Viva Time

It could be a nervous time.

It could be a happy time.

It could be a strange time.

It could be a rushed time.


It’s a time of preparing.

A time for remembering.

A time for reflecting.

A time for checking.


Time could pass quickly.

Or time could pass slowly.

You could be waiting or pacing or chasing ideas.

Time could feel odd.


But it’s your time.

Your time to use as you want or need.

Your time to get ready and then be ready.

Viva time is your time.

Daily Confidence

I worry about my viva every day…

These were the first words I saw in the chat window during a viva help webinar when I asked for questions. In a few short sentences the person described how they couldn’t help it: they felt nervous and worried every day when they thought about their upcoming viva.

There are useful big picture things that could help – learning about what to expect, preparing for the viva, talking to friends – but nervousness for the viva can persist regardless.

Feeling nervous is not always an easy thing to switch off, but building confidence can help; confidence doesn’t eliminate nervousness, but it does help to put it into perspective.

The person in my webinar worried every day. I wonder what might happen if they did something for their confidence every day?

What would happen if you did something every day for your confidence? For example, you could:

  • Reflect on the contribution in your thesis.
  • Bookmark a page in your thesis that you’re proud of.
  • Create a playlist of music that helps you to feel confident.
  • Tell someone about your research.
  • Make a list of successes from your PhD.

Worrying and feeling nervous are perfectly human responses to big, important events. They can become habitual though, a recurring issue to be dealt with. Rather than wait for them to arrive, invest in a daily practice to build your confidence.

Finding Reasons

If before your viva you feel an abundance of nervousness, then you have to look a little and find reasons to feel confident. Confidence doesn’t eliminate nerves, but it does help to put those sorts of feelings into perspective. Nervousness recognises that something is important – confidence gives you the self-belief to know that things will be alright.

Look and find reasons. They could be reminding yourself of all the work you’ve done. They could be bound up in realising just how talented you are. Or you could focus on the process of the viva, what you need to do – what you can do – and what that means for you engaging with that process.

There are plenty of reasons to feel nervous about your viva. There are even more reasons to feel confident of success at your viva. Find them.


Outside of ghost stories and horror movies, there’s not a lot to be scared of on Halloween. The frights are all make believe, costume and shadows serving to send shivers down our spines. For a moment, perhaps, we feel a little anxious before we realise there was nothing to worry about.

And outside of apocryphal tales and half-rumours, there’s not a lot to be scared of by the viva. Worries spring forth from not-knowing, easily dismissed when you find out more about the process. Fears are largely unfounded, nerves building on feeling just how important the occasion is – evaporating in the daylight of the actual experience or by building confidence.

It’s not wrong to feel concerned about the viva. It matters, and it’s understandable to feel anxious. Eventually though, you will realise there was nothing to worry about.

In The Spotlight

In preparation for the viva you can reflect on possible questions, talk with friends or have a mock viva – but don’t forget that you’re not the only one in the spotlight on the big day!

Your thesis is centre-stage with you. Your examiners have read it cover to cover, so you’d best do the same as well. Your examiners will be thinking about it a lot, so it helps if you do too. They’ll be considering it carefully so take some time to do likewise.

Being in the spotlight, for you or your thesis, might not always feel great – but the only way to get around that feeling is to spend more time in the spotlight. More time rehearsing, more time reading and reflecting.

My Comfortable Shoes

I didn’t feel particular nervousness about the viva, but I don’t remember feeling great about it either. To feel a tiny bit better I wore my most comfortable shoes. I continued to do this for years afterwards when I was in situations – mostly work-related – where I felt uncomfortable.

In fact, I did everything I could to make my situation comfortable. Comfortable shoes. A preparation routine. Arriving early to make sure I had plenty of time. Anything and everything I could think of to feel more comfortable and more capable.

The nature of the viva can make it very uncomfortable for some candidates. It’s to be expected: general nervousness or apprehension about what might happen can be unsettling. Feelings of nervousness about the viva aren’t bad in themselves – they’re normal responses to the environment you’ll be in – but they aren’t comfortable and they aren’t always helpful.

So, if the event could feel uncomfortable, what could you do to increase your comfort?

  • You could find out more about what to expect and possibly remove anxieties that aren’t necessary.
  • You could have a mock viva to remove discomfort at thinking about questions and responding to them.
  • You could take something with you that helps you to feel good or better.
  • You could invite your supervisor to your viva to be a friendly face – assuming that’s how you feel about them!

What could you do to increase your comfort at the viva? Once you have some options, decide what you will do to be more comfortable on viva day.

Where You’re Meant To Be

For all the nerves you might feel, despite any knocks to confidence or worries about research, it’s worth remembering that if you are headed towards your viva date you are precisely where you’re meant to be.

You did the work. You learned. You grew. You got better. Your thesis is proof of that. It’s not perfect, and neither are you, but by now both of you are good enough to meet the standard.

If you don’t feel that, you’re the only one who can change that feeling. Find out more about the viva perhaps, work to boost your confidence, do the necessary work to get ready – and remember that this is where you’re meant to be.

Right here, right now, on track to succeeding in your viva.

Nervous or Confident?

You don’t have to feel one or the other for your viva. In fact, it’s likely that on the day and in the time leading up to your viva you could feel a whole range of things.

Nervousness comes from feeling the importance of viva day.

Confidence flows from feeling sure of your ability, knowledge and contribution.

The viva is important, so of course you might feel nervous. But you’re also capable, knowledgeable and someone who has done the work. As a result, you can feel confident.

It’s not either-or. You may feel nervous and confident: perhaps a little uncomfortable from the event itself, but hopefully sure of your place in the process.

You Got This!

Your viva is coming up and you got this!

Whatever questions, comments or criticisms your examiners have, you got this!

Whatever pressures you faced throughout your PhD, you got this!

However the pandemic impacted your work, you got this!

Whatever challenges you face in your prep, you got this!

However you feel – nervous or excited, anxious or eager – you got this!

Because if you don’t, who does?

Something To Look Forward To

Can you feel excited for your viva?

Or if not, can you feel excited that soon everything you need for your PhD will be done?

Whatever challenges we face, it can help to have something to look forward to. If that’s not the viva that is coming your way, then perhaps look beyond to your celebration, the relief of passing, the next big thing that you’ll be doing.

What do you have to look forward to?