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Types of questions

There are various ‘types’ of questions which candidates can expect to be asked in the panel.  They key to providing the right answer is knowing how to spot the ‘type’ of question being asked (adapted from Rowena Murray, How to Survive Your Viva, Second Edition, 2009). 

Open Questions

An open question gives the candidate the opportunity to respond on their own terms. Whilst this affords some freedom to select and structure the answer from the variety of information available, it does not give the candidate many clues about the sort of response the examiner is looking for. Examples of open questions are: 'What did you think about the outcomes of your research so far?', 'What did you think of your results so far?' It is a good idea to anticipate some responses to questions like these. 

Closed Questions

Closed answers give candidates a choice of fixed answer. For example: 'what do you know about the work of x?' - this means that candidates will need to know who x is, what they have contributed to the field, and then form an opinion about how it relates to their own work. Closed questions are designed for candidates to give definitive answers and they test concrete skills, knowledge and expertise. 

Probing Questions

Probing questions can follow other types of questions in the panel review. For example, a candidate might have given a response to a specific question that the examiner has asked, and then they will ask the candidate 'why?' or 'Why not?' This type of question is designed to probe the candidate for more information. The panel members will use probing questions when they are trying to get more information from the panellist, or to test the depth and quality of their knowledge. A good way to prepare for a probing question is for the candidate to clarify their own personal opinions and perceptions properly before the panel. Practice asking 'why' or 'why not' to the responses that are typically given to questions.