Tips for postgraduate first stage/viva preparation
1) Limit your slides and vary the presentation to make it interesting.
2) If examiners tried to ask irrelevant questions, it is best to try and relate the question to your work first, if possible, before you said 'I don't know'. Or, if it really is irrelevant, then emphasise on your scope of work.
3) Always have a 'flow of presentation' slide after your 'title' slide in order for people to know how your presentation will go.
4) Normally, you are given 20 minutes for presentation for PhD work and there will be Q&A sessions afterwards.
5) If you did make a mistake in calculations or theory, try to reason why you have made that mistakes. And if it really is an unacceptable mistake, apologies and say that you will take note and improve it in your real thesis.
6) KNOW your examiner. Check his specialty and what kind of questions he/she likes to ask. Does he like to ask basic or technical questions? Is his field related to you or other area?
7) If possible, try to make network with experts around the world to check whether your research is up to date and can be recognized worldwide.
8) Make publications or have a plan on what kind of publications you wish to submit/publish before the end of your study.
9) Put page number on your slides and print out the slides for the examiners. This will make it easy reference for them and you.
10) Predict questions by examiners. And hide slides that you think are important/possible to be asked but not necessary in the 20 mins presentation. This will help you if you panicked in the Q&A.
11) Prepare your mind mentally and practice with people around you. You may be surprised that they may ask you basic questions that you don't even expect.
12) If you get provoked, try to remain calm and reason logically. Do not dwell on a question, else the examiners will only see that one mistake and forget all the other good things that you have done.
13) Write in points instead of full sentences.
14) Color the important key points in your slides to attract examiners attention to it.
15) Know your topic well. Remember, you are the expert in this field since you are the one researching on it, not the examiners. But how? This is most important especially in order to gain confidence and 'research authority' thru out the viva. It is suggested the student start with writing a review on their area of research, say from 10-50 yrs back up to today. Do organize the journals/refs chronologically (general to specific; primer to least related in specific) then tabulate things, who did what and where. This is to ensure the student will have a strong perspective from many angles; and could comments on any loophole/unresearched topic/successfully developed/contradicting among researchers etc. This will make the research more challenging and interesting.
16) Perform exhaustive keyword search through science direct or comparable technical search engine. The search should cover every possible combination of keyword to show novelty or research gap, possibly beyond reasonable doubt. One of the typical FAQ by any examiner is to question candidates on the exhaustiveness of their literature review/search. Just by showing a number of related work picked from literature, candidates often failed to demonstrate that they have indeed done an exhaustive search.