Viva fear

Anything that does not fit into the above categories, but is related to psychology, including discussion of public and media perceptions of psychology, satire related to psychology, etc.
User avatar
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 2:21 pm

Viva fear

Post by Batfish » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:03 pm

Hi everyone

I just wanted to post because I'm experiencing a really quite overwhelming fear over my PhD viva this Monday. No amount of Reading over and summarising my thesis seems to be helping me to feel better and a mock viva with my supervisors on Wednesday helped me feel slightly more prepared but also kicked my anxiety into superpower overdrive.

I have various techniques to calm myself on the day and to refocus if I get off track, but I'm just so terrified that when they ask me questions I'll panic, forget everything and they will think I don't know it. In this scenario I then fail, lose my dclin place for September, my head falls off, the world explodes. You get the picture.

If anyone has any words of wisdom I'd really really appreciate them. Right now I mainly need to know how to get through the weekend without running laps of the living room screaming obscenities. It annoys my OH and unsettles the cat.

Thanks all.

User avatar
Site Admin
Posts: 7338
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:20 pm
Location: Bucks

Post by miriam » Fri Jun 11, 2010 2:48 pm

Mainly vivas aren't so bad, its just the hellish ones that get talked about, but they aren't representative. Firstly, put it into perspective. Even if you did fail, it wouldn't actually matter. It doesn't cause pain or ill health, it won't change how your friends and family feel about you. DClin places are not conditional on having a PhD, and once you have a DClin place you'll end up being Dr anyway, and noone will really care what came before that. Secondly, its your work. You've spent ages on it. Noone will know it better than you, so the examiners aren't likely to think up some left field question that you can't give an answer to (but if they did, you can say "you know what, I've thought about this for 5 years and I hadn't thought about that, I'd like to go away and read up about it") and if anything it will be added to a list of minor amendments.

Normally the result of a viva is minor or major amendments, which then let you pass, after a bit more work. Very few people get through scott free, and very few get failed without being warned all along that was likely to happen and ignoring advice. Besides, your supervisors should have given you feedback if anything was concerning in terms of breadth, scope, style, etc. In my experience as an external examiner the supervisor and course staff would be highly embarrassed if the examiners even feel there is a need for major amendments, and would try to talk them down to minor amendments (the latter being able to be passed if the internal examiners feel the candidate has met the requirement, without having the external examiner re-check the thesis or a new viva).

But most of all, you've done it. You've done the work. The thesis is written. It met the standard of the university. Now all you've got to do is have a chat about it to show it was your own work!

(use the search function on 'viva' and you'll see how common these anxieties are, but how most people survive anyway)

See my blog at

User avatar
Posts: 638
Joined: Fri Apr 13, 2007 1:18 pm
Location: the land of procrastination

Post by chixta » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:14 pm

A senior research person at our university told us that if you have a good robust project, you will not be able to mess it up through your viva - unless you start swearing at them, say nothing at all or basically some other extreme behaviour!! :shock: :lol:

You know your project MUCH better than they do. Be confident, you did this yourself, be proud at what you have achieved. Teach them about your awesome research and show them how fab it is!!

User avatar
Posts: 3100
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:32 pm
Location: London

Post by Ruthie » Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:48 pm

I agree with what everyone else has said - and honestly, the viva won't be as bad as you think. Very very few vivas are about passing or failing - they're about deciding what needs to be done to bring the thesis up to scratch so your main task will be to minimise the corrections.

However, here's a handy list of tips I was sent for coping in vivas:

Viva tips

1. "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the singing of our National Anthem..."

2. Charge 25 cents a cup for coffee.

3. "Charge the mound" when a professor beans you with a high fast question.

4. Describe parts of your thesis using interpretive dance.

5. "Musical accompaniment provided by..."

6. Stage your own death/suicide.

7. Lead the specators in a Wave.

8. Have a sing-a-long.

9. "You call THAT a question? How the hell did they make you a professor?"

10. "Ladies and Gentlemen, as I dim the lights, please hold hands and concentrate so that we may channel the spirit of Lord Kelvin..."

11. Have bodyguards outside the room to "discourage" certain professors from sitting in.

12. Puppet show.

13. Group prayer.

14. Animal sacrifice to the god of the Underworld.

15. Sell T-shirts to recoup the cost of copying, binding, etc.

16. "I'm sorry, I can't hear you - there's a banana in my ear!"

17. Imitate Groucho Marx.

18. Mime.

19. Hold a Tupperware party.

20. Have a bikini-clad model be in charge of changing the overheads.

21. "Everybody rhumba!!"

22. "And it would have worked if it weren't for those meddling kids..."

23. Charge a cover and check for ID.

24. "In protest of our government's systematic and brutal oppression of minorities..."

25. "Anybody else as drunk as I am?"

26. Smoke machines, dramatic lighting, pyrotechnics...

27. Use a Super Soaker to point at people.

28. Surreptitioulsy fill the room with laughing gas.

29. Door prizes and a raffle.

30. "Please phrase your question in the form of an answer..."

31. "And now, a word from our sponsor..."

32. Present your entire talk in iambic pentameter.

33. Whine piteously, beg, cry...

34. Switch halfway through your talk to Pig Latin. Or Finnish Pig Latin.

35. The Emperor's New Slides ("only fools can't see the writing...")

36. Table dance (you or an exotic dancer).

37. Fashion show.

38. "Yo, a smooth shout out to my homies..."

39. "I'd like to thank the Academy..."

40. Minstrel show (blackface, etc.).

41. Previews, cartoons, and the Jimmy Fund.

42. Pass the collection basket.

43. Two-drink minimum.

44. Black tie only.

45. "Which reminds me of a story - A Black guy, a Chinese guy, and a Jew walked into a bar..."

46. Incite a revolt.

47. Hire the Goodyear Blimp to circle the building.

48. Release a flock of doves.

49. Defense by proxy.

50. "And now a reading from the Book of Mormon..."

51. Leave Jehovah's Witness pamphlets scattered about.

52. "There will be a short quiz after my presentation..."

53. "Professor Robinson, will you marry me?"

54. Bring your pet boa.

55. Tell ghost stories.

56. Do a "show and tell".

57. Food fight.

58. Challenge a professor to a duel. Slapping him with a glove is optional.

59. Halftime show.

60. "Duck, duck, duck, duck... GOOSE!"

61. "OK - which one of you farted?"

62. Rimshot.

63. Sell those big foam "We're number #1 (sic)" hands.

64. Pass out souvenier matchbooks.

65. -ring defense.

66. "Tag - you're it!"

67. Circulate a vicious rumor that the Dead will be opening, making sure that it gets on the radio stations, and escape during all the commotion.

68. Post signs: "Due to a computer error at the Registrar's Office, the original room is not available, and the defense has been relocated to (Made-up non-existent room number)"

69. Hang a pinata over the table and have a strolling mariachi band.

70. Make each professor remove an item of clothing for each question he asks.

71. Rent a billboard on the highway proclaiming "Thanks for passing me Professors X,Y, and Z" - BEFORE your defense happens.

72. Have a make-your-own-sundae table during the defense.

73. Make committee members wear silly hats.

74. Simulate your experiment with a virtual reality system for the spectators.

75. Do a soft-shoe routine.

76. Throw a masquerade defense, complete with bobbing for apples and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.

77. Use a Greek Chorus to highlight important points.

78. "The responsorial psalm can be found on page 124 of the thesis..."

79. Tap dance.

80. Vaudeville.

81. "I'm sorry Professor Smith, I didn't say 'SIMON SAYS any questions?'. You're out."

82. Flex and show off those massive pecs.

83. Dress in top hat and tails.

84. Hold a pre-defense pep rally, complete with cheerleaders, pep band, and a bonfire.

85. Detonate a small nuclear device in the room. Or threaten to.

86. Shadow puppets.

87. Show slides of your last vacation.

88. Put your overheads on a film strip. Designate a professor to be in charge of turning the strip when the tape recording beeps.

89. Go around the room making a different person read the pre-written text for each slide picture.

90. "OK, everybody - heads down on the desk until you show me you can behave."

91. Call your advisor "sweetie".

92. Have everyone pose for a group photo.

93. Instant replay.

94. Laugh maniacally.

95. Talk with your mouth full.

96. Start speaking in tongues.

97. Explode.

98. Implode.

99. Spontaneously combust.

100. Answer every question with a question.

Posts: 982
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:42 pm

Post by ElizabethB » Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:55 pm

Best of luck Batfish.....I'm sure you will be fine!! Congratulations on your DClinPsych place by the way :D

I'm finishing my PhD at the moment and I'll (hopefully!) have my viva in the autumn.

I hope my thinking starts to change as I seem to be in a never ending circle of thinking I'll never finish my PhD, let alone pass the viva!!! I know my thoughts are probably not rationale as my supervisors (who examine PhD students all the time and are very critical) have recently given me some great feedback.

Anyway, I don't have anything more to add other than best of luck- and I certainly share some of your feelings about the Viva process! :shock: I think everyone feels nervous about the PhD're the expert of your thesis and I'm sure your supervisors will not have let you submitted if they thought you would fail the viva/PhD. Fingers crossed!! xxx :wink:

Posts: 982
Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:42 pm

Post by ElizabethB » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:23 pm

chixta wrote:you will not be able to mess it up through your viva - unless you start swearing at them, say nothing at all or basically some other extreme behaviour!! :shock: :lol:
This made me laugh!! :lol:

User avatar
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 2:21 pm

Post by Batfish » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:38 pm

Thanks everyone, you all talk a lot of sense. Especially Ruthie on points 4, 6 , and 21.

User avatar
Posts: 1226
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2007 3:20 pm
Location: Midlands

Post by schizometric » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:06 pm


Perhaps this also applies to vivas? Could be a good failsafe!
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.

Posts: 2381
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:02 pm

Post by astra » Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:42 pm

sure I replied to this earlier - where did my post go? or was it my marbles I lost? hmm wierd. Anyway, top and bottom of it was you'll be fine. But if you have any doubts I think ruthie has some very good (and not at all inappropriate) suggestions above.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

User avatar
Posts: 249
Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2008 12:10 pm

Post by katja » Sun Jun 13, 2010 3:12 pm

I don't know anything about vivas but having presented your research at the Exeter interview and getting a place that must give you confidence!
Good luck tomorrow :)

User avatar
Posts: 301
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 12:14 pm

Post by AdamC » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:16 am

Hope everything goes well today.

Just think, you've clearly already impressed your external, because of your DClinPsy place.

Posts: 2381
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2007 9:02 pm

Post by astra » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:26 am

I found my marbles and my missing post - it was on the 5 things I'm thinking today thread. Phew! I'm not as daft as I was starting to think.
From the point of view of mindfulness, as long as you're breathing there's more right with you than wrong with you. Jon Kabat-Zinn

User avatar
Posts: 496
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Leeds

Post by steve79 » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:32 am

Good luck. I always give myself at least 5 seconds before I open my mouth with an answer - gives you time to think!

Ste :)

User avatar
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Mar 27, 2010 2:21 pm

Post by Batfish » Mon Jun 14, 2010 11:30 pm

Hi folks

thanks for your kind words. It ended up being quite a tough afternoon with two and a half hours or so's worth of what felt like a pretty intense grilling. In the end I got resubmission which sounds really awful but is actually major changes that are purely rewriting, no data collection or reanalysis. I also don't have to do another viva which is good news as I'm really more the seeing someone else's point and taking it on board type rather than the argue my side type. But I do think I let myself down a bit today by getting a bit overwhelmed and forgetting stuff, as well as getting Tongue tied and not really managing to say what I meant a few times.

Anyway. Sort of a deferred pass. Thanks everyone for the nice stuff you all said. I'm trying not to be disappointed by that result. Hopefully I can resubmit in time for starting in september. Then I don't think I'll care half as much how big the changes were. :)

User avatar
Posts: 3100
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:32 pm
Location: London

Post by Ruthie » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:46 am

Well done! Congratulations Batfish!

And *this is it* - last set of changes!!! How many sets of changes did you get from your supervisor before submission?!

Examiners often give you far more time than is necessary to make the changes so crack on with them - I'm sure you can get them done sooner than you think.

With my PhD corrections, I called the examiner and said, what exactly do I need to do for you to pass this and did that. It was very helpful to get him to be very explicit so I could just do what was needed and no more.

Good luck!


PS. I did my "3 months worth" of DClin corrections in half a day!

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests