Every now and then we’ve had trouble with the boiler in our house.

One of the more extreme problems was a time when the temperature of the shower would cycle between pleasant and absolutely-freezing while in use. Over the course of twenty seconds or so a rhythm would play out in the temperature:

  • Nice.
  • Nice-
  • -cool-
  • -cold!
  • Freezing!
  • Oh gosh how does it go that cold?!
  • It goes colder???
  • Freezing!
  • Warming, phew!
  • Nice.

And repeat.

It took a few weeks to arrange the repair. During that time it was never certain when or if the problem would recur. Some days the shower was fine. Some days you would get a sudden surprise as the water temperature plummeted. We never knew when it would happen!


For the most part, everything works with vivas. Examiners and candidates have a sense of what is supposed to happen, and then everyone does their part to make that a reality.

But sometimes a question doesn’t produce the response that was expected.

Occasionally an assumption about an idea is wrong.

Or emotions in the event are too much.

All of these could be uncomfortable, even shocking in the moment. Like a suddenly cold shower.

But like a cold shower, if you’re already in that moment, what else can you do but continue? What else can you do but keep going?

If there’s a mismatch of expectations, or a question prompts an odd response, or if you’re feeling overwhelmed then pause. Ask a question. Ask for a break. Ask for help! Read your thesis. Sip some water. Do something.

As best as you can in the situation, keep going.


Cold showers and challenging viva moments. Both can be unexpected. Both can be uncomfortable.

When you’re in that kind of situation, you have no choice but to find a way forward. For the viva, remember that you have knowledge, talent and experience.