There are lots of expectations for what vivas are supposed to be like.

Vivas tend to last a certain length, it’s typical for candidates to have two examiners, it’s common for them to take place within three months of submission, and so on.

Of course, there are exceptions.

  • Some exceptions arise from who the candidate is. If you are a full-time member of staff at your institution then you might have more than two examiners.
  • Some exceptions arise from what a candidate does. It may be that your research necessitates some kind of demonstration of work that wouldn’t be standard in most vivas.
  • Some exceptions come from what a candidate has written. A specific kind of research or thesis could require certain approaches in the viva that aren’t typical.
  • And some exceptions just happen. You could have an examiner who isn’t an academic or there may, for some reason, be a difference in the viva process for you.

Vivas have expectations, but there are always exceptions. What do you do if you find out that yours will be a little different? You ask for help. Talk to your supervisors or ask your graduate school. Your exception will not be so exceptional that you can find no support if you need it.

If your viva is going to be different then ask yourself what that really means for you and for the process. Then ask yourself if that really makes much of a difference at all – or is the exceptional circumstance just one more thing to keep in mind?