Three Simple Words

Are you prepared to say “I don’t know” in your viva?

There’s only so much information, knowledge and talent you can build up before your viva. You’ll have enough, but you might not have everything. Perfection isn’t required: but do you feel comfortable enough saying “I don’t know” so that you aren’t worried if you do need to say it?

To help build that comfort, and the confidence that goes with it:

  • Make opportunities where you can be asked real, relevant questions for your research, thesis and competence. You can’t predict in advance what questions you will be asked in the viva, or what questions will prompt a response of “I don’t know”. The more times you practise being in a similar situation to the viva, the more experience you will have and the better you will feel.
  • Review your work to convince yourself of how much you do know. You don’t know everything, but you know a lot. It would be impossible to write an exhaustive list of everything you don’t know, but you can reassure yourself that you have a good knowledge base.
  • Learn about viva expectations. Examiners could ask questions to which you can only respond “I don’t know” but they don’t do it out of malice or some attempt to belittle you or your work. They don’t ask unreasonable questions.

I don’t know what you might have to say “I don’t know” to. You can’t know that in advance either. But you can know that it is OK.

These three simple words don’t have to define you, your viva performance or how you feel going into the viva.