I hear a lot of people describe vivas in binary terms.

  • The viva is long or short.
  • Either you’ll love it or hate it.
  • Expect examiners to be fair or critical.
  • Questions are either easy or hard.
  • Preparation is straight-forward or lots of work.
  • You’re either nervous or confident when the day arrives.
  • Overall, the viva is either good or bad!

And of course the truth is that, generally, these either/or positions don’t capture what the viva is really like. Different people will feel different things, and rarely will the viva be one thing or the other.

My viva was four hours long and it felt like it flew by. My examiners were really fair with their questions and they had some very critical comments about the structure of my thesis.

Being nervous means that the viva is important to you, but you can be confident too if you reflect on your achievements and realise the success that you’ve made for yourself.