My Atypical Viva

Later this year I’ll “celebrate” fifteen years since I had my viva, and remembering that makes me realise one more time just how different my viva was to everything I’ve heard since about vivas.

Before I had my viva I was quite ignorant about the process. It didn’t occur to me until a few years afterwards that my viva was a bit odd:

  • My viva was in a quiet seminar room at the end of a corridor, but it was a room big enough for thirty.
  • I had been asked to prepare a presentation, not very common but an established viva practice. However, within two minutes of starting one of my examiners asked a question, which started the discussion. This was my viva: lots of questions, weaving occasionally back to my presentation.
  • My viva was four hours with a short break, which is quite long but manageable…
  • …but I was stood at the front of the room for the duration, near the projector and blackboard. My examiners were sat as if they were in the front row of a lecture. There was no chair at their table for me and I was never invited to sit down at any point.

On that last point I have, so far, found myself to be unique in my viva experience.

And despite all of that:

  • My viva followed the flow of the information in my thesis, like most do.
  • I had two examiners, like most vivas and they were clearly very prepared, as was I.
  • They asked lots of questions and treated me and my work with respect, even when they had criticisms.
  • I received minor corrections, like the majority of PhD candidates in the UK.
  • It felt like it was all over much more quickly than it actually was, time just flew by!

Every viva is unique. Some are more different than others! But all vivas follow key expectations and regulations. Read the rules, listen to stories and build up a good general picture that you can prepare for.