The Verbal Defence

Handling of the 'verbal defence' varies significantly from School to School and Faculty to Faculty. In some Schools it is relatively informal, like a chat between project colleagues; in other Schools the candidate will be formally questioned, much like a job-interview.

Ask your supervisor what you can expect and how to best prepare for this element of confirmation.

Generally, however, you can expect pointed questions about your skills, your plans, even your personal situation. It is, after all, the Committee's job to assess:

  • The 'feasibility, format and resource requirements' of the project
  • The ability of the candidate to satisfactorily complete the project at the required standard

Also expect Committee members to offer feedback and make suggestions - for example, about questions you might like to follow up, studies or papers to read, a technique you might like to try.

This is part of the Committee's job, so don't feel that suggestions necessarily indicate deficits in the way you have approached a task or your work to date.

Consider all advice and suggestions carefully, but don't feel bound to implement or pursue every point. Just be sure that you could justify the decisions and choices you make - as always!

What are some of the things you can do to help settle the nerves?

  • Discuss your confirmation meeting with your supervisors
  • Learn a bit about the people who will be at the meeting
  • Have a dummy confirmation committee meeting with fellow PhD students, where they can question you about your project