Rumours I have heard about the viva in the last ten years:
- “It’s all decided in advance!”
- “It’s a fix really: everyone passes so what’s the point?!”
- “You can’t do anything to prepare because it’s always different!”
- “It’s just a hazing ritual, examiners tearing years of work apart…”
- “…actually, they’re usually alright…”
I’ve only seen evidence for the last rumour. The rest are either false or missing key contextual information.
The antidote for rumours is finding out more information: real, hard evidence from people with experience. Don’t be satisfied with surface fluff and secondhand stories.
Ask friends and colleagues who have been through the viva. You don’t need a dozen minute-by-minute accounts to get a real sense of what they’re like. Ask specific questions to get details to help shape your expectations.
Ask academics about their roles as examiners. What do they do? How do they approach it? How do they feel about the process? I’d be surprised if some weren’t as nervous as candidates are.
Get a grip on rumours by finding out more. Then, when your viva is past (and you’ve passed!) be a help to future PhD candidates by sharing the details of your viva experience.
Over time let’s get the viva rumours under control.