I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel about my PhD being done. Reflecting now that’s pretty true for all of the different stages of “done” there are. I was almost overwhelmed by how many different states I felt.

When I submitted my thesis I felt relieved, but it felt unreal that I’d finished writing.

When I was preparing I felt confident, but then suddenly insomniac the night before.

On the day I was happy to pass, but exhausted, and overwhelmed I think.

It was also an anticlimax. My viva was challenging, but fine too. It was just suddenly done… Anticlimax feels the right way to describe it.

Submitting my final, corrected thesis was a happy day, but at the same time sad.

Happy to be done, sad to be leaving.

As I often say on this blog, there are lots of realistic expectations for the viva. As a result you can do a lot to prepare but I’m not sure you can prepare for how you might feel after it’s done. It’s good that you’re done, but it might not feel great.

That sense of “I’ve done something significant” took time to hit me. I didn’t get it on the day, or the day after. It took weeks.

You might not know how you’ll feel. It doesn’t take away from the achievement.


There are lots of ways people try to classify vivas. In my own work I’ve asked lots of questions before, hoping to see patterns.

“How long was it?”

“Did you get minor corrections?”

“Did your examiners go page-by-page?”

“Did you find out the result afterwards?”

As a starting point, you could say that my viva was a long/minor/page-by-page/afterwards-type viva. But when I think about it there are other factors that distinguish my viva.

It was long, but felt like it flew by. I was asked to give a presentation. I had to wait about twenty minutes afterwards to find out the result.

So let’s refine: my viva was a long-but-felt-short/presentation-start/page-by-page/minor/afterwards/twenty-minute-wait-type viva.

And it was tiring. Oh, and I was stood up for my whole viva.

So let’s refine again…

…or let’s not.

Questions and stories about the viva help set expectations. They help shape what you do to prepare. They boost your confidence.

But that’s just one side of things. At some point you have to accept that your viva will be unique.

A singular exam for a singular person and their research.


Do we need to talk again about the negative things that people say, think and feel about the viva? Particularly on Friday 13th?

Let’s just say this: if you ask around, if you listen to what people tell you – about their experiences, about what the regulations say, about the expectations that everyone involved really has – you’ll find the viva isn’t something to be feared. It’s not “dun dun dun!”

More like “done-done-DONE!”


The day comes, you click print, and you’ve finished your PhD! Except for the viva.

You have your viva, it goes well, and you’ve finished your PhD! Except for corrections.

You take the time, do the work, finish your corrections and now you’ve finished your PhD!

But you have to wait until graduation.

Finally the day comes, you cross the stage, shake a hand and NOW you’ve finished your PhD! You’re done!

What now?