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Wednesday, 14 September 2016

PhD VIVA what to expect

Assalamualaikum and Olla!

It's almost 4 years I'm living in Newcastle. I came here on the 15th of October 2012, started my Ph.D. a day after. It was a bit of a rush. At that time I was waiting for the cheque from MARA that was why I registered 2 weeks late. When I was studying at Sheffield University, I never thought that I'd be doing a Ph.D. Lots of thing happen in this 4 years. This is the place I met my jodoh. Alhamdulillah. Banyak rezeki yang datang waktu di Newcastle. Rezeki menulis. Rezeki jodoh. Rezeki PhD. Rezeki kerja.... Rezeki buat umrah.... Rezeki jumpa kawan-kawan yang baik...Kawan-kawan yang buat aku belajar lebih banyak pasal rencah kehidupan. Life is full of surprises all this while. Kadang aku rasa macam aku dah pandai dah pasal dunia pasal kehidupan, tapi bila kita rasa kita pandai itulah waktunya kita sebenarnya masih dalam kebodohan. Masih perlu belajar. Kita memang sentiasa perlu belajar. Bila terasa diri pandai, itu tandanya ego kita mencanak dan kepintaran kita ditutup oleh ego tersebut. That is the time yang kena slap on the face - wake up call!

This picture was taken when I was studying in Sheffield University (2006 to 2010)

Tak sangka, after all this struggle, dah pun VIVA. I dont expect I'll get minor correction. I did try my best but I also expect the worst. Kat sini the result could be:

  • Pass without correction 
  • Pass with minor correction (1 month)
  • Pass with minor revision (6 months)
  • Pass with major revision (12 months)
  • Granted MPhil instead of PhD
  • Failed
A month before VIVA, aku jumpa officer from university. Dia terangkan the process. What to expect before and after VIVA. He mentioned the possible results. Dulu aku ingat senang nak dapat pass without correction, konon ala-ala buat Master or dissertation degree. Dorang tandakan thesis then dapat markah. It's funny I learnt all this masa aku dah betul-betul dekat nak VIVA. Every university is different regarding the possible outcome. I was told by the officer that chances for 'pass without correction' is 0.01%. I was also told that one guy in my department dapat pass without correction. He is a legend sebab sampai sekarang disebut-sebut. But then I also read that all this does not matter, what matter most is a candidate completed their PhD and I was told by my Prof the thing that they will check before hiring someone is my list of publication.

VIVA session normally last between 1 hour to 3 hours (or more). Mine was 2 hours and 20 minutes. 5 minutes chat, 20 minutes presentation, and the rest was the discussion. It started at 10.00 am and ended at 12.20pm. I went to the office an hour earlier. Prepare the slides, switched on the power point and have a chat with my supervisors. Around 9.00 am the external came, we had a small chat then I bring him to my supervisor. I left the meeting room and waited in my own room. Around 10.00 am my supervisors came in and call me to the meeting room.

Both of the examiners are already in the room. Seated. When I came in I just greeted both of them. Shake hands and smile, and even told them it was a great opportunity for me to meet them, the experts in my field of research. Then asked their permission to do the presentation. After the presentation, they told me to have a seat and the external examiner poured me a drink. Then we had a discussion (VIVA session).

Before VIVA I searched a lot about VIVA. I don't know what to expect. I even heard a horror story about my group mate, her external examiner go through the thesis one chapter by one chapter. Pada aku she's really good. Banyak publication. But then I heard from a friend juga yang they judge you based on your thesis, not your publication. She got 6 months correction. I expected her to get 1 month correction. So for mine, I don't put the hope too high, but I tried my best. During the VIVA, external examiner memang banyak sungguh pertanyaan dia tapi most of the answers are already in the thesis. In fact, beberapa soalan memang aku jawab I have stated that in my thesis, and internal examiner pun iakan. Then dia terus 'tertunduk malu' mengakui yang dia baca thesis tu awal-awal dapat then refreshed 3 days ago.

Most of the questions are all about the thesis. So master your thesis. Read it chapter by chapter. Then present the summary of every chapter to someone. Do this for several times. Because VIVA is a session to test if YOU are the one who wrote the thesis, how deep is your understanding of the topic, and in fact the examiners don't know it as much as you know the subject. So be the expert and explain without being defensive. If you are wrong, admit it but get into discussion professionally so you can think about it with the examiners. The examiners will have their thoughts and opinion based on their expertise, but you are there to give them answers so that they understood what you are trying to convey in your thesis. I think this tips will also be useful: before you start the VIVA, ask their permission for you to jot down their question so that you could understand it better, tanya balik untuk pastikan you get the right idea about the question asked and if you think it is a hard question, just say: that's a very good question. I think.... to buy some time so that you can think first before answering.

All in all, alhamdulillah. Kalau dulu masa buat PhD rasa macam buat course yang paling susah di dunia aka the highest achievement but bila dah lepas, tak rasa apa-apa pun. Rasa lega. Rasa macam terlepas daripada penjara stress hehe. Tak adalah rasa macam bijak pandai ke apa pun. I expect I gonna feel like I belong to Einsteint group after passed my PhD, but then, to be fairly fairly honest I feel more humbled by this experience. Alhamdulillah. Semuanya dengan pertolongan Tuhan. And in fact, this perkembangan ilmu bukan terhenti di sini. Masih jauh lagi perjalanan dalam mencedok ilmu. Maka jadilah aku orang baru dalam bidang 'academic' as a research scientist. Lepas VIVA, my supervisors panggil and asked if I want to stay in the group as an associate research scientist. I asked for a week to think of it. Timbal balik, I bet that's the best for me for the time being. Sekarang pun I am exposed with research projects, grant proposal. Its pretty cool to see the networking these academician have. Its a global project connecting between two or three countries trying to solve their concern. Well mainly energy related - of course. But that's not what its all about, it is also about political relationship, economic impact, social impact and long term benefits.

May God ease my new exploration. Allahumma amin!

To those yang akan hadapi VIVA, all the best ! To those that has passed, congratulation and what's your experience like? I think it is very helpful bila ada orang share their VIVA experience sebab before my own VIVA I was searching for tips and experience sharing from others.

I am planning to write a novel (cont. from sblm ni) and a book yang lebih bersifat motivational. What do you suggest I should put in that motivational + experience sharing book ?

Thank you for your participation! It's been awhile :)