Option Two

As a PhD candidate, I think you have two main strategies to manage how you feel about your viva.

Option One is to try and squash down any nerves that you feel. Take any worries and anxieties and just push them down, lock them away and avoid them at all. Don’t engage. I’ve seen viva success follow from this approach, but at a cost to candidates’ state of mind. I wouldn’t advise following Option One.

Option Two is to work to boost your confidence. Recognise your ability, work to prepare for the viva, notice your talent and where it comes from. Doing this will far outweigh any nervousness you feel.

Nervousness and confidence are not polar opposites – they’re different things all together. You can be nervous about the viva, because you recognise that it matters, yet confident in your success. You only have so much energy and effort available. Rather than focus on squashing away nerves, work to boost your confidence. Confidence will put your anxieties into perspective.

Option One: squash nerves.

Option Two: boost confidence.

Go with Option Two.

Different Approaches

When it comes to viva prep there are lots of ways you could try to prepare.

You could read your thesis once and leave it at that.

You could read and re-read your thesis to try to remember everything.

You could obsess and try to make everything perfect.

You could do nothing and shrug your shoulders, saying “What happens, happens!”

You could worry, and hope that nothing too bad happens.


…you could learn what to expect, reasonably; you could know your thesis is not perfect, and that’s OK; you could do a little prep, making sure you have a good general awareness of your thesis and research and time to rehearse in some way; you could work on building your confidence, so that you go to your viva as sure as you can be that you will succeed.

The last approach is my favourite of course. It’s less simple than the others, but easier to do.

How are you working your way to being prepared?