I submitted my PhD thesis to a EU university and I already have the review reports of the two reviewers.

They both accepted the thesis for the viva. One reviewer left a couple of remarks, while the other left some remarks but many questions. My supervisor told me what I should provide a response letter to both reviewers, addressing all the questions in the case of one reviewer.

-Why do reviewers ask questions on the report and ask for the answers before the viva?

-They both told me that my thesis is very good. I am able to answer all the questions well, at least in my opinion. Can I still fail the viva?

-People tell that PhD defense is just a formality, however, I am afraid of failing it after so many years of hard work.

Please let me know your experiences on this matter

Thanks in advance, Best wishes, King Baboon

  • 4
    Specifiying your country may help you get specific answers. The viva is not just a formality in the UK, for example. Aug 25, 2018 at 11:15
  • Are you sure that the reviewers are not expecting you to revise your thesis to answer the given questions? Maybe this is the common procedure at their universities. Aug 25, 2018 at 20:30
  • A discussion with your faculty adviser might answer your questions. Presumably your prof will be able to answer your questions in detail, where anybody else will be guessing what are the specifics of your university.
    – user94256
    Aug 26, 2018 at 5:27

1 Answer 1


My experience is the US, not the EU, but, while the "defense" is mostly pretty pro-forma, you still need to give a reasonable answer to any question asked there. In rare cases the candidate failed the defense and failed to get the degree for responding to a question wrongly when they "should have known" the answer.

I think that the written questions are given as a favor to the candidate, though the questions will most likely be only about the dissertation rather than general questions about the field as a whole. In some places you need to be prepared for both. But if you can answer the written questions you have a good idea about what a careful reader of your work might still want to know. This prepares you for the first, but not the second sort of questions - about the field as a whole.

The lesson here is not to focus so closely on the dissertation itself that you forget everything else you know. Freezing up can be an issue for some people, so it is good if you have practice in speaking generally (say through teaching) and have ways to calm yourself quickly if asked an odd question. This is more of an issue in those places that have an "out of field" member of the defense committee - a person from a totally different field who will not have read your work. Your answers need to be reasonable, even when not strictly correct.

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