At the start of my workshops I always share that my viva was four hours long. I’d be asked at some point anyway, and once it’s out there we can talk about expectations. My viva was longer than most, but not the longest I’ve heard of. It was challenging, but not bad. It was tiring, but that was mostly due to insomnia the night before.

By sharing my story I can talk more generally about the stories I’ve heard and what realistic expectations are for the viva.

But mentioning the length of my viva raises a worrying series of questions for some people: “What if I have a four-hour viva? What if I lose my focus? What if it’s all too much and I can’t concentrate? What then?”

Well, what if you’re fine? What if nothing bad happens?

What if you invest time and energy and stress now on things that might never happen, when you could invest them in something better?

You can’t be certain in advance of the viva of how long it will be, of what award you will get, of what your examiners will think or what questions will come up. You can have reasonable expectations about all of them maybe, but you can’t have certainty about them.

You can be certain of what you know and what you can do. You did the work. You’re talented. You can be prepared for the discussion that comes up in your viva.

Don’t focus on “what ifs” and maybes. Focus on your certainties.