Someone asked me last year if it was good to be afraid before the viva: “Is it a good sign?”
There isn’t a straight yes or no answer. We need to unpick what’s going on when we talk about fear and the viva. Three main things come to mind for me.
First, we need to explore: what are you afraid of? Get specific with your fear, don’t let it be a nameless dread. Figure out what you are afraid of, then ask: what can you do about it?
Second, in some cases it’s a fear of the unknown. If it’s so, then work towards finding out more about the viva. Learn about regulations, expectations and experiences. Don’t just stop at feeling afraid.
Finally, we return to the original question: is it a good sign?
In itself I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s bad for fear to dominate. It’s bad if you can’t prepare for or enjoy the viva because you’re so afraid. The fear is a symptom of something else. You’re so nervous that now you’re afraid.
Nervousness correlates with importance. You’re afraid because you’re nervous, you’re nervous because the viva is important.
It’s good to recognise the viva as important, but bad if nerves stop you being prepared for it.