On Viva Wisdom

How many of the following bits of viva wisdom have you heard before?

  • The first question will be easy, the last one won’t be.
  • No-one fails.
  • Your examiners will just be your supervisor’s friends, so there’s nothing to worry about.
  • You just need to read your thesis.
  • Your supervisors wouldn’t let you submit if your thesis wasn’t good enough.

I’ve heard them many times – although, to be fair, I have worked in this area for over a decade and spoken to a lot of people about vivas! None of the points above are strictly true – the first and last, while veering closest to reality, lack a lot of context.

Viva wisdom is often shared as a means to defuse worries and anxiety. It’s an attempt to cover everyone or every situation. Viva wisdom often falls short because it doesn’t address specific concerns.

I’m not a fan of typical viva wisdom.

Advice? Tips? Practical approaches? Yes!

Wisdom? No.

Look for help, not simple statements. If a piece of advice or wisdom about the viva seems too simple or too good to be true, look deeper.

Look for the actions you need to take, because getting ready for the viva involves taking steps and doing things!