“It Just Was”

Why was your viva so long?

I’ve been asked many times before about why my viva was four hours long, but the question surprised me at a recent webinar. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it had been some time since the last asking, or maybe I had something else on my mind that day. But I was prompted to a little bit of reflection.

Now, I’m not my examiners and I don’t have their perspective why my viva was four hours. I can only share what occurs to me and what I think. To begin with, I had a thesis describing six projects; they were all in the same area but about different ideas. That meant that we had to keep going back to square one with explanations as we talked about the thesis.

I also had some issues with presentation. While my examiners accepted my contribution, they were less happy with how the thesis was structured. Information didn’t flow in some places. In others it just didn’t meet their discipline expectations. We had to talk about that and about the corrections that would follow.

Just over halfway through my total viva time we had a break of about ten minutes, but I didn’t really notice that the time had passed. And at the time I didn’t have any awareness of typical viva lengths, what vivas were like and so on. I don’t really know why my viva was that long. It just was.


When someone asks about my experience, I think they’re really asking, “Why might my viva be four hours long?” – and that’s a much bigger question.

It could be that you have lots of projects – or just lots to talk about. It could be that there are issues like I had, with presentation or structure or clarity. It could be that your examiners need to unpick something to fully understand it.

Or it could be that everyone in the room is just really engaged by the discussion and they want to keep talking.

Four hour vivas are rare, all things considered. Don’t expect yours to be, but if it happens to be that long it’s not necessarily for any bad reason at all.