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.

Actions Beat Hopes

You can hope your examiners don’t spot them.

A vague paragraph. An unfortunate typo. An unfinished project. The method you can’t quite remember. The definition that you struggle to place. The ideas you’ve not finished developing.

The things you hope your examiners won’t notice, but they easily could. Hope is wonderful, but in this case hope isn’t enough.

Rather than hope your examiners won’t notice something, think about what you could do. Could you help yourself with more thought and more prep? Could you write a note in the margin or make some other useful annotation? Create a summary to explore or explain ideas? Ask a friend to ask you questions? Have a mock viva?

Hope can help you in the viva, but your actions help you more.

What will you do?

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.

A New Viva Alphabet!

I try every day to share something useful about the viva, but there are a lot of topics to be covered!

Back in June 2017 I shared A Viva Alphabet as a way to start thinking about many of the different themes and ideas that surround the viva. Today, I share a new series of thoughts. Again, I can’t cover every issue connected with the viva, but it’s a wide range of topics:

  • A is for Allies: there are lots of people around you who can help. Who do you need to ask first?
  • B is for Book: that’s what you have made! What could you do to help get a good working model of it in your mind?
  • C is for Contribution: the outputs of your research make a difference. How do you define yours?
  • D is for Doctorate: what you have been working towards. What will yours allow you to do?
  • E is for External: one of your examiners. Why were they a good choice?
  • F is for Finished: almost! What does this mean for you?
  • G is for Grumbles: you probably have some about your PhD, or about the viva. What can you do about them, or how can you live with them?
  • H is for Hard Work: you must do a lot of this to get to submission. What has been hardest?
  • I is for Internal: your other examiner! What do you know about them?
  • J is for Jot: the margins of your thesis are a great space for annotations. What could you add during your prep to help you in the viva?
  • K is for Knowledge: like Hard Work, you must have a lot of this. What do you know now that you didn’t know at the start of your PhD?
  • L is for Location: your viva has to take place somewhere. Where is the room and what is it like?
  • M is for Mock: a very common viva preparation activity. What would you hope to get from yours?
  • N is for Notes: you can make them throughout the viva. What would help you to do this well?
  • O is for Outcomes: there are many possibilities. What are the details of the outcomes at your institution?
  • P is for Post-it Note: one of the most valuable resources for viva prep! What could you use them for?
  • Q is for Quick: your viva is unlikely to be this, but it might feel that way. Either way, how could you prepare for the open-ended length of your viva?
  • R is for Response: what you can offer to a question in the viva. What would help you give good responses?
  • S is for Supervisor: the person who probably knows your work second-best to you. What help could they offer in preparation for the viva?
  • T is for Talented: what you necessarily are by submission-time. What are your skills, attributes and capabilities as a good researcher?
  • U is for Unique: you, your thesis, your viva! What makes you different? What makes everything you’ve done special?
  • V is for Viva: what else could it be??! Talk to your friends about theirs, see what general expectations you can discern for yours.
  • W is for Wondering: it’s not wrong to doubt or worry, but it is right to be fairly confident about your examiners’ assessment of your thesis. What do you hope they see in your research?
  • X is the Unknown: it’s reasonable to say “I don’t know” in the viva; some questions might not have answers. What could help you to give the best response you could?
  • Y is for You: it’s all up to You, your Hard Work, your Knowledge and the fact that you are Talented. If you have doubts still, what could help you to see that you are good at what you do?
  • Z is for Zero: the probability of your failure. Given everything you’ve done to get this far, what – realistically – could lead to you not passing?

Which of these have you considered before? What has passed you by so far? Any ideas for substitutions?

And what might you do now, having considered this new viva alphabet?

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.

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Viva Prep

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts over a few days. We’ll start my annual round-up with my favourite posts from 2019 on the subject of viva prep. Every PhD candidate will need to do something after submission to help themselves get ready. The posts below offer a range of different activities and encouragements to help with busy weeks waiting for the viva.

Spotted any other posts this year that you thought really helped with viva preparation? Let me know, and check back over the coming days for most Best of 2019 blog posts!

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.