Five Flavours Of Viva Prep

I’m an extremely amateur cook and baker. I like to make nice things for my family and I like to experiment. I love to learn about how ingredients are transformed, how to combine them better and how to improve the process and outcome of something.

In my reading a few years ago I learned there are five basic flavours – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami – that make up the flavour of all the things that we eat and drink.

This formulation appealed to me a lot: I love to express things simply. Having three of this or five of that as a foundation for a topic makes my brain very happy!

Flavour is a nice metaphor for lots of things as well. Perhaps we can apply it to viva prep too?

Sweet viva prep describes the fundamental tasks that you have to get done: reading your thesis, making notes, adding bookmarks and so on. It’s work to do but you know what you have to do.

Sour viva prep is tougher; it makes you think more and tilt your head to one side: reflecting on questions, revisiting tricky concepts and checking old references.

Salty viva prep needs a break afterwards to refresh yourself: a mock viva, writing a summary or giving a presentation. All helpful, but all demanding.

Try to avoid bitter viva prep as much as possible. It can help to explore what ifs and maybes when reflecting on your PhD journey and your contribution, but not as much as being certain of the success you’ve found. Don’t go looking for problems now.

All viva prep should have a satisfying umami flavour to it! When completing any task – sweet, sour, salty or bitter – you should feel satisfied by the effort, like you have added to your readiness. You are closer to the viva, nearer to completion and more ready for the challenge.