Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva

There are lots of reasons. Any one of the following might be enough:

  • You did the work.
  • You’re talented.
  • Your examiners are there to examine, not interrogate.
  • Vivas have expectations.
  • Examiners have responsibilities.
  • You can prepare for the viva…
  • …and you will have prepared for your viva. (right?!)
  • The viva isn’t a total mystery.
  • Of the three people in the room, you have the expertise when it comes to your thesis.
  • You have a history of rising to meet challenges.

Taken in combination, they paint an impressive picture for the outcome of your viva.

There are many more reasons you will pass your viva, specific to you, your thesis and your research journey. The many reasons you’ll pass align with reasons you could be confident about your performance in the viva.

You’ve not got this far by accident; you’ve not got this far by only showing up.

Everything? or Enough?

Have you done everything you could for your research and thesis? It’s almost impossible!

Have you done enough for your research and thesis? Probably, since most candidates do!

It helps to define “enough” before you try to decide if you’ve achieved it.

Similarly, you can’t do everything in preparation for your viva, but you can do enough. Figure out where you have gaps, where you need support, where others can help you, then work your way to being ready. Decide in advance on what you need to do before you get to work.

You can’t do everything, you can do enough.

Tend To Your Confidence

Confidence is essential for the viva, but you can’t just turn it on.

You have to nurture it.

If you want to grow vegetables, you could throw some seeds in a hole in the ground and wait to see what happens.

Or you could match the right seed to the right type of soil at the right time of year. Be deliberate. You could track when you water or add nutrients. You could decide how you will trim leaves or not, what supports you might need to help the plant grow well, whether or not you need to do something to help remove pests. There’s a lot you could do to help. You can’t guarantee the outcome, can’t see exactly what the final harvest will be, but you can do your best to steer the situation to the best possible outcome.

You can do the same thing for your confidence in general, and in particular for your viva. You can try things, find opportunities to give you more experience. You can reflect on your progress through your PhD to see times when you’ve clearly improved. You can think about what you could do to help your confidence on the day itself.

Not guaranteeing an outcome, but steering your confidence – and yourself – to the best possible outcome.

The First Day Of Viva Prep

It’s not the day you submit, or the day after.

It’s not the first time you read your thesis after submission, or when you start to get ready for a mock viva.

It isn’t even when you really start to plan for submission, or first think about what your examiners might ask.

The first day of viva prep was a long time ago. The first day of your PhD, whenever you started the work that has lead to your thesis. You have been preparing for a long time before you get to the viva: developing your talent, building your knowledge, getting better.

A little extra prep after submission is needed to be ready. Don’t forget though, for your confidence, that you have been preparing for a long time.

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Confidence

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts. Today we finish my annual round-up with my favourite posts from 2019 on the subject of confidence. After considering expectations, examiners, practical prep and all of the other topics that come to mind about the viva, confidence is the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s a very personal topic for me too, as I can see the difference it’s made to me since finishing my PhD.

Confidence helps put nerves and doubts into perspective, and helps candidates to see the talent that has lead them to the viva. Let me know what others posts have helped this year. Subscribe to the blog to get a new post by email every day in 2020!

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Short Posts

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts over a few days. In today’s round-up I want to share some of my favourite short posts. Sometimes an idea doesn’t take much to explain!

  • Requirements – all you need for your PhD.
  • Everything! – what you can’t have done!
  • Questions & Answers – a couple of thoughts about where your viva comes from.
  • A Better List Than Typos – something to focus on rather than spelling mistakes.
  • Labels – reflecting on the words that you choose to use to describe yourself, your examiners and the viva.
  • Final – putting the importance of the viva in perspective.

Drop me a line if you have other favourite short posts from 2019! Tomorrow, in the final post for this year we come to one of the most important topics for the viva: confidence.

2019 In Stats

In 2019 I have…

  • …published 360 posts on this blog!
  • …delivered my Viva Survivor session a total of 51 times…
    • …which is the most I’ve ever done in a year!
  • …helped 888 PhD candidates at my session, which is more than I did in 2018!
  • …started work on three new ebook projects that will see completion by Easter 2020!

(in case you couldn’t tell by all the exclamation marks, I’m feeling pretty excited!)

My personal highlights of the year include delivering Viva Survivor at a wildlife park – where I fed a lion! Shortly after that I passed the 200 session mark for my Viva Survivor delivery – and then I passed 225 sessions several months later! I’ve now delivered Viva Survivor to over 4000 postgraduate researchers around the UK.

Statistics are numbers, more of this, less of that, totals and highlights and averages. Statistics help mark the journey though.

“I delivered 51 Viva Survivor sessions this year” – the number helps me remember how I got where I am. Confidence isn’t a statistic, but statistics help frame the story.

What are your statistics for 2019?

  • How many times have you had a success?
  • How many days did you show up to get your work done?
  • How many talks have you given – even if you felt nervous?
  • How many words/pages/chapters have you written?
  • How many times did you get something wrong – and what did you learn?
  • And what can you measure to show that you’re doing well?

Your stats help tell a story you can tell others – after first telling a good story to you. Your story can persuade others you’ve done something good, convince them you can do what you can do and that you know what you know.

Start with the stats of your story.

Marley’s Post

I love A Christmas Carol. I’ve read the book, seen stage plays, cartoons, films and other adaptations. The story, in every form I’ve met it, always resonates. It’s only by visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future that Ebeneezer Scrooge is able to see the value of Christmas and see what he needs to change in himself. He needs to see Christmas Past and Present to see what he is missing (and what others are missing) and to see a Future which shows what might happen if he does not change.

You won’t be visited by three spirits or ghosts before your viva! Still, however you feel about the viva – Scrooge-like or not! – it’s worth considering the Past, Present and Future to be ready for it.

  • The Past. What have you done that has got you this far? And what have your friends told you about their vivas to set your mind at rest?
  • The Present. What do the regulations tell you about what to expect? What might you need to do in the coming weeks and months leading up to your viva?
  • The Future. What are the potential likely outcomes for your viva and what do they mean? And what will you do to get ready for it?

Consider, and learn the lessons of the Past, the Present and the Future for your viva!

Just Leave Everything To Me

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that I arrive early for my Viva Survivor sessions to get everything set up. I put my brain on the right frequency for Viva Survivor by listening to a few tracks from the soundtrack to Hello, Dolly! Today happens to be the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Hello, Dolly! – which seems as good a reason as any to muse a little on one of the songs!

“Just Leave Everything To Me” introduces the character of Dolly Levi. She tells the audience she is capable at nearly everything. She shows in the song and through the movie a willingness to think on her feet, an aptitude for fast problem solving and a real drive to get things done.

Dolly would be a great PhD candidate. Just leave everything to me is a useful thought for viva candidates: for the most part, the viva really is down to a candidate’s wits, their knowledge and their ability. A candidate can choose to go to the viva ready and able to engage with the discussion. In the few hours they’ll be with their examiners it really is just up to them.

Just leave everything to me is a useful mindset for the viva, but it’s worth remembering everyone around you who can help. From your supervisor to your friends and family, there are many people who have helped your success so far, and most of them can continue to help you up until the moment you enter the viva.

It’s not wrong to ask for help before the viva. It’s right to feel that you are capable, and that your success in the viva is up to you.

And maybe it’s right to look for that one tune that helps you get ready, one song that primes you for feeling amazing. What would yours be?