Acceptable is a funny word. It means that things are fine, but it sort-of sounds like they’re only just alright. Like if you think about it more you might decide that actually you’ve changed your mind.

I’ve been asked a lot of questions related to the viva with the word “acceptable” in them.

How much do I need to write for an acceptable thesis?

Who would be an acceptable examiner?

What’s acceptable to say if you don’t know something?

I know the feeling that flows behind these kind of questions. Fear and concern, a little worry that perhaps something isn’t good enough but might just pass the standard.

I recommend candidates remove ideas of perfection from the PhD and the viva: there isn’t a perfect thesis, no perfect candidates, examiners aren’t perfect – none of these need to be for someone to find success in the viva.

In a similar vein, we need to get rid of acceptable from the PhD and viva lexicon. You can’t have things be perfect, but you should expect a lot more from yourself, your thesis and your viva than acceptable.

You can aim a lot higher and do a lot better than acceptable.