“Not The Word I’d Use…”

I’ve asked over six thousand candidates in workshops, seminars and webinars, “How do you feel about your viva?”

Less than 1% have said they felt excited.

There’s probably some selection bias there; if you’re attending a session about getting ready for the viva then perhaps you’re less likely to feel excited.

Candidates often feel nervous, which is a similar flavour of emotion; nervous and excited are both a reaction to how you anticipate something, but nervous has a much more negative sense to it. Candidates often express concern or worry: rather than being simply nervous about the viva, they have a particular aspect that they’re focussed on, a problem that needs a solution.

Many candidates feel unprepared. Thankfully that’s a temporary state; work moves you from unprepared to prepared. Work also helps with worry, you have to do something to change how you feel. Preparation won’t help nerves directly but it can help to build confidence. Confidence helps a candidate feel capable – they know what they know, they’re sure of what they’ve done, they can do what they need to – even if they then feel nervous they can put that into perspective.

And, on occasion, preparation and learning more about the viva could help someone to feel excited. As they know more of what to expect they could come to see that perhaps this is an event that’s not a final hurdle to jump or an encounter they need to win. It’s an opportunity to enjoy.

It’s not likely though. On most occasions when a candidate tells me they are excited they hastily clarify, “Er, excited to be done!”


You feel how you feel. It’s not good or bad to feel one thing or another, but understand that some states are more or less helpful for you. How you feel cannot simply be changed, but you can work towards a different state. So: how do you feel? How do you want to feel? What could you do to try to change how you feel?

Nervous & Excited

If you feel nervous about your viva then you’re reacting to the importance of the event. In anticipation you feel that you want everything to go well and that’s the nerves you feel.

If you feel excited about your viva then you’re also reacting to the importance of the event. You feel more certainty than a nervous person perhaps, and can’t wait for the viva to go well.

Feeling nervous isn’t wrong. Feeling excited isn’t wrong. Neither are end states. They change and can be made to change. Feelings can help to prompt your action.

Feeling nervous for the viva? What do you need to do to help (as nerves aren’t always comfortable)?

Feeling excited for the viva? What do you need to do to maintain your good feelings (as they might still need encouragement)?

How do you feel? So what do you need to do?

Excited (To Be Done)

In viva prep sessions I ask candidates how they feel about their viva. Often, the group are between a few weeks away from their viva to a few months before submission, and there will be a range of emotions in the room. There’s lots of worry, concern about being unprepared, maybe uncertainty about what they feel.

And typically one person who raises their hand and says, “I’m excited actually…”

…but then they hurriedly qualify their statement with, “…erm, to be done!”

Excited that it will soon all be over. Excited that soon they will feel relief. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it saddens me that the most positive people seem to feel is “excited (to be done)”.

I don’t have a magic wand to wave, but if I could I would aim it to help people feel:

  • Excited that they get to discuss their work with examiners!
  • Excited to have achieved something big!
  • Excited to have come so far and learned so much!

I suspect these candidates do exist, but perhaps feel like they can’t speak up as much. Maybe it’s hard to seem positive around others who don’t.

If you want to feel some flavour of excitement for your viva, even excited to be done, but are stuck on something like worry, anxiety or fear, then think about what you could do to move yourself. What do you want to feel, and what could you do to get you there?