What could you do if an examiner was harsh?

Nevermind that they’re supposed to be fair, professional and so on. What if they weren’t? It’s easy to say don’t worry, they’re not supposed to be, but what could you do if you felt they weren’t fair?

  • …I don’t believe you!
  • …I don’t agree!
  • …What about my work?
  • …But don’t you think that such-and-such has a more important idea than this?

What could you do?

Listen. Breathe. Take a step back. Think. Ask yourself why. Ask them why. Remember that the viva is not a Q&A. Remember who the expert in the room is. If they’re harsh, push their tone to one side and respond to their ideas or questions.

It’s extremely unlikely that an examiner would be harsh, but it’s possible that they may have an opinion – fair, balanced and appropriate – that still catches you off guard. A question that throws you. Pausing, listening just to the question and not the tone, setting your feelings aside for a second – all of this can still help.