Friends who have recently had a viva in your department are good to ask about what to expect. Listening to their stories can give you certainty for your viva.
There’s great variety generally when it comes to viva experiences; local knowledge of your department’s practices can both shape your expectations and help you to prepare. By asking the right questions you can get the information that will be most useful to you.
- Was your viva in-person or online? (this helps frame other expectations)
- How long was your viva? (everyone wants to know this!)
- How did your viva begin? (it’s helpful to know the sorts of things that happen)
- Was anyone else apart from your examiners present? (some vivas have chairpersons; some candidates invite their supervisors)
- What was the flow of questions like? (were they big picture, focussed and so on)
- How did your viva end? (get a sense of what to expect)
- How did you feel throughout your viva? (knowing some of the thoughts and feelings that flow can help)
If you ask only one person then you might hear a helpful story that puts the viva in perspective. If you ask several people you might spot patterns in the structure of vivas in your department. Perhaps your department has a certain way of doing things. Knowing that information could really put you at ease.
Don’t simply ask a friend, “How was it?”
Go deeper. Ask more to help yourself more.