It happens occasionally that examiners tell a candidate at the start of the viva that they have passed. Universities don’t want examiners to do this – as it sort of begs the question, why are we going ahead with this exam? – but sometimes examiners do. They might think it puts the candidate at ease, maybe this will lead to a more relaxed discussion, who knows. Don’t expect it.

Nevertheless, can you pick up subtle clues during the viva about how things are going?

Maybe the phrasing of a question can give your confidence a boost.

Perhaps the slight suggestion of a smile from your internal will tell you, “They’re on my side.”

How about that short pause? Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’s fine…

Your external’s making notes while you speak? Well, they have to write a report later. I’m sure it’s fine too…

You’re over two and a half hours in and still a way to go? Well, vivas take as long as they take, it’s fine, there’s no need to- !!


Nothing means anything. You can see, hear or feel anything and spin it any way your mind will let you. It doesn’t make it true or false, good or bad.

Be present in the viva. Think about your answers. Engage with your examiners. Be ready to discuss your work.

The best hint about your viva’s outcome is that you’re there in the first place. It’s not a guaranteed pass just because you showed up, but think about how you got there to begin with.