I enjoy playing video games where I can alter the setting to “easy” and feel powerful. I can advance through the story, feel present and connected to the world of the game (as enemies don’t knock me down every two minutes) and I can really have fun.
Unlike a video game, you can’t simply alter the difficulty setting of your viva.
The nature of what you’re there to do, not knowing exactly what questions you might be asked, feeling nervous – all of these can layer to create a challenging environment.
I also enjoy playing video games where you can’t alter the difficulty. There is no easy mode, you have to persevere. You explore the systems and scenario, get a feel for the challenge. Try different tactics and find ways to play to your strengths. The game remains challenging, but also seems easier, due to the practice I’ve had.
This is more analogous to the PhD journey and the challenge of the viva. You can’t alter the difficulty, you have to raise yourself up to meet each challenge. Learn more to do more, do more to know more. Find your strengths, use them well and you make it through.
The final challenge is still a challenge, but it’s not all or nothing: you continue to show what you know and what you can do, and you succeed.
There’s no easy mode for the viva – and you don’t need one anyway.