Video Viva Expectations

Last March I asked for examiners and PhD graduates to share their experiences of being part of a video viva. Lots of generous people shared their stories, observations and advice. A consistent detail – from the examiner perspective – was that video vivas tended to be shorter than in-person vivas. They were a little more formal, but due to the medium they were more focussed and completed more quickly.

As 2020 continued and became 2021, I heard more recent graduates describe their pandemic viva experiences. Long vivas over Zoom and Meet, three-and-a-half hours, four hours or more! The assumed explanation was that as no-one needed to travel to participate in the viva, examiners could give more time to the discussion in the viva. There was nothing negative seen in any of this – other than the amount of time spent in a video-meeting!

Are these long video vivas outliers? Possibly. Not every candidate shares their story, and of the handful I’ve heard there would be hundreds more I have no details of. It’s reasonable to expect that there would be differences in the viva over a video chat. Length of time is one aspect I could definitely see changing compared to the previously “typical” viva.

Some expectations remain true though. Examiners will be prepared. The candidate will be too. The viva is being done for the same reasons. The candidate has done the same work as if it was in-person. The outcome is likely to be the same, even if the process has changed.

In-person or over video, expect that you will have done everything you need to be ready to pass your viva.