There are lots of key viva expectations, based around the typical length, the structure, tone and overall (high!) pass rate.

There are also anti-expectations that are much more particular to individuals: beliefs and expectations that, despite the general picture, something will go wrong this time, for them. Hardworking, capable candidates can come to believe that…

  • …they won’t pass, despite what everyone says.
  • …examiners are not going to be fair, they’ll just look for problems and mistakes.
  • …they just can’t be ready in time for the viva.

With viva anti-expectations, worries are jumped on and magnified. Details from one viva story are generalised. Anxieties blossom through misunderstanding and become something difficult to be shifted.


Of course, every viva is unique. It would be ridiculous to claim that every viva is free from problems. But the overwhelming evidence from the stories presented and the available understanding of the general situation is that vivas are fair, examiners are reasonable and prepared, vivas are structured and they can be prepared for.

If you hold any anti-expectations, then look for the evidence that supports them. Is it convincing? Is there even evidence for what you’re expecting?

Or is it better to explore the general expectations of the viva that you can use to get ready?