When I speak to peers who have completed PhD’s and mention that I had a mock/practice viva I am greeted with either surprise or retrospective jealousy. This would suggest that mock viva examinations are an exception rather than the rule in universities. I find this rather surprising considering how I found my mock viva to be the perfect preparation for my formal viva.
My supervisors provided a structured path to help prepare me for the viva. Following the submission of my dissertation, I had a pre-mock examination meeting, which outlined the processes and conventions of a viva; something that I was not at all familiar with. One week later, the mock examination followed. I was pre-warned that the mock would be a tough and a much more intense experience than the formal examination. It was. I left the mock feeling rather deflated, but this soon turned into a realisation that I was unprepared for the formal viva. After being debriefed by my supervisors, I was able to realise what I did well but also, more importantly, what else I needed to do to prepare for the actual viva.
In the week leading up to my actual viva I went through my dissertation, producing written summaries of each chapter and teasing out fundamental questions related to my thesis. This left me with a 3000 word document that was effectively a detailed crib sheet of notes that I could revise from. I now found I had the confidence that I was lacking in the mock viva and felt that I could positively defend my thesis.
Though I found the mock examination a tough experience it fully prepared me for my actual viva and was essential in helping me to successfully pass, albeit with some very minor corrections.