It’s wrong to expect that your viva will be exactly like your friend’s. It’s wrong to think that because every thesis is different there are no similarities between vivas. It’s wrong to expect to fail. It’s wrong to think that the viva is a box-ticking exercise. It’s wrong to think of it as a trial by fire.
All of these represent persistent memes or half-truths about the viva. You’re not stupid for thinking any of them. They’re a product of PhD culture. They get stuck in your head and can be difficult to shift.
Hard though it might be, we need to re-align the viva story. Every viva is unique, but they happen within frameworks. They’ll be different from each other, but there are expectations for how they are done. It’s an exam, it’s a challenge, and it could be tough or uncomfortable because of what you’re there to do – discuss and unpick your work and you as a researcher.
It’s a challenge that you can be ready for. If you did the research and wrote the thesis then you can thrive in the viva.