Most vivas result in success, the majority result in minor corrections and a fair percentage are only one to two hours long. Questions are challenging but fair for the person who has to respond to them. However:

  • There are also long vivas.
  • There are tricky questions.
  • Some people do get major corrections.
  • And some candidates don’t enjoy the viva process.

What percentages of candidates have these experiences? Which candidates are more likely to have them? I don’t know. It would be almost impossible to say. But I do think if we try to summarise vivas with single attributes we can run into trouble. For example:

  • A long viva could be filled with interesting discussion. Tiring but satisfying.
  • Tricky questions can be fun to talk about or be only one out of hours of talking.
  • Major corrections will take work but will certainly make a thesis better.
  • Not enjoying the process could be for many reasons and would still most likely lead to passing.

I don’t think you can expect your viva to be the most amazing event of your life. I don’t think you can expect that it will be awful either. There’s a range of overlapping patterns of expectations that can guide you to getting ready.

Your viva will probably be neither “good” nor “bad”. Expect that it will be alright and expect that you will be fine.