Almost Zero

Viva failure is exceptionally rare.

I’ve asked graduate schools, doctoral colleges and doctoral training programmes: they consistently tell me around one in one thousand vivas result in failure. That’s not zero, but I think we can reasonably deduce a few things:

  • The vast majority of PhD candidates meet the requirements, both in their thesis and themselves, in order to succeed.
  • The regulations and patterns of experience at the viva result in success (whatever shortcomings they might have).
  • However people prepare – whether they read a blog, buy a book or attend a webinar/workshop – they do enough to help themselves succeed.

If candidates reflect on their journey they’ll appreciate they’ve done enough. If people read the regulations and ask about expectations they should find information that helps. If they ask for advice or help with preparation then they should be able to figure out what to do (and do it).

Could things be better? Most likely! It would be great if all candidates enjoyed their viva experience. It would be great if the culture around the vivas was less opaque and mysterious so people knew more of what to expect.

All of that said: do the work, ask for help, take time to get ready and there’s almost zero chance that you’ll fail.