Highly Unlikely

Twice recently I’ve been asked, “Is it possible to submit a perfect thesis but then fail your viva?” I’ve written about the impossibility of the perfect thesis in the past, so let’s modify it slightly: can you fail if your thesis is really good?

I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s got to be highly unlikely. Right? How do you submit a really good thesis? Only by doing really good research. You have to have built up a talent for asking and answering questions. You have to have built up a talent for doing practical research in your field. Even if you don’t like being in situations like you imagine the viva to be, you’re going to be able to meet the challenge.

Can you fail if your thesis is really good?

This question comes out of worry, anxiety and fear. Find the root concern and you can address the problem. Worried that you’re treading on an examiner’s research? Find out more about it, so that you know more. Anxious that your mind will go blank? Read your thesis carefully and make summaries to help you think it through. Afraid your examiners will have harsh comments? Ask friends about the tone of their vivas to reassure yourself.

It’s understandable to be worried. Find the cause and think about how to address it. Do that, and the question will disappear.