The Nightmare Viva

What’s the worst thing that could really happen at your viva?

Failure is a very, very remote possibility. If you have real concern you should talk to your supervisors and friends – and unpick whether failure is more than a very, very remote possibility for you.

So then, what’s the worst thing that could really happen at your viva?

Perhaps you could be asked to complete corrections that you weren’t expecting or don’t want. That would be a nuisance but corrections come after the viva, after you’ve passed. You need to do the work to complete your PhD, but that’s all. Do them and you’re done.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Maybe an examiner could make a comment that you don’t like or ask a question you don’t want. It might be an uncomfortable moment but it wouldn’t stop you passing.

What’s the worst thing you could find at your viva?

Your viva could be long. It could have questions you don’t like. You might freeze or forget something. Your viva might not follow the trends of expectations you had heard about.


And yet: you’d still succeed. Because whatever happens, you still would have done the work. You still would have prepared. You still would be ready.

Maybe none of the things above match what you think the worst thing might be at your viva. It’s all hypothetical. Some or none of the above and perhaps none of your deepest worries might come true. They’re just traces of nightmare fuel for you, secret concerns that perhaps you’ve missed something in some way and that will spell the end.

It won’t be.

There is an end coming – the end of your PhD – and it’s a good thing. It might be different than you expect and it might have surprises you don’t like, but they’ll pass. You’ll be on to whatever you’re dreaming of next.