Worry & Questions

Lots of viva worries are centred around responding to questions.

  • Viva Worry 1: I’ll freeze.
  • Viva Worry 2: My examiners will ask me something difficult.
  • Viva Worry 3: I’ll get a question I can’t answer.

A deeper worry is that some combination of these will all happen at the same time.


These are real and human worries, particularly for a PhD candidate. Being nervous for an exam is understandable. Being worried is understandable.

You can learn to sit with nerves – they’re a recognition that something is important – but worry is something that has to be dealt with proactively.

You can work past the three viva worries above – and others – by taking action.

If you’re worried you’ll freeze then find opportunities to rehearse. Mock vivas and conversations can help you to get a rhythm for responding to questions and comments.

If you’re worried that your examiners will ask something difficult then ask your supervisor to practise with you by asking difficult questions. Take time to think and respond.

If you’re worried about questions you can’t answer then you have to  explore what the viva is really like. You might get questions you can’t answer but not every question needs an answer. You might be asked for an opinion or a theory or just your first impressions.


Worry doesn’t just go away. You have to work your way past it.