From time to time I’ve been told that the viva is unfair because candidates are at a great disadvantage due to the position they’re in. Examiners can ask what they want, they have more experience, they get to decide the outcome, candidates don’t know what’s coming – and so on.
I’ll admit, there are things that a candidate won’t know at the start of their viva – but does that really disadvantage them?
There are regulations that govern the viva. There are consistent expectations – patterns of experience – that are derived from countless viva stories. The viva is a custom exam every time, but it springs from the seeds of the candidate’s work. The viva is an exam on their thesis and their journey. A candidate might not know every question, but they know everything they need to be able to respond to them.
A candidate is in a different position to their examiners. They have a different role in the viva. They have different information. But that doesn’t mean they are at a disadvantage.