August 19, 2019
As you approach your scheduled viva, your chance of success rests on choosing from one of two options. First, you can prepare your presentation and practice. Or second, you can roll the dice and hope for Lucky Number 7. Since I’ve never been a successful gambler, I would much rather hit it big through strong preparation than let fate takes its chances. Following are my seven golden reasons to hold a mock viva.
A mock viva is said to be a practice run for your actual viva. In saying this, one has to caution that they’re not rehearsals for the real thing or a substitute for your viva preparations.
Hartley & Fox (2004) highlight seven different forms of mock viva.
These include those undertaken by your supervisor/s, cohort student/s, colleague/s or you watching a real live viva.
In my experience as an academic who has supervised and examined many doctoral students and candidates over 10 years, the best type of mock viva is that undertaken by at least two academics who are not your supervisor/s and have not been previously involved in your doctoral work. In other words, your mock viva should stimulate the real situation as best as possible (see the testimony of a doctoral candidate here and here).
In this blog I highlight seven reasons why undertaking a mock viva could be very helpful in the defence of your thesis on the actual viva day.
1. Nothing like the real thing, but still don’t come in from the cold. You might have read a lot about good vivas. A mock viva will allow you to see what vivas are typically like, and in this situation, you are the candidate in the viva.
2. Ahhh another test again! Whether you like it or not, it is an examination of your research thesis. Most people like me don’t like examinations and particularly the anxieties and jitters that come before it. One of my students was an Executive, and you would expect being in that role he’s been involved in many presentations and facing people to sell his ideas. However, on the day I organised a mock viva for him, it turns out examination room jitters has no respect for anyone. He was completely lost from all the preparation he had made before the mock viva. He even forgot to consult the very notes he made for the viva and was nervous for most of the mock viva. After, he confirmed that he went blank at times. Fortunately, this was a mock viva, so we had time to coach him in what to do. Could you have imagined if this had happened in the real viva and if we had not done this mock viva?
3. Perspectives – the different side of the coin or might I say the 6 side of the dies. I always try to emphasise to my students that doctoral work and its examination/s are about perspectives, and it is good to have as many different viewpoints about your work as possible. If the examiners in your mock viva are not your supervisors, then a mock viva will be an opportunity for you to understand how other people might view of your thesis. Even, if they come with completely different perspectives (not often the case), then at least it aids you in preparing your readiness to defend your viewpoint stated in your thesis. This could be an opportunity to practice that and receive feedback on your approach.
4. Can you think on your feet? One of the important skills that you need to learn is being able to defend ideas and thinking on your feet. You could be faced with an examiner who will take you through a long period of probing with some unexpected line of questioning. A mock viva can help in learning to cope with such pressures that could happen in a real viva situation and that should allow you to see how well you can address such situations if they occur in the viva.
5. I speak, but am I also listening (?) – the 2-way communication process. The examination of your thesis is an oral discussion of your doctoral work. This discussion will be a dialogue where you should learn to actively listen as well to speak. The mock viva should be an opportunity for you to practice how you can navigate this speaking and active listening process. When is it time to listen and when is it time to speak? Some miss that this is no different to the corporate world, where you need to combine good active listening skills with persuasive speaking skills in your everyday work environment.
6. The 2-minute rule (and 2-minutes sharp that is…). Related to my point #5 above, is the 2-minutes rule. A colleague of mine emphasised this 2-minute rule – which simply says any question that you are asked, avoid speaking for more than 2 minutes at a time. If it is a complex question and will take longer, break it down to 2-minute chunks on specific aspects to keep the focus.
7. Confidence – reasonable but not overly. A mock viva can help you to see if there’s anything else you might have overlooked in your preparations and this then, if addressed, could boost your confidence and help you be well prepared for the actual viva.
I started by saying that mock vivas are very important as part for your preparation for the real viva. Normally, after the mock viva you will be given a feedback on your performance and areas of weakness that you need to address before your actual viva.
At the mock viva that we run at the DoctorateHub, we take this even a couple of steps further – we undertake the following as part of the mock viva package:
If you are interested in undertaking a mock viva, please visit our mock viva service for further details.
Brought to you by a DoctorateHub Guest Tutor.