Comfortable Silence

There are many reasons for silence in the viva:

  • A moment while a broadband router buffers in the background.
  • Time while a page is consulted or a note made.
  • Processing time while someone thinks through the implications of a comment.
  • Thinking time in a candidate’s mind while they prepare a response.

The latter might feel unnerving, but none of these could feel particularly comfortable. Silence invites speculation. Knowing possible reasons doesn’t dissolve fears, it simple gives you something else to wonder about.

Rehearsals help. A mock viva won’t be a way to learn your lines like a play, but can give you the confidence to be in that space. Silence is just silence. The reasons don’t matter in a way. The silence is the space between the discussion. You have to wait for it to pass, or use it to help you think.

Practise and get comfortable with the little moments of quiet that you’re sure to find in your viva.

New Expectations?

It’ll take time to figure out what vivas look like now.

Old, settled norms of “vivas are about this long” or “vivas have this kind of structure” will be in flux a little. Examiners will have to tweak their approaches, candidates may need to consider things in their setup for the viva, and so on. That might not be a bad thing.

Remember though: the circumstances might change, but the reasons remain the same. Your examiners are there to examine, you are there to pass. You still need to prepare, and while you might need to practise differently – checking tech, being sure of any changes to regulations – the practical prep tasks you’ll complete to be ready will be largely the same.

If you need to, dig deeper into expectations by finding others who’ve had a remote viva. Focus on getting ready just as others have before; there may be new expectations for the viva now, but lots of old ones will remain.

A Trial Run

Mock vivas have always been a good idea. A space to rehearse for the viva, an opportunity to build confidence at responding to questions and gain certainty that you’re prepared for the real thing.

Now, more than ever, a mock – or something like one – is a very good idea.

If your viva is going to be over video link of some kind then have a trial run. It would be great to do that with your supervisor. Have a formal mock, get a feel for the technology and the flow of conversation when people are at a distance.

Then explore the software so that you have an idea of keyboard shortcuts if you need them, screensharing if it might help or whiteboards functions. Get a friend or two to have test calls with. Look into the camera. Check to see what you look like. Check to see what’s behind you. Check with someone on the other end that they can hear you well enough.

For your actual viva, everyone will be understanding if the signal drops out. Everyone will be understanding if you don’t have a perfect study or bookcase behind you.

Take a few occasions before your viva, if it will be a remote viva, to test the situation. Get a feel for what it will be like. A bit strange, but fine.

Something you can survive.