Are there risks of danger, problems or disappointment in the viva?

In general when we consider risk it’s worth assessing three elements:

  • The Bad Thing: the problem or outcome you’re concerned about.
  • The Likelihood Of The Bad Thing: an honest assessment of how certain The Bad Thing is to happen.
  • The Potential Impact Of The Bad Thing: an honest assessment of what might follow if The Bad Thing happens.

So, for example: your examiners find a typo. That’s very likely in a book with tens of thousands of words, but it wouldn’t have a great impact on your success or the work needed to correct it.

Or: your examiners could find a section in your thesis that they don’t agree with. There’s a fair chance of that happening when considering new and interesting research. The impact could be an in-depth discussion of the points in the viva or perhaps a request for certain amendments to your thesis.

An extreme example: it’s possible to fail your viva. That would have an enormous negative impact in many ways – but it isn’t very likely at all. It’s a very rare situation.

If you think or feel something about a potential Bad Thing, ask yourself how likely it is. Ask yourself what might happen. Then consider what you really need to do in response, either to reduce the chance of it happening or lessen the impact if it does.