No Need For Luck

You have to have a lot for your viva.

You need some research, developed over several years or more.

You need a thesis, written to an appropriate standard.

You need one or more supervisors to help along the way.

You need a little time to get ready before the viva, doing the right things to help you be prepared.

You need to be a good candidate – someone who has done the work, improved through the effort and success – someone ready to engage with their examiners’ questions.

If these are the things you need to satisfy for the viva then you don’t need luck.

Good Luck Isn’t

It’s nice when someone says, “Good luck!” before your viva. It helps to know that others are thinking of you and wish you the best.

At the same time it’s important to remind yourself that your success doesn’t need luck. The viva isn’t random; passing isn’t subject to simple good luck.

Through your PhD you will have been fortunate – you have worked hard and that has worked out – but you’ve not been lucky. Your success is built on foundations of time, skill, knowledge, effort and persistence.

“Good luck!” is nice and not to be discouraged – but don’t believe for a moment that your success on viva day is lucky in any way.

Practice & Luck

The harder I practise, the luckier I get.

Quote Investigator explores the story of this little phrase, which I only encountered recently but which has clearly been around for a while. Long time readers of this blog will know I don’t believe in “luck” – but I appreciate the sentiment here. The more you invest in your research, your skill, your knowledge, your thesis, your practice – the more you invest in yourself – the “luckier” you are when you encounter tricky situations.

Preparation is needed for the viva, but don’t forget you’re drawing on years of practice when you meet your examiners. You make your own “luck”.


Flashback to one of the earliest posts in this blog: “You’re fortunate, you’re not lucky.

A tricky question, a tough correction, a difficult discussion – none of these are unlucky. They happen for a reason. You missed something. You made a choice that didn’t come together. You had a lapse of concentration. Some of these things may or may not be beyond your control. But still, you’re not unlucky – that would mean that your PhD and viva were just random events.

You’re not simply lucky if you pass; you’re not simply unlucky if something doesn’t work quite right. And given that a massive majority of viva candidates pass the viva, it’s not likely that you would be unfortunate either.

Unlucky For Some?

If the viva came down to luck, I’d be worried if mine was on Friday 13th! But it’s not about luck.

  • You’re not lucky if your thesis passes with minor corrections.
  • You’re not lucky if your examiners say nice things.
  • You’re not lucky if you feel good about your viva.

Your PhD comes down to effort, actions and talent: the things you do over a long period of time put you in a good position for the viva.

You can be fortunate, but that’s different. Fortunate is something good happening as a result of effort. You can be fortunate throughout your PhD as a result of the questions you ask, the risks you take and the good work you do. You’ll likely be fortunate in the viva, because of all the work that you’ve done, and the talent you bring with you.

It’s not likely that you’ll be unlucky (or lucky).