The Viva Voce Examination
Some students have to present themselves for a live examination after submission of their Master’s Dissertations.
The Viva Voce Examination may be compulsory or optional. Check with your institution to see if it is a requirement.
Here are the words that two institutions use:
The viva or oral examination is a compulsory part of the assessment for MSc dissertations. The supervisor (first assessor) and second assessor complete this assessment together.
The examiners may require a candidate to attend a viva-voce examination in order to clarify any issues arising from the work submitted.
Clearly the first is compulsory, the second is an option that examiners can use if they need any clarifications regarding the work submitted.
What is a Viva Voce
Literally – Live Voice. It is an examination where you have to talk about your work personally.
Purpose of a Viva Voce
The Viva Voce Examination has several purposes for the examining institution:
- To check that the work is actually the work of the student (and not somebody else’s work)
- Ensure that the student can talk knowledgeably about their work and show an ability to communicate effectively and answer questions
- Clarify any issues the assessors have discovered on reading the submitted work.
So if the submitted work is yours and of a good quality there is nothing to fear at the examination!
Structure of The Viva Voce Examination
First, the examiners should put you at ease and explain the process.
Secondly the student should deliver a short presentation. Take care not to exceed the allowed time.
Finally there will be some questions. These might start by using some general questions from the list below.
After the questions, the examiners may confer and give an indication of their judgement.
Typical Viva Questions
Here are some typical questions asked at the Viva Voce Examination:
- What was the most difficult part of your research and why?
- Can you explain how you determined your Research Methodology and its strengths and weaknesses?
- What were the main texts you found most useful in your research and why?
- Do you think that your recommendations can be implemented and, if so, how?
- A Masters Dissertation needs to demonstrate that the student can critically evaluate. – What does this mean and how have you shown this?
- How were the case studies obtained?
- Where did the questions used in the questionnaires arise from?
- How did you select the recipients of the questionnaire?
- Explain how you identified the people to interview
- What do see as the main barriers to the implementation of your research?
- How realistic do you think the benefits are that you describe?
- What do you think is the one most important contribution of your research?
- What do you consider are the greatest strengths and weaknesses of your research and why?
- Talk about the “trade-off” between qualitative, and quantitative analysis.
- What would you have done differently overall?
If an area of your submitted work is weak, then expect the examiners to probe this area. Take a copy of your work into the examination so that you can search the document for the answers to these questions.
Viva Voce Preparation
The following are tips on how to prepare for the Viva Voce Examination:
- Don’t worry about it until you have submitted your dissertation. Concentrate on submitting a good dissertation first!
- Do not rely on a computer based presentation – use paper if there are only 2 examiners
- Speak confidently about your work – without using a script if possible
- Do repeat the title, aims, objectives and research questions at the the start
- But don’t tell the examiners everything that is in the dissertation – they have a copy and have read it
- Do pick a particular aspect to talk about in depth
- Be honest about limitations of your work
- Summarise with how well you met the aims and objectives of the research
- Be clear on the recommendations for implementation or further research required
Don;t forget to ask your supervisor for their own hints and tips for the Viva Voce.
A student who has submitted a good dissertation has nothing to fear from the Viva Voce examination.
The first priority is to work towards a good submission. Following that, prepare for the Viva Voce examination thoroughly with a presentation, and practise (and time) your presentation several times. Finally anticipate the questions, and prepare responses.