The Unknowns

What you don’t know about your viva can be scary. It’s helpful to make a distinction between the three main types of unknowns:

  • There are things you can find out: the regulations for vivas at your university, what happened at your friends’ vivas, what your examiners’ recent publications are like.
  • There are things you can have expectations of: how long it might be, the sorts of questions that come up, the general outcomes and what they mean.
  • There are things you can’t know: how long your viva will be, what questions you’ll be asked or what your examiners will think of your thesis.

It’s clear with the first two kinds of unknowns that if you ask the right people the right questions you’ll find help. But there is no way of knowing how long your viva will be. There is no script available for questions. No report you can read about your examiners’ impressions.

Crucially, you have a choice about what you focus your attention on. Focus on the first two kinds of unknown. You’ll find confidence by getting answers to the questions you have, then perhaps realise that the third kind of unknown don’t matter that much.

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