Some PhD candidates think of the viva as a TV quiz show. How do I know this? Because many, many candidates over the last decade have asked me questions like:

  • How many questions can I get wrong?
  • How can I score highly?
  • Can I pass on questions I don’t know?
  • How big is the thirty-second timer in the room?!

…OK, maybe they haven’t asked that last question! 🙂

But the questions people do ask give a window into how they think of something.

Thinking of the viva as being like a game show, even in some small ways, is not helpful. The viva is not a quiz show. Questions are not only true or false, they’re not multiple choice or needing to remember a fact.

The viva, first and foremost, is a discussion. That’s how you respond. That’s how you engage with your examiners.

Knowing things and being able to share information helps, but be ready for a conversation and not a quiz at your viva.