on slide formats and the difference between 4:3 and 16:9 can be found here .

Know how long your presentation should be. This often depends on what type of work you’re presenting. Be sure to keep this in mind as you create your slides.

Also, think about whether or not you want to provide a handout. Even if it isn’t explicitly required, examiners will often use a handout as a guide when asking their questions, allowing you to better control the discussion that follows.

You can find helpful tips on handouts here .

Lastly, think about what you’re going to wear for your viva presentation. If you’re not sure, take a cue from your examiners. If they wear a suit or dress to other viva presentations, it’s safe to assume that the dress code for your viva will be on the formal side. It’s important to look neat and tidy, but you should also feel comfortable. The wrong shoes or clothing that is too tight can negatively impact the way you present. You can find more helpful tips on clothing here .


Technical details

The most popular tool for giving a viva presentation is PowerPoint. On the day of your presentation, get there early to make sure your devices are working. It also helps to be familiar with PowerPoint’s features, such as Presenter View. This fantastic tool will help you stay on track during your viva presentation. For more information on Presenter View, click here .

In general, the rule for viva presentations is: Keep It Simple . This is a defense of your academic research and your slides should express that. Keep it classic and factual. Use a uniform font and a neutral, preferably white, background. You can use backgrounds from PresentationLoad:

White bakckground 1

In principle, you should use as little text and as few key points as possible, but it’s also essential to document your research accurately. Room for interpretation can be very dangerous here.

Naturally, it depends on the preferences of the examiners, but a little more text than in normal presentations is definitely allowed. If the nature of your work allows, graphics, photos or flowcharts are a good way to offer some variety and to clearly present complex issues.

Screenshot 2022 05 30 110919

How to structure a successful viva presentation

bild kolloquium eng

Like your thesis, your viva PowerPoint presentation should follow a certain structure. It is advisable to follow the structure of your thesis. After all, you have already given it a lot of thought and made sure that everything is in a logical context.

This way you can save yourself additional work. But remember – the presentation is not about retelling your thesis word for word. Just give the most important and interesting aspects.

Follow these points to create a solid structure for any viva presentation:

1) Relevance

Your thesis dealt in depth with a particular question, a specific aspect of research. In the first part of your viva PowerPoint presentation you introduce it and explain why it is relevant. What is the benefit for academic understanding, the general public, a specific avenue? Why this question in particular?

This allows you to show your audience why you chose your topic and why they should pay attention to what you have to say. All this needs to be supported by a professional introduction. You can find tips on how to do this here .

2) Background

This is where you set out the background of your research question in more detail, i.e. the most important theories and approaches that already exist on the topic, or which prompted your question. This helps your listeners prepare for any complex interrelationships, and clarifies the basis on which you have built your work.

In this part you set out how you approached your work. Was your research qualitative or quantitative? Did you conduct interviews, analyze data, evaluate a particular body of literature? This is your chance to show your examiners how carefully you worked and explain why you chose this particular method.

4) Findings

Now to present the results of your research. Were there any surprises? If so, how did you deal with them? Are the results consistent, where did you encounter difficulties, and how did you solve them? Use this section to talk about your research in a transparent and honest way. It’s an opportunity to show that you have dealt with the topic seriously and in depth, rather than just choosing the easiest way.

5) Conclusion

At the end, summarize your work clearly and concisely, and answer the research question posed at the beginning. You can also express your personal opinion as to whether you have achieved the result you expected or whether your research has come to a surprising conclusion.

Finally, you will need a well-rounded conclusion to your viva presentation. You can read tips for the perfect presentation ending here .

Whether you have to present your sources at the end of your viva is something to discuss with your supervisor or read up in the regulations. If in doubt, however, it’s better to be on the safe side with a list of sources.


Viva presentation: example

Since every viva is different, there is no one example of a great PowerPoint viva presentation. In our blog you will find numerous examples of how a well-structured and appealing PowerPoint presentation can look. For example, here . These should serve as a guide; it’s important to adapt the presentation to your personal requirements and your audience.

Make sure your narrative is clear and consistent throughout your presentation (as it was in your thesis).  It might be a good idea to ask your supervisor to show you good viva presentation example from previous years or to give you tips on where you should focus your attention.


General tips for a successful presentation

Almost there! You’ve created and double-checked your PowerPoint viva presentation and you’re feeling confident about your research work. For many people, though, creating the content is the easy bit; it’s the thought of speaking in front of others that terrifies them. It’s just a fact that in order to defend a thesis, you first have to be attacked .

1. Be prepared for critical questions and comments. Think through what possible aspects of your work might attract criticism, and prepare your rebuttals in advance. It helps to let friends or family read your work and ask questions.

2. The same friends and family can be amazingly useful as a practice audience. Deliver your presentation a few times in front of others and in a relaxed environment. This will help you feel more confident when it comes time for your viva presentation. Your trial audience may discover inconsistencies you’d missed, and can often provide valuable feedback on how your slides look, your speaking style or your body language.

3. Body language is very important when you’re giving your presentation; it can affect your persuasiveness. Stand upright (or sit if you need to). A small amount of movement can emphasize your engagement with the subject, but try not to look restless.  Getting your words across means you mustn’t turn your face away from the audience. Small gestures can underline your words, but too much fidgeting will look like nerves. 

Practising giving your presentation will soon get your body language expressing ease and confidence. To learn how to best prepare for a presentation, read our blog article on the right body language

4. Many people tend to speak far too quickly in presentations, probably to get the whole thing over as quickly as possible. While this is understandable, it means the audience misses half your words! Try to breathe calmly and speak evenly.

Time can seem to speed up when you’re in a stressful situation, so speak more slowly than you think right. And taking a proper breath in between phrases will help ground you.  You can find tips on how to prepare your speaking voice for your viva presentation in this blog post .

Your test audience can give you very good feedback here. When you practice your presentation, use a stopwatch to make sure that you stay within the given limits. Once you know that you won’t overrun even when speaking calmly, you can avoid the temptation to rush during the official presentation.

5. Pro tip: Do you have to give your viva presentation online? If so, some things will of course be different, starting with what program you use to stream your presentation. You can find out what options you have in this blog post . Click here to read more about what to pay attention to when giving an online presentation.


While knowing what you want to say is important, DON’T try to learn your entire presentation by heart. Even if you somehow did manage to, it would end up sounding artificial and you could be easily thrown off track if you miss a word or someone interrupts with a question. The best strategy is to memorize a few key points and speak freely.

Take a deep breath before you start and remember that you have no reason to be nervous. Nobody knows your work as well as you do; you’ve done all the research and can consider yourself an expert on your topic.

And if a mistake does happen, here are some tips on how to react to it with confidence.

If the examiners seem receptive to it, a little small talk before you start can help you to relax. And once you start, remember that you’ve practiced hard and are well prepared to give an impressive viva presentation. Good luck!

Any questions about this article or need help creating a viva presentation? Feel free to contact us at [email protected] for tips. We’d love to help.

We’ve already shared a lot of links with tips on how to improve your presentation . Here are some more that may interest you:

  • PowerPoint animations
  • PowerPoint Morph
  • Humor in presentations
  • Add images to your presentation with an app
  • PowerPoint slide master
  • The right presentation background
  • How to create flowcharts

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How to create an Impactful PhD Viva-Voce Presentation

  • Posted On July 11, 2023


  • Creating well-organized slides and delivering a polished presentation within the allotted time is of utmost importance for a successful PhD viva-voce examination.
  • This aspect significantly impacts the impression made on the research scholar, supervisor, or mentor by the examiners or moderators.
  • Before designing the presentation slides, the scholar must carefully determine the content to include, taking into account what they should emphasize and what they can omit.
  • The challenge lies in selecting the most significant research findings and key contributions, considering the extensive amount of data accumulated over the course of the research program (typically spanning 4 to 5 years).
  • It is crucial for the scholar to exercise time management , ensuring that the presentation focuses on the essential aspects.

To assist in this endeavor, we have compiled a blog outlining simple yet valuable tips for preparing PhD viva-voce presentation slides.

PhD viva-voce examination

Example Structure for a Ph.D. Viva-Voce Presentation Slides:

1: Title Slide

2: Presentation Outline

3: Introduction

4: Identification of Research Gaps or Rationale for the Research Study

5: Problem Statement

6: Objectives of the Study

7: Methodology

8: Results and Discussion

9: Conclusion

10: Publications

11: References

12: Acknowledgements

13: Thank You Slide

Please note that you can modify this general structure according to the specific requirements of your Ph.D. viva-voce presentation.

Tips for Preparing an Effective Ph.D. Viva-Voce Presentation:

1. provide a concise introduction to the background of your study:.

  • Begin your presentation with a brief overview of the research topic, highlighting its significance and relevance in the field.
  • Present the background information in a concise manner, using bullet points instead of lengthy paragraphs.

2. Highlight research gaps and clearly state the problem statement:

  • Emphasize the research gaps or the need for your research study, demonstrating the gap in knowledge or existing limitations.
  • Clearly articulate your problem statement to establish the focus of your research.

3. Clearly outline the objectives and methodology of your study:

  • List the specific objectives of your study, outlining the goals you aimed to achieve.
  • Present the methodology you employed, using neat schematics or flowcharts to visually represent your research approach.

4. Present research findings and data effectively:

  • Present the important research findings and data from your thesis in a simple and concise manner, using bulleted points instead of paragraphs.
  • Reserve the detailed explanations and scientific evidence for your oral defense presentation, and use the slides to highlight key results.

5. Connect your findings with relevant literature and emphasize novelty:

  • Connect your research findings with existing literature, highlighting how your work contributes to the field and addresses the research gaps identified.
  • Emphasize the novelty and originality of your research, showcasing its unique aspects or approaches.

6. Utilize schematics, graphs, and tables for data representation:

  • Use visual aids such as schematics, graphs, and tables to present data and experimental conditions effectively.
  • Avoid using detailed statements and opt for visual representations that can convey information more efficiently.

7. Summarize research objectives and conclude with societal benefits:

  • Summarize the results of your research objectives, highlighting the key outcomes and their implications.
  • Conclude your presentation by emphasizing the broader societal benefits or potential applications of your research.

8. Use hyperlinks for presenting extensive data or references:

Incorporate hyperlinks at appropriate places in your presentation to provide easy access to extensive data, datasets, experimental procedures, or relevant literature.

9. Ensure high-quality and readable images:

Pay attention to the quality of images used in your presentation. Ensure they are clear, visually appealing, and easily readable for the audience.

10. Keep the number of slides limited and maintain flow and connectivity:

  • Limit the number of slides to around 50 to 55 to maintain a concise and focused presentation.
  • Ensure a smooth flow and logical connectivity between each slide, allowing the audience to follow your presentation effortlessly.


In conclusion, a well-organized and polished presentation is crucial for a successful PhD viva-voce examination. The presentation has a lasting impact on the research scholar, supervisor, or mentor as observed by the examiners or moderators. When preparing the presentation slides, the scholar should carefully select the content, emphasizing the most significant research findings and key contributions while managing the extensive amount of data accumulated over several years.

To assist in this endeavor, we have provided a general structure for PhD viva-voce presentation slides that you can modify to meet specific requirements. Additionally, we have outlined valuable tips for preparing an effective presentation.

The tips include providing a concise introduction , highlighting research gaps, clearly stating the problem statement, outlining objectives and methodology, presenting research findings and data effectively, connecting findings with relevant literature, utilizing visual aids, summarizing research objectives, and concluding with societal benefits. It is also recommended to use hyperlinks for extensive data or references and ensure high-quality, readable images.

Furthermore, it is important to keep the number of slides limited and maintain flow and connectivity throughout the presentation. By following these guidelines, research scholars can create compelling presentations that effectively communicate their research and make a strong impression during their PhD viva-voce examination.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to create an impactful phd viva-voce presentation.

Creating well-organized slides and delivering a polished presentation within the allotted time is of utmost importance during the PhD viva-voce examination. For detailed guidance, you can read our article on Impactful PhD Viva-Voce Presentation .

What are the key steps in writing a successful PhD thesis?

Writing a successful PhD thesis involves careful planning, thorough research, clear organization, and effective writing. For detailed guidance on each step, you can read our article on Key Steps in Writing a Successful PhD Thesis .

How to manage research stress and stay motivated?

Managing research stress and staying motivated during your PhD journey is essential. We’ve compiled some helpful tips in our article on Managing Research Stress and Staying Motivated for PhD Students .

Introduction: To assist in this endeavor, we have compiled a blog outlining simple yet valuable tips for preparing PhD viva-voce presentation slides. Example Structure for a Ph.D. Viva-Voce Presentation Slides: 1: Title Slide 2: Presentation Outline 3: Introduction 4: Identification of Research Gaps or Rationale for the Research Study 5: Problem Statement 6: Objectives of…

PhD vs Doctorate: Understanding the Differences

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From admission to dissertation. Tips on making the PhD journey happy, productive and successful

Viva Presentation tips

18 tips to pass your Viva presentation

Viva Presentation of your PhD thesis requires you to prepare thoroughly. Viva Voce defense could be a failure if you don’t present properly. Learn tips on how to do PhD viva dissertation defense that makes you pass in doctoral viva. Face Viva exam confidently with an impressive opening speech. Keep some sample PhD viva questions and answers readily.

  • Adjust voice as per the room size during the presentation of PhD viva.
  • Clear Audibility is the first step for viva Voce success.
  • Present Confidently viva thesis presentation.
  • Do not stammer while defending PhD viva voce.
  • Learn how to make an appropriate eye contact during PhD viva presentation.
  • Keep ready some ready-made sample PhD viva answers.
  • Know how to extend PhD viva validity.
  • Never say you don’t know about any question
  • Try to give your best from nothing during doctoral viva presentation.

Here are my detailed advanced tips on how to pass viva voce during your PhD studies. These viva tips will help you remain confident throughout your presentation

What is a Viva Voce?

A PhD scholar does not consider completing the thesis paper an accomplishment because they are still required to go through the viva voce process.

Although there are countries such as Australia that do not require one to do so, others like the United States necessitate the scholar to go through the process.

A viva voce is an oral examination whereby the researcher is required to stand before a panel of examiners to defend their dissertation .

This is why it is essential for the scholar to ensure that they have clearly mastered the field and the chosen topic by conducting the research on their own.

During the viva voce, the evaluators are at liberty to ask whatever question they feel is related to the topic and the candidate has the obligation of answering the question satisfactorily.

Simply put, a viva voce is an oral presentation that is aimed at proving that the researcher commands knowledge on the topic and has gained knowledge on the field of study.

When is PhD Viva voce examination conducted during PhD

A PhD viva voce examination is the last thing that comes in the PhD process whereby the researcher is required to present themselves before evaluators and answer any questions thrown at them regarding the thesis.

That said, the viva voce comes after the candidate has submitted their thesis to the faculty. Upon receiving the research paper, the evaluators may require the scholar to present themselves in person and required to exhibit what they have learned during the Ph.D. process.

Therefore, a viva voce comes after submission of the thesis and before the candidate earns the doctorate title.

How long is the PhD Viva Voce Presentation with example

Many Ph.D. candidates are concerned by the duration that a viva voce takes and we would like to point out that it all depends on how prepared one is for the same.

Traditionally, a viva voce is supposed to take ninety minutes with no hassles. However, it boils down to the examiners’ decision and if they feel that the time is not enough, then they can extend the process up to three hours.

The purpose of the process is to evaluate how much knowledge one has acquired during the Ph.D. and whether they are capable of answering questions related to their topic.

Therefore, it is true to state that the length of the viva voce will depend on the examiners. If the candidate does not satisfy their expectations, they are bound to ask more questions thus the process I likely to take more time

How many examiners will site in PhD Viva Examination

Many scholars are concerned about with the viva voce since it makes almost all candidates nervous as is the case of any situation where one has to stand before viva examiners and defend their work.

When one is deemed qualified to do a Ph.D., they are assigned a supervisor who ensures that the Ph.D. process is not marred by challenges through offering advice to the scholar.

The examiners are mostly two all of which should come from the university’s faculty. To ensure that the evaluation process is effective, they are mostly chosen from the same field as the candidate. Although it is not a must, there are occasions where the examining body may also comprise of external members.

This implies that the minimum number of examiners is two but they can be more according to the university’s decision.

Viva Preparation Questions

  • What is the new thing that one feels to read your PhD dissertation?
  • How do you prove this experiment can change the way others think?
  • Explain the validity of your proposition with some examples.
  • Give one strong why should we accept your thesis to be authoritative.
  • What influenced you to make your thesis stand out from others

Why is PhD Viva Presentation conducted

A thesis is nothing short of a research paper which means that the scholar is expected to have taken their time to conduct thorough research using advanced techniques.

The main reason why a viva voce is conducted is to give the researcher an opportunity to defend their work before they are graded whether they meet qualifications or not.

The first thing that the scholar should know is that they should be able to defend their thesis which means that they should be aware of everything that is in the research paper. The reason for this is because one can never know what the examiners will ask and from which section of the thesis they will derive their questions.

It is essential that the scholar must ensure that they are prepared adequately by going through their thesis and ensure that they are able to answer any question arising from the same.

There are candidates who may be tempted to have other people write their thesis and although it may be perfect, the viva voce reveals the truth depending on whether they can defend the thesis or not.

Be what you are in your PhD Viva Exam

According to many candidates, the viva voce is an impeachment whereby they feel like they are grilled, but in a real sense, it is designed to prove to themselves and others whether they are in a situation to defend their title as a doctor of philosophy in their field.

It is therefore important for the candidate to ensure that they do not fall prey to brown nosing. They should not direct their efforts to sweet-talk the examiners by trying to impress them. Instead, the scholar is advised to play their role and prove to the evaluators that they are capable of defending what they have written in the thesis.

It is recommended that the scholar should be calm, relaxed and confident in their thesis and have the courage to stand before the examiners and express themselves.

The candidate should recognize the importance of the thesis and this is partly the reason why they have the responsibility of choosing their own topic and doing the research.

Never give one-word answers during Viva Voce viva exam

A viva voce must not be confused with a multiple choice questionnaire thus the researcher must appreciate that it is intended to diminish curiosity.

This cannot be achieved by giving one-word answers because the scholar is required to explain themselves as reflected in the thesis. Important to note is that a person’s standing or view on a certain view cannot be explained in a short statement.

The reason for this is because when one is asked a question during the viva voce, they are expected to state their position on the matter. The statement is not enough because it only triggers more questions.

Therefore, it is necessary that the scholar must support their claim by giving explanations as to why they support their arguments. In fact, the primary purpose of the viva voce is to ensure that the scholar can defend what they advocate for thus they should be in a position to give explanations and proof of what they are saying.

Be confident throughout the session (not over confident) during doctoral viva

According to human nature, there are people that find it easy to stand before others and air their view but the viva voce does not recognize that. It is essential that the scholar must be in a position to present themselves and stand for what they have presented to the faculty and the world.

At this level of learning, it is expected that the scholar must be confident enough to ensure that they can speak in front of a crowd leave alone two or three examiners. Confidence is a virtue that must be acquired by all scholars to ensure that they can stand before others and teach them or address key concerns that affect society.

However, the candidate must take caution not to be overconfident and the main reason for this is that too much confidence is interpreted as arrogance.

The bad thing about this is that the examiners are likely to get the wrong impression about the scholar. This is true because among the virtues that a Ph.D. teaches the candidate is patience and respect for others.

Do not show that you are afraid of Viva Voce of dissertation

The human mind is designed in such a manner that it controls the entire body and command activities that the individual will like and those that they will not.

One of the reasons why most scholars fail the viva voce process is that they tend to develop a negative attitude towards the same even before they go through the process.

It is essential that the scholar must be confident and not only outwardly but also inwardly. We recommend the scholar to ensure that they take all necessary measures to ensure that they do not exhibit fear in front of the examiners.

It is understandable that anyone is capable of nervousness while in front of a panel of examiners. However, we recommend that the scholar must pay attention to two things to boost their confidence. The first element is that they should prepare adequately for the process.

The second is that they should develop a positive attitude towards the viva voce. Adhering to these two advises is bound to increase the scholar’s confidence in themselves and their thesis.

My top Viva advice is to practice before one month

In the scholar’s life, before they take the Ph.D. course, it is true to say that they have gone through many examinations and passed. It is not automatic to pass an examination and it requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice.

Although there are individuals that may be tempted to take a shortcut, there is only one recipe to passing. All examinations require a lot of preparation and a viva voce is not exceptional.

This implies that the scholar must take their time to prepare for the viva voce beforehand. It is recommended that the candidate should take at least one month to prepare themselves.

It may seem like a difficult thing to do but we remind the scholar that they have a supervisor who has knowledge about the viva voce and they can offer useful advice that can make the process easy for the candidate.

Dress proper and be neat and formal during thesis viva preparation

The short description of a viva voce is that it is an oral presentation and therefore it means that there must be physical appearance.

Appearance has a powerful effect in that it creates a lasting impression on the examiners and therefore, the way that one presents themselves before the evaluators automatically make them judge the candidate’s character. The scholar wants the evaluators to be on their side and therefore the first thing that should pop in the scholar’s mind is creating a good impression.

It is essential because it may affect the examiners’ judgment which implies that a good impression is likely to yield good results while a bad impression is likely to yield bad results.

It is crucial that the scholar must dress formally for the viva voce and they should be neat. The proper dressing makes the scholar look responsible and in a position to defend their thesis.

Read your thesis once and thrice and prepare sample PhD viva answers

The viva voce is an oral presentation of the thesis and therefore it is necessary that the scholar must ensure that they have a proper understanding of their thesis before they engage with the examiners.

It is purposeful for the scholar to have 100% knowledge of the thesis even though it is common to forget some points. To avoid mistakes arising from being unable to answer some examiners’ questions, we recommend the scholar to make a point of revising the thesis before and after submitting to the faculty.

Some scholars might consider reading the thesis twice sufficient but this is not the case.

Others may be overconfident and feel that they do not have to read the thesis again but this is usually a recipe to disaster. It is our recommendation that the scholar reads through the thesis at least three times to ensure that they are familiar with all the points discussed within.

Learn how to start your opening speech of PhD Viva

It may sound tricky to summarize a paper comprising of at least 50,000 words in as little as five minutes but it is possible and the scholar should practice doing so.

Essentially, the examiners expect the scholar to have mastered their thesis and therefore they should be able to point out the problem surrounding the topic as well as the causes and recommended solution briefly.

At the onset of the viva voce, the scholar must be in a position to introduce the dissertation to the examiners briefly. This involves presenting an overview of the research paper.

Among the different sections of the thesis is the abstract section which was explained as a summary of the research paper. While preparing for the viva voce, the candidate is advised to consider the abstract and use it as a guideline for the oral presentation.

Listen to what your examiner is asking clearly

The easiest way to fail in any examination is answering the wrong questions or failing to address what the examiner requires.

It is mandatory for the candidate to pay attention to what the examiner is asking and carefully analyze points that they require from the candidate.

By doing so, the scholar is in a position to give the right feedback with reference to the thesis. It means that it is important for the candidate to concentrate during the viva voce and they should ensure that they are not distracted by anything else. 100% concentration is a requirement for the viva voce process if the candidate is going to answer questions satisfactorily.

Do not argue under any circumstance (just defend)

It should be noted that a viva voce is not a form of a debate where two parties are engaged in arguing. The candidate should note that the examiners are already professors and they are not there to engage in a battle of wits.

What they require from the candidate is proof that they have learned during the research and that they are in a position to demonstrate that they command knowledge in their specific fields.

That said, rather than argue, the candidate must ensure that the presentation is based on defending the thesis and shows the validity of the scholar’s standing regarding the points presented in the dissertation.

Pass- short corrections-resubmit- Fail after Ph.D. Viva defense

After the oral presentation, the examiners make a point of presenting their results to the candidate which point out areas that were sufficiently answered and those that were not.

The candidate should look into areas where they gave wrong answers and make a point of researching and making the necessary changes.

The correct answers should be passed to the examiners. The candidate must ensure that the correct answers are written as briefly as possible.

Do not write stuff on your hands or hold slip while defending viva thesis

During the oral presentation, it is necessary that the scholar avoids writing points in their hands or slip. It is so because it acts as a way of showing that the scholar has not prepared sufficiently for the viva voce.

In addition, it creates the impression that the researcher is not fully aware of the content in the thesis. Using written points give the impression of someone who is presenting a speech that has been written for them.

The candidate does not want the examiners feeling that they have not done the research for themselves as this would automatically lead to a fail.

How to do viva presentation with an impressive eye contact

A good presentation is one that the candidate commands presence before the examiners as it shows that they are confident with their work. It also shows that the scholar has worked hard for the thesis and they have nothing to fear regarding the viva voce.

One way of showing the examiners that the candidate is prepared and has dedicated themselves to the research is by making constant eye contact with the examiners.

The researcher should also be careful not to give too much attention to one examiner and instead they should keep eye contact with all the researchers during the whole viva voce.

Plan some expected questions and your answers

Whichever situation that one finds that they are required to make a presentation before a panel or a group of people, the first thing that the person does is to prepare adequately.

It is useful for the candidate to expect some questions that are likely to be asked during the presentation and therefore the scholar should make a list of some of them and work on possible answers.

Although one cannot fully predict the type of questions, it is important for the candidate to conduct a research of previous viva voce that have been done on the same field. Also, the scholar must consult the supervisor who may have useful advice.

Be ready to explain the drawbacks of your thesis cleverly

There is no perfect research and all of them are liable to limitations which the candidate must make a point of acknowledging before they are asked.

The scholar must be prepared to mention the drawbacks and explain why they arise. Merely stating the drawbacks is not enough since it will only make the examiners curios and therefore the candidate must defend the thesis wit-fully taking care to show that the limitations could not be avoided.

Challenges encountered during the thesis should be noted since they might be helpful in explaining the limitations or drawbacks.

Make rehearsals before two days of your viva voce

It has been noted that the scholar must ensure that they are fully prepared for the viva voce before meeting the examiners. Apart from reading through the thesis at least three times, the candidate should ensure that they prepare for the presentation prior to the scheduled day of the meeting.

If possible, the candidate is advised to look for friends and prepare a mock viva voce whereby they act as the examiners and ask questions that the candidate feel could potentially be asked.

This process should be done at least two days before the presentation. A rehearsal is important because it assists the candidate to engage how much they know pertaining to their thesis and some areas that may not have been given adequate attention can be addressed.

Never say “I don’t know” Somehow defend PhD viva (Be it wrong its ok)

A research paper consists of a lot of content and it may not be possible to remember everything that is contained in the same. It is common for the examiners to ask questions that the candidate has not prepared themselves to answer but this should not deter them from answering.

In case the candidate encounters such questions, they should not hastily state that they do not have the answer. Instead, the candidate should take their time and reflect on the thesis and analyze the connection between the question and the thesis.

It is understandable if the answer is not correct but at least the candidate should try to answer the question.

Prepare some positive statements of English to use them during presentation of your viva

One way of preparing for the viva voce is to ensure that one has answers to the examiner’s questions. The main areas of concern are the main points and how they are relevant to the topic.

A presentation must have statements that can be defended at all times since they help the scholar to show the importance of the thesis to the community. Such statements must be positive in nature and exhibit backing up of the thesis.

They should be prepared in English since it is the universal language that is applicable to almost all job specifications in the job market.

How to present PhD viva presentation positively

Positive statements are one way of the researcher showing that they have confidence in themselves and the thesis. Throughout the viva voce, the candidate must ensure that they have a positive attitude which is essential because it draws the examiners on their side.

A positive attitude makes it possible to answer questions easily and there is a likelihood that the examiners may not ask questions that put the candidate in bad situations. It enables the scholar to be motivated and therefore they are able to answer questions freely without feeling tense.

Be audible and do not look shy during thesis viva presentation

It is understandable that some people may have difficulty in standing before people and speaking their minds. However, the scholar is advised to remember that this is their dissertation and the presentation is among the stakeholders that determine whether one will pass or fail.

To counter shyness, the candidate is advised to prepare themselves adequately before the viva voce process. It is important because it boosts the candidate’s moral and level of motivation.

A scholar that is prepared becomes confident in themselves and they also develop a positive attitude which makes it easier to face the examiners and answer any question hurled at them without fear.

If you have had any experience with public speaking skills, you can do this task very easily. But unfortunately, you might have been lazy not to learn these skills when your English Teacher taught you during your school days. You need to give your count now while doing your Ph.D. viva. These skills are very necessary to get through these oral sessions. The way you speak is what matters seriously for the examiners or the reviewers.

Once you are through enough to make it, you can become successful. This way you can become a lot more confident and you will pass this viva without any doubt. While presenting do remember that you have to make some preparation for the last two months. This preparation is the only backbone for your viva. If you do not prepare beforehand you will face trouble while presenting your Ph.D. viva oral

When you keep this in mind, there are some other tips, I want to give here. See how PhD candidates do their viva online. If you go on to youtube you will get many videos in real time. Learn from them how they are able to present during such stressful sessions. I suggest you watch at least one video about Ph.D. viva or any other sessions with respect to Viva. This will surely give you fuller knowledge and viva presentations presentation tips about viva

When you want to give Ph.D. viva, try to show respect who are around you. They may be irritating sometimes to face. But you must never lose temper if someone asks you an inappropriate question. These type of unrelated questions are very common while giving your Ph.D. viva oral examination.

Master all the techniques on how to face audience and PhD supervisor during your viva voce. The way you speak, the way you behave, the way you respond, the way you manage, the way you present. All such skills must be learned before going to viva session.

You cannot make yourself a bluff in front of others for simple questions. So in order to avoid this, you must take your viva seriously and make sufficient preparation.

Never lose heart rather increase your active participation in the viva. If someone corrects you, accept it humbly and proceed to the next defending minutes. So Ph.D. viva is not a big problem if you follow all these suggestions throughout the reading on how to do Ph.D. Viva viva tips

Syam Prasad Reddy T

Hello, My name is Syam, Asst. Professor of English and Mentor for Ph.D. students worldwide. I have worked years to give you these amazing tips to complete your Ph.D. successfully. Having put a lot of efforts means to make your Ph.D. journey easier. Thank you for visiting my Ph.D. blog.

is PhD tough

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Preparing For Your Dissertation Defense

13 Key Questions To Expect In The Viva Voce

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) & David Phair (PhD) . Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2021

Preparing for your dissertation or thesis defense (also called a “viva voce”) is a formidable task . All your hard work over the years leads you to this one point, and you’ll need to defend yourself against some of the most experienced researchers you’ve encountered so far.

It’s natural to feel a little nervous.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the most important questions you should be able to answer in your viva voce, whether it’s for a Masters or PhD degree. Naturally, they might not arise in exactly the same form (some may not come up at all), but if you can answer these questions well, it means you’re in a good position to tackle your oral defense.

Dissertation and thesis defense 101

Viva Voce Prep: 13 Essential Questions

  • What is your study about and why did you choose to research this in particular?
  • How did your research questions evolve during the research process?
  • How did you decide on which sources to include in your literature review?
  • How did you design your study and why did you take this approach?
  • How generalisable and valid are the findings?
  • What were the main shortcomings and limitations created by your research design?
  • How did your findings relate to the existing literature?
  • What were your key findings in relation to the research questions?
  • Were there any findings that surprised you?
  • What biases may exist in your research?
  • How can your findings be put into practice?
  • How has your research contributed to current thinking in the field?
  • If you could redo your research, how would you alter your approach?

#1: What is your study about and why did you choose to research this in particular?

This question, a classic party starter, is pretty straightforward.

What the dissertation or thesis committee is assessing here is your ability to clearly articulate your research aims, objectives and research questions in a concise manner. Concise is the keyword here – you need to clearly explain your research topic without rambling on for a half-hour. Don’t feel the need to go into the weeds here – you’ll have many opportunities to unpack the details later on.

In the second half of the question, they’re looking for a brief explanation of the justification of your research. In other words, why was this particular set of research aims, objectives and questions worth addressing? To address this question well in your oral defense, you need to make it clear what gap existed within the research and why that gap was worth filling.

#2: How did your research questions evolve during the research process?

Good research generally follows a long and winding path . It’s seldom a straight line (unless you got really lucky). What they’re assessing here is your ability to follow that path and let the research process unfold.

Specifically, they’ll want to hear about the impact that the literature review process had on you in terms of shaping the research aims, objectives and research questions . For example, you may have started with a certain set of aims, but then as you immersed yourself in the literature, you may have changed direction. Similarly, your initial fieldwork findings may have turned out some unexpected data that drove you to adjust or expand on your initial research questions.

Long story short – a good defense involves clearly describing your research journey , including all the twists and turns. Adjusting your direction based on findings in the literature or the fieldwork shows that you’re responsive , which is essential for high-quality research.

You will need to explain the impact of your literature review in the defense

#3: How did you decide on which sources to include in your literature review?

A comprehensive literature review is the foundation of any high-quality piece of research. With this question, your dissertation or thesis committee are trying to assess which quality criteria and approach you used to select the sources for your literature review.

Typically, good research draws on both the seminal work in the respective field and more recent sources . In other words, a combination of the older landmark studies and pivotal work, along with up-to-date sources that build on to those older studies. This combination ensures that the study has a rock-solid foundation but is not out of date.

So, make sure that your study draws on a mix of both the “classics” and new kids on the block, and take note of any major evolutions in the literature that you can use as an example when asked this question in your viva voce.

#4: How did you design your study and why did you take this approach?

This is a classic methodological question that you can almost certainly expect in some or other shape.

What they’re looking for here is a clear articulation of the research design and methodology, as well as a strong justification of each choice . So, you need to be able to walk through each methodological choice and clearly explain both what you did and why you did it. The why is particularly important – you need to be able to justify each choice you made by clearly linking your design back to your research aims, objectives and research questions, while also taking into account practical constraints.

To ensure you cover every base, check out our research methodology vlog post , as well as our post covering the Research Onion .

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

#5: How generalizable and valid are the findings?

This question is aimed at specifically digging into your understanding of the sample and how that relates to the population, as well as potential validity issues in your methodology.

To answer question this well, you’ll need to critically assess your sample and findings and consider if they truly apply to the entire population, as well as whether they assessed what they set out to. Note that there are two components here – generalizability and validity . Generalizability is about how well the sample represents the population. Validity is about how accurately you’ve measured what you intended to measure .

To ace this part of your dissertation defense, make sure that you’re very familiar with the concepts of generalizability , validity and reliability , and how these apply to your research. Remember, you don’t need to achieve perfection – you just need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your research (and how the weaknesses could be improved upon).

Need a helping hand?

what is a viva voce presentation

#6: What were the main shortcomings and limitations created by your research design?

This question picks up where the last one left off.

As I mentioned, it’s perfectly natural that your research will have shortcomings and limitations as a result of your chosen design and methodology. No piece of research is flawless. Therefore, a good dissertation defense is not about arguing that your work is perfect, but rather it’s about clearly articulating the strengths and weaknesses of your approach.

To address this question well, you need to think critically about all of the potential weaknesses your design may have, as well as potential responses to these (which could be adopted in future research) to ensure you’re well prepared for this question. For a list of common methodological limitations, check out our video about research limitations here .

#7: How did your findings relate to the existing literature?

This common dissertation defense question links directly to your discussion chapter , where you would have presented and discussed the findings in relation to your literature review.

What your dissertation or thesis committee is assessing here is your ability to compare your study’s findings to the findings of existing research . Specifically, you need to discuss which findings aligned with existing research and which findings did not. For those findings that contrasted against existing research, you should also explain what you believe to be the reasons for this.

As with many questions in a viva voce, it’s both the what and the why that matter here. So, you need to think deeply about what the underlying reasons may be for both the similarities and differences between your findings and those of similar studies.

Your dissertation defense needs to compare findings

#8: What were your key findings in relation to the research questions?

This question is similar to the last one in that it too focuses on your research findings. However, here the focus is specifically on the findings that directly relate to your research questions (as opposed to findings in general).

So, a good way to prepare for this question is to step back and revisit your research questions . Ask yourself the following:

  • What exactly were you asking in those questions, and what did your research uncover concerning them?
  • Which questions were well answered by your study and which ones were lacking?
  • Why were they lacking and what more could be done to address this in future research?

Conquering this part dissertation defense requires that you focus squarely on the research questions. Your study will have provided many findings (hopefully!), and not all of these will link directly to the research questions. Therefore, you need to clear your mind of all of the fascinating side paths your study may have lead you down and regain a clear focus on the research questions .

#9: Were there any findings that surprised you?

This question is two-pronged.

First, you should discuss the surprising findings that were directly related to the original research questions . Going into your research, you likely had some expectations in terms of what you would find, so this is your opportunity to discuss the outcomes that emerged as contrary to what you initially expected. You’ll also want to think about what the reasons for these contrasts may be.

Second, you should discuss the findings that weren’t directly related to the research questions, but that emerged from the data set . You may have a few or you may have none – although generally there are a handful of interesting musings that you can glean from the data set. Again, make sure you can articulate why you find these interesting and what it means for future research in the area.

What the committee is looking for in this type of question is your ability to interpret the findings holistically and comprehensively , and to respond to unexpected data. So, take the time to zoom out and reflect on your findings thoroughly.

Discuss the findings in your defense

#10: What biases may exist in your research?

Biases… we all have them.

For this question, you’ll need to think about potential biases in your research , in the data itself but also in your interpretation of the data. With this question, your committee is assessing whether you have considered your own potential biases and the biases inherent in your analysis approach (i.e. your methodology). So, think carefully about these research biases and be ready to explain how these may exist in your study.

In an oral defense, this question is often followed up with a question on how the biases were mitigated or could be mitigated in future research. So, give some thought not just to what biases may exist, but also the mitigation measures (in your own study and for future research).

#11: How can your findings be put into practice?

Another classic question in the typical viva voce.

With this question, your committee is assessing your ability to bring your findings back down to earth and demonstrate their practical value and application. Importantly, this question is not about the contribution to academia or the overall field of research (we’ll get to that next) – it is specifically asking about how this newly created knowledge can be used in the real world.

Naturally, the actionability of your findings will vary depending on the nature of your research topic. Some studies will produce many action points and some won’t. If you’re researching marketing strategies within an industry, for example, you should be able to make some very specific recommendations for marketing practitioners in that industry.

To help you flesh out points for this question, look back at your original justification for the research (i.e. in your introduction and literature review chapters). What were the driving forces that led you to research your specific topic? That justification should help you identify ways in which your findings can be put into practice.

#12: How has your research contributed to current thinking in the field?

While the previous question was aimed at practical contribution, this question is aimed at theoretical contribution . In other words, what is the significance of your study within the current body of research? How does it fit into the existing research and what does it add to it?

This question is often asked by a field specialist and is used to assess whether you’re able to place your findings into the research field to critically convey what your research contributed. This argument needs to be well justified – in other words, you can’t just discuss what your research contributed, you need to also back each proposition up with a strong why .

To answer this question well, you need to humbly consider the quality and impact of your work and to be realistic in your response. You don’t want to come across as arrogant (“my work is groundbreaking”), nor do you want to undersell the impact of your work. So, it’s important to strike the right balance between realistic and pessimistic .

This question also opens the door to questions about potential future research . So, think about what future research opportunities your study has created and which of these you feel are of the highest priority.

Discuss your contribution in your thesis defence

#13: If you could redo your research, how would you alter your approach?

This question is often used to wrap up a viva voce as it brings the discussion full circle.

Here, your committee is again assessing your ability to clearly identify and articulate the limitations and shortcomings of your research, both in terms of research design and topic focus . Perhaps, in hindsight, it would have been better to use a different analysis method or data set. Perhaps the research questions should have leaned in a slightly different direction. And so on.

This question intends to assess whether you’re able to look at your work critically , assess where the weaknesses are and make recommendations for the future. This question often sets apart those who did the research purely because it was required, from those that genuinely engaged with their research. So, don’t hold back here – reflect on your entire research journey ask yourself how you’d do things differently if you were starting with a  blank canvas today.

Recap: The 13 Key Dissertation Defense Questions

To recap, here are the 13 questions you need to be ready for to ace your dissertation or thesis oral defense:

As I mentioned, this list of dissertation defense questions is certainly not exhaustive – don’t assume that we’ve covered every possible question here. However, these questions are quite likely to come up in some shape or form in a typical dissertation or thesis defense, whether it’s for a Master’s degree, PhD or any other research degree. So, you should take the time to make sure you can answer them well.

If you need assistance preparing for your dissertation defense or viva voce, get in touch with us to discuss 1-on-1 coaching. We can critically review your research and identify potential issues and responses, as well as undertake a mock oral defense to prepare you for the pressures and stresses on the day.

what is a viva voce presentation

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This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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This is a full course on defence. I was fabulously enlightened and I gained enough confidence for my upcoming Masters Defence.

There are many lessons to learn and the simplicity in presentationmakes thee reader say “YesI can”

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This is so helping… it has Enlightened me on how to answer specific questions. I pray to make it through for my upcoming defense

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Interesting. On-point and elaborate. And comforting too! Thanks.

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5 tips for passing your PhD viva

Every Doctoral researcher is expected to defend their thesis through an oral test - so discover how to prepare for your PhD viva and ensure you make a good impression on the examiners

What is a PhD viva?

A viva voce is an oral test, which literally translated means 'with the living voice'. It's a focused discussion giving you the opportunity to present your PhD thesis and then defend it in front of a panel of academic experts.

1. Understand what's expected of you

Traditionally, your thesis would always be discussed in person, with the interview style viva exam overseen by at least two (internal and external) examiners. Afterwards, they would provide you with a joint written report detailing any corrections that need to be made.

However, following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the online PhD viva has become more commonplace with this examination more likely to take place via Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom.

The virtual experience will still typically follow the same format, but you'll be briefed in advance about the arrangements and any technical aspects to bear in mind. You can prepare for an online PhD viva by reading our video interview tips .

The chair of the viva is usually the internal examiner, although it can be an independent person. If you and the examiners agree, your PhD supervisor can also be present.

The examiners' main objective is to ascertain that you've written your own thesis, so if you have and are ready to talk through how you completed it, there's no need to panic. You may even enjoy the viva voce test.

In addition to assessing your thesis, the examiners are also there to assist you in deciding how and where this research might be published.

There are various results between a 'pass' and 'fail' but it's very rare to slip up at this point of a PhD. Most Doctorate awards will be made upon the condition that a number of minor corrections are made, with re-submission requests far less common.

However, while the pass rate is high, the viva exam itself can still be intellectually demanding. This is because you'll be debating issues that are conceptually complex, so preparation is crucial to your success.

At the end of it, whatever the outcome, be prepared to take on board any advice, as the examiners are there to help you improve your argument or the presentation of your thesis.

2. Know your thesis inside out

While you can be sure this isn't a memory test - as you're fine bringing notes and a copy of your thesis with you to the PhD viva - it's still important to gain a good understanding of what you've written and be knowledge about your field of study.

You'll need to think carefully about where this original piece of work would be placed in the context of the wider body of research carried out in this field. Questions will surely be asked about this, as well as whether the project could possibly be developed further through any future research.

As you'll be explaining parts of the document to the examiners (who'll also have a digital or physical copy), make sure the pagination is the same in your version as the one they're looking at to avoid any issues regarding everybody being on the same page.

If you get stuck at any point during the viva exam, you can use looking at the thesis as an excuse to re-focus and gather your thoughts.

3. Anticipate the viva questions

The examiners will have prepared a series of questions for you to answer at the viva voce, but this is nothing to get too concerned about. The questions will all be based on your thesis - what it's about, what you did and what you found out - and why this matters, in relation to your field of study.

So when getting ready for the viva, consider the types of questions you're likely to be asked, including:

  • What original contribution has your thesis made to this field of study?
  • Explain the main research questions you were hoping to address.
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis?
  • If you had to start the thesis again, what would you do differently?
  • If funding was no object, describe how you'd follow on from this project.
  • What are your plans for the future?

It can be helpful to practise your answers beforehand, ideally vocalising them by arranging a mock mini viva - although, as you aren't restricted in terms of referring to notes in the exam, you can leave room for spontaneity, and you don't need to learn it all off by heart. If your viva is being held online, you can ensure any technical issues are identified before the day by having a run through with your supervisor or a friend.

While it may sound simple, stick to answering the questions posed. It's really easy to go off on a tangent and this can open up other lines of enquiry from the examiners - possibly in areas you hadn't expected to be quizzed about.

On the other hand, it's completely fine to bring personality to your reasoning and use stories as a means of describing the learning process you've gone through and the techniques mastered over the last three or four years that have brought you to this point.

4. Learn about your examiners' own work

The senior and well-respected academics who'll be reading your thesis will have their own ideas on conducting PhD standard research. Therefore, it's worth taking a look online at their academic profiles to discover if there's any correlation with the research they've had published and your own work.

From this, you should be able to gain a better idea of their motivations, their possible views on your thesis and the kinds of questions they might wish to discuss after having read through it.

You should research up-to-date theories, read any recent papers on the subject and speak to others who've recently had their own viva exam. Think about how your work differentiates from the research carried out by others in your chosen field.

Prepare to provide any supporting evidence asked of you by the examiners - for example, they may request to see experimental data you mention once the exam is over.

It's also necessary to check the policies and practices in place at your university and be sure of what the roles of the examiners are and how the viva panel will be structured. In many cases, Doctoral students can choose the examiners conducting the PhD viva.

5. Plan towards the viva exam

From the moment you know the date of your viva voce, work backwards and plan the steps you'll need to take before the day itself. Allow enough time to assess and review your work so that as the day approaches, you can focus on the practicalities.

This encompasses everything from making sure you relax, eat and sleep well the day before to arranging transport so you get to the viva on time - if you're attending in person.

An online PhD viva will present its own challenges, so ensure your working space is presentable and you still make an effort in terms of what you'll be wearing.

It's always advisable to adhere to interview etiquette and go with something that's both smart and comfortable. By looking the part, this should get you in the right frame of mind to communicate in a professional manner.

In the build-up, avoid any situations that might make you feel stressed and instead try to adopt a positive attitude, one that results in a genuine eagerness to engage in a debate about the work you've been toiling over for a substantial period of time.

If you're travelling to the examination, be sure to check that you have everything you wish to take with you, including the thesis, plus any notes or other materials that will help support your claims.

The PhD viva can last between one and four hours - usually two - so it's necessary to pace yourself to get off to the best possible start.

Remember, the examiners aren't trying to trip you up - they want you to pass and are primarily there to hear you talk about your project. So, after the polite introductions they'll typically start with an icebreaker to put you at ease and help calm the nerves.

It's meant to be an open and honest conversation about your work, so feel free to politely disagree with the examiners, especially on areas you feel strongly about. Don't forget to use examples from your thesis to back up what you're saying, remembering to be clear and concise.

If you know your way around your thesis and can explain your thinking and way of working, this test shouldn't be a problem. And if you don't know the answer to a specific question - admit it, as it's better to concede your limitations in an area than ramble on and hope they don't notice you're struggling to come up with an explanation. No research is perfect, so it's important to appreciate this during the discussion - but don't be too overcritical about your work either, as that's not your job.

Finally, as the PhD viva can quickly move from a series of friendly questions to those that are more in-depth, take some time to think before answering. Don't worry about any periods of silence from the examiners, as this certainly isn't an indication that you're doing badly.

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How to present an effective and successful viva voce

Some tips for editing and proofreading academic work, tips and strategies to prepare for your oral viva voce presentation.

viva voce presentation

Table of Contents

As with your dissertation or thesis, the organization of your viva Slideshow should be consistent. It is prudent to adhere to the thesis’s framework. And besides, you already have given it some consideration and ensured that everything makes sense.

In this manner, you can avoid adding to your workload. However, keep in mind that the presentation is not really a recitation of your thesis verbatim. Simply summarize the most critical and interesting points. By covering the following topics, you may create a strong framework for any viva presentation:

Degree of relevance

Your thesis was in-depth in its examination of a particular issue, a particular area of study. You explain it and explain why it is important in the opening section of the viva PowerPoint presentation. What value does it provide to academic knowledge, the general public, or a particular avenue? Why this specific query? This enables you to demonstrate to your listeners why you selected your subject and why they should listen to everything you’ve to say.

Research background

This is where you go into more depth about the context of your research issue, i.e. the most significant ideas and methods which already exist on the subject or that inspired your inquiry. This assists your audience in anticipating any complicated interrelationships and explains the foundation around which your work is constructed.

Research methodology

This section details your approach to your job. Was your study qualitative or quantitative in nature? Have you conducted interviews, analyzed data, or assessed a body of literature? This is your opportunity to demonstrate to your examiners how meticulously you worked and why you selected this specific approach.

Research findings

Now is the time to share the findings of your study. Were there any unexpected outcomes? If you did, how did you handle them? Are the outcomes consistent? Where did you run into problems and also how did you overcome them? Utilize this area to speak candidly and transparently about your study. It is a chance to demonstrate that you have taken the subject seriously and thoroughly, rather than just selecting the simplest route.

Finally, describe your findings succinctly and succinctly, and respond to the research question given at the outset. Additionally, you may offer your own view on whether you obtained the outcome you anticipated or if your study came to an unexpected conclusion.

If you are required to show your sources at the conclusion of your viva, you should discuss this with your supervisors or consult the rules. If in doubt, it is best to be cautious and make a list of sources.

List of research publications

Another thing the examiners might ask is for you to briefly present a list of your published research papers and conference proceedings. So be sure to have a detailed list ready so that you can quickly present this and go over each of your research papers that are related to your thesis project.

The final part

The final part of the viva voce, after you have finished your presentation, is the question and answer session. This is the part when the examiners would ask you some detailed questions regarding  your work. Here is where you really have to put in the effort to defend all aspects of your research. Is you have worked hard on writing your thesis, and know it inside out, this wouldn’t be an issue, as you would be confident in your answers and the examiners would clearly see this.

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Tips to Prepare PhD viva-voce Presentation Slides

Best Ph.D. viva ppt slide preparation tips

Dr. Sowndarya Somasundaram

Tips to Prepare PhD viva-voce Presentation Slides

Table of contents

Sample ph.d. viva-voce presentation slides, tips to prepare ph.d. viva-voce presentation slides.

Preparation of neat PhD viva -voce presentation slides and presenting them in a perfect manner in the given time is very important for a PhD viva-voce examination as it going to give a good impression on both research scholar and supervisor or mentor by the examiners or moderators.

Before designing the presentation slides, the scholar has to decide what to include and what not to include in the slides. It is always a big deal for a scholar to include all the research findings, data in the presentation that was obtained during the research program (4 to 5 years).

The scholar has to remember that the presentation should include only the major research findings and key contributions as time management is important. Therefore, in this article, iLovePhD framed simple and useful tips to prepare Ph.D. viva-voce presentation slides.

The format of the presentation slides is presented below. This would give you an idea to prepare the slides.

phd viva presentation tips

  • Give brief introduction about the background of your study. Always present the points in a bulleted manner (4 to 5 points) rather than paragraph.
  • Highlight the research gaps or the need for the research study and present your problem statement clearly.
  • List the objectives and methodology of your study with neat schematics.
  • Present the important research findings and data presented in your thesis in a simple and bulleted manner. Don’t explain it as a paragraph in the slide rather you can give the detailed explanation with scientific evidences during your defence presentation.
  • Connect your findings with past relevant literatures and emphasis the novelty of your research.
  • Use schematics, graphs, and tables with experimental conditions rather than detailed statements.
  • Summarize the results of your research objectives and conclude the research outcomes with societal benefits.
  • Use hyperlinks at appropriate places for presenting huge and important data (Datasets, experimental procedures, literatures).
  • Ensure the quality of the images as it should be clear and readable.
  • Limit your presentation slides to 50 to 55 slides.
  • Check the flow and connectivity between each slide.

We hope this article would be very much useful for the Ph.D. research scholars who are preparing their defense presentation slides irrespective of their area of research. We wish you all the best!!!

Also Read: Top 38 Possible PhD Viva Questions

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What is a viva? PhD viva, viva voce, viva process and more

If you are a PhD candidate and preparing to take the biggest step in your academic journey, you might be overwhelmed by the thought of your impending viva voce or the oral defense of your thesis.

Worry not, we are here to demystify the process and provide you with actionable tips to successfully navigate this crucial academic milestone.

Here, we will guide you through the viva process, shed light on the perspective of your examiners, and help you understand how to prepare for this pivotal examination. 

Whether you’re just beginning to wrap your head around what a viva entails or are already deep in the trenches of preparation, this blog is designed to offer you comprehensive, step-by-step guidance.

By understanding the process, expectations, and preparing effectively, you can walk into your viva with confidence, ready to defend your thesis and demonstrate your deep understanding of your research area.

What is a PhD viva or viva voce?

A PhD viva or viva voce is an oral examination where you defend your thesis in front of internal examiner(s) from your institution and/or external examiner(s) from another institution specializing in your subject area.

what is a viva voce presentation

There may be up to 5 people on your viva panel. 

They are testing your knowledge and thought processed to be admitted into the degree.

Typically lasting for an hour and a half to two hours, the viva is a conversation between experts, giving you the chance to elaborate and clarify your research.

Preparation for the viva can involve ongoing conversations, with supervisors and focused development after thesis submission.

As the viva voce derives from the Latin for ‘living voice,’ let your passion for your research come alive in your defense.

As nerve-wracking as it might be, remember to relax and use this opportunity to share your contribution to your field. 

Supervisors will (or at least should) conduct mock vivas to help you prepare for questions and build confidence. Ask for a mock viva if one is not offered by your supervisor. 

During the viva, your supervisor may be present as a silent observer, ensuring examination conduct.

Outcomes of a viva range from:

  • passing without corrections,
  • passing with minor or major corrections,
  • or not passing at all.

Examiners won’t necessarily spot all mistakes, but they read your work thoroughly, engage in a comprehensive discussion, and submit independent reports before the viva.

Understand what’s expected of you in your viva (Examiner point of view)

From an examiner’s point of view, in your viva, you are expected to confidently explain and defend your thesis.

You should be well-prepared, recognizing that examiners will carefully read your work and may identify minor mistakes.

Keep in mind that examiners may not know your thesis as well as you, so be prepared to clarify and elaborate on your research. 

They may ask some really simple and basic questions of you – particularly early on in your thesis defense.

It is essential to demonstrate your understanding of the topic and address any questions posed by the examiners.

You may have the option to include your supervisor or other supportive figures from your institution during the viva for moral support and to witness the examination’s conduct.

Understand that examiners typically work independently and exchange reports just before the viva, so be ready to engage in a comprehensive discussion about your work.

Focus on showcasing your:

  • research abilities, and
  • significance of your thesis

during the viva.

How to prepare for your viva exam

To prepare for a PhD viva, follow these actionable steps:

1. Familiarize yourself with your examiner’s and supervisor’s work (4-5 days): Know their research interests, potential biases, and recent publications, and consider how they might relate to your thesis.

2. Understand your thesis deeply (5-6 days): Be able to explain your research question/hypothesis, aims, theoretical framework, methods, and key results concisely. Review all the papers you discussed or mentioned in your thesis, noting their relevance to your work. Address any weaknesses in your analysis, and justify your study’s merit to earn a PhD.

3. Practice summarizing your thesis: Prepare a 200-word summary of each chapter and a 2-minute explanation of your whole thesis. Be ready to clarify your work in one or two sentences.

4. Anticipate general questions : Examples include summarizing your thesis, stating your research question or hypothesis, and discussing your main results. Prepare answers for potential questions from both a general and discipline-specific context.

5. Conduct mock vivas with your supervisor: Simulate the viva experience to get comfortable with the format, build confidence, and receive feedback on your performance.

6. Review general questions and answers (last 1-2 days): Brush up on your prepared responses and make any necessary final adjustments.

Remember, most PhD students pass their viva, so focus on preparing and confidently discussing your research.

Things to keep in mind during your viva – top tips

Here are the top tips to keep in mind during your viva:

what is a viva voce presentation

1. Ask for clarifications if a question is unclear. Be polite and ensure you understand the question before attempting to answer it.   2. Don’t interrupt the examiner while they are asking a question. Give them time to finish, as it shows respect and allows you to fully comprehend the inquiry.

3. Be honest if you don’t know the answer to a question. Prepare a polite response for unexpected questions you cannot answer.

4. Maintain confidence without arrogance. Display a level of nervousness that reflects your dedication to the process, but avoid overconfidence or disrespect.

5. Keep your answers concise and structured. Use a clear format when providing your response, such as breaking it down into key points.

6. Speak at a moderate pace. Avoid talking too fast or too slow, as it can be distracting for the listeners. Practice controlling your speech rate during your preparations.

7. Give yourself plenty of time before the defense to prepare and relax. You should be in the right state of mind for your viva.

8. Be familiar with the protocols, format, and panel of your viva. Attend other thesis defenses, read your institution’s guidelines, and research the background of the examiners on your panel.

By following these tips, you can enter your viva well-prepared and have a successful defense. Enjoy the experience and demonstrate the hard work you have put into your research.

Wrapping up – thesis viva

Concluding our comprehensive guide on the viva process for PhD students, the final thought we leave you with is this: your PhD viva, or viva voce, is an opportunity to defend your research, a unique chance to demonstrate your motivation, strengths, and even your limitations as a researcher.

It’s important to understand the viva definition in its entirety: a viva voce is an oral test undertaken in front of a panel of examiners.

This panel usually includes one internal examiner from your institution and one external examiner from another. It may also include other experts depending on policies and practices.

Preparation is key when you get to the viva stage.

To that end, arranging a mock viva with your supervisor could help you anticipate the types of questions you’ll be asked. This practice could enable you to put your best foot forward during the real deal.

Don’t be surprised if the viva examination lasts anywhere between one and four hours.

You may be asked to elaborate on your PhD thesis, defend your field of study’s claims, discuss its strengths and weaknesses, and suggest future research opportunities. Your response to the assessment task should be in-depth and thoughtful.

Under the current COVID-19 conditions, many students are having their viva over Zoom or Skype.

In these cases, it’s important to arrange your setting to minimise distractions. Feel free to ask for clarification if the audio cuts out or you miss a question.

In preparation for your viva, review the academic profiles of your panel members, anticipate questions they might ask, and keep a copy of your thesis at hand.

Also, remember that while it’s important to provide an in-depth response, a concise explanation is ideal to avoid going on a tangent. If you’re asked about any weaknesses or limitations in your work, be honest and thoughtful in your response, highlighting your problem-solving skills as a researcher.

You’ve worked hard to reach this stage; now it’s your chance to shine! Best of luck!

what is a viva voce presentation

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.

Thank you for visiting Academia Insider.

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Definition of viva voce

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Definition of viva voce  (Entry 2 of 3)

Definition of viva voce  (Entry 3 of 3)

called also viva

Did you know?

Viva voce derives from Medieval Latin, where it translates literally as "with the living voice." In English it occurs in contexts, such as voting, in which something is done aloud for all to hear. Votes in Congress, for example, are done viva voce—members announce their votes by calling out "yea" or "nay." While the phrase was first used in English as an adverb in the 16th century, it can also appear as an adjective (as in "a viva voce examination") or a noun (where it refers to an examination conducted orally).

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Examples of viva voce in a Sentence

Word history.

Medieval Latin, with the living voice

1563, in the meaning defined above

1654, in the meaning defined above

1842, in the meaning defined above

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“Viva voce.” Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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Adverb or adjective

Medieval Latin, literally, by living voice

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Viva voce is a form of oral assessment that helps students develop valuable communication skills.

Viva voce (derived from Medieval Latin) is defined as “an examination conducted by speech or assessment in which a student’s response to the assessment task is verbal, in the sense of being expressed or conveyed by speech instead of writing” (Pearce & Lee 2009).

Assessment can be conducted by one or more assessors.

When to use a viva voce

Viva voce assessments are useful for:

  • examining a significant part of the syllabus
  • allowing students to 'think on their feet' and express themselves meaningfully
  • demonstrating students' ability to reflect and think critically in real time
  • distinguishing between superficial and in-depth learning (through interactive dialogue between the student and examiner)
  • factual recall
  • applied knowledge
  • ability to synthesise information
  • communication skills.
  • Limitations
  • Answering direct questions allows students to demonstrate their achievement of learning outcomes.
  • Enables students to read and revise a substantial amount of content, as ‘anything can be asked’ is the usual case with viva.
  • Often cited as an oral communication skill considered valuable for employment.
  • For a well-constructed viva examination, a series of candidates can be asked the same questions and their answers can be compared and evaluated.
  • Cultural background, individual differences and special needs can contribute to underperformance during viva.
  • Advantages students who respond immediately to questions over those who are hesitant or deep thinkers.
  • Can be impacted by issues such as bias and poor inter-examiner reliability.
  • Like oral presentations, can be stressful to students.
  • If a series of the same questions is asked, a confidentiality process should prevent students from sharing information with those who haven't yet been examined.

Things to keep in mind

When developing viva voce assessments, remember these pointers.

Developing questions

  • Make sure the focus of each question is aligned with content and learning outcomes.
  • Consider asking open ended questions and encouraging answers that are not limited to ‘yes/no’ replies, allowing students to explain the response.
  • Don’t ask questions that are too long or complex as the student might not be able to capture the whole question.

Support student success

  • what a viva is
  • what they'll be expected to do.
  • Consider avoiding any unexpected surprises for students during the viva.
  • Allow students to do most of the talking.
  • Give student prompts that can help – remember, it's not the place for the examiner to show their intelligence.
  • debriefing and providing feedback at the end of viva assessments
  • recording online viva sessions so the student can reflect and improve.
  • Consider using viva as an online assessment by allocating a timetable and conducting it in an online meeting room.
  • Gathering student feedback on the process of viva can help ascertain its value as assessment.

More resources

  • Types of powerful assessment – Thesis/viva voce – FLIPCurric
  • Using a viva voce in a taught module – Video case study – Cardiff University

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