Survival Time

Have you heard of the “rules of three” for surviving in extreme conditions?

  • You can survive three minutes without oxygen.
  • You can survive three hours without shelter/warmth.
  • You can survive three days without water.
  • You can survive three weeks without food.

People survive in extreme conditions, but only just.

I’ve heard PhD candidates wonder how they might survive in a potential three hour viva. That’s not extreme conditions, even relative to the viva! Most candidates could expect to be finished within three hours. It’s difficult to imagine what an extreme viva might be. There are challenges inherent in the process, but they’re not all or nothing, do or die.

PhD candidates survive the challenges of the viva – they manage to keep going in difficult circumstances – because of the challenges they’ve already faced in the three or more years of doing research.

The years help with the hours.