Horrible Viva Experience

posted
16-Sep-11, 15:13
edited about 14 seconds later
by ZoePhD
Avatar for ZoePhD
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 16 Sep 2011 15:27:16 =======
======= Date Modified 16 Sep 2011 15:24:37 =======
I need to share my viva story please! Any thoughts or suggestions welcome.

I just had my viva yesterday and it was the most horrible experience ever. I submitted after 3 years and 9 months with encouragement and approval of my 2 supervisors who thought the thesis was ready. We picked the two examiners quite carefully (or so we thought).

Basically, it was the most intense/difficult experience of my life. Aside from the unfortunate fact that I have been riddled by a nasty cold the days leading up to the viva, I was as expected, nervous. But I was also looking forward to discussing my topic with these two academics.

It turns out, they were not at all interested in discussing the content of my thesis, but rather chose to focus on methodology for most of the time. For the first two hours (it lasted 3h30) I had no idea what they were thinking about my thesis. They gave me no indication whatsoever at the beginning until after the deliberation. I know they don't have to tell you, but it was pretty harsh to have no idea what they were thinking whilst trying to answer their questions appropriately. It was harder because it meant that I had no idea why they were asking me the questions that they did (was it because they didn't like it, or they just wanted to know my rationale, etc...?)

Anywho, at some point the 2 hours, I get a break at some point because they see that I was shivering and not doing too well (b/c of the aforementioned cold), but frankly I was quite happy to have a chance to go grab a tea and burst into tears because I was near tipping point in the viva but obviously did not want to do that in front of them.

So after the first two hours, I leave the room while they deliberate for 15-20 minutes and go back in. They finally tell me that I've passed because they think my work is of doctoral level (first positive comment) but that there are major weaknesses. The internal starts enumerating the changes they want me to make, and when I open my mouth, she dismisses me and says 'the viva is over.' I start to freak out because it is only then that they start to tell me exactly what they had a problem with, and while it relates to the questions they were asking me earlier, the way the questions were formulated did not indicate these issues.

I was intent on defending one point that slightly related to my argument (everything else was methodology based) but when I showed them exactly where I do the things they say I don't (with references to my chapter) they say it doesn't matter. I feel like I didn't get a chance to defend the thesis, because I only found out what the issues were at the end, when I couldn't say anything.

I'm trying to be positive, but I can't get over how it went down. Thought?
posted
16-Sep-11, 15:33
edited about 6 seconds later
by sneaks
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 9 years ago
It sounds horrible, BUT you did pass! (up) I would just put it down to the fact that many people in academia (present company excluded lol) have no social skills and find seemingly impossible to act like normal human beings. YOu could have been subject to an ego fight between the examiners you were unaware of, politics in the viva, or just stuffy 'formal' examiners who didn't want to let you in on what was going on.

I'd get any changes done and put it behind you :-)
posted
16-Sep-11, 16:01
edited about 15 seconds later
by Delta
Avatar for Delta
posted about 9 years ago
Good advice from Sneaks. They think your work is of doctoral level and YOU PASSED!!!! I'm not underestimating what you've been through but that aspect is behind you. Try to look to the positives and....well done (up)
posted
16-Sep-11, 16:44
by Cakeman
Avatar for Cakeman
posted about 9 years ago
hi ZoePhD

Firstly, congratulations on passing

I'm sorry to hear that Viva day was such a bad experience for you.

I think many PhD thesii that are passed have major weaknesses, it just depends whether the people doing the viva deem this to be acceptable or not I suppose. I remember thinking before my viva just how much I was at the mercy of the people giving the viva and their opinions of how a viva should be. Sure enough, it does'nt say anywhere that these people have to be nice, although I think the majority are quite reasonable, it seems you ended up with a couple of examiners who aren't so reasonable.

This is perhaps where i have a problem with academia, there are very few strict regualtions on what constitutes "reasonable behaviour" and not many good guidelines for procedures such as a viva.

All I can really suggest is to simply move on, get the corrections done, and get on with life, you still passed and in reasonably standard time, which is much better than what happens to some people.

posted
16-Sep-11, 16:54
by ZoePhD
Avatar for ZoePhD
posted about 9 years ago
Thanks for all your responses :-) and for letting me vent. I really needed to get that off my chest, but you are all right: think positive and moving on. I will aim to put it past me and get a thicker skin because academia is tough nonetheless.

And I agree, Cakeman, the lack of transparency in how these procedures play out is consternating, and definitely warrants some consideration.
posted
16-Sep-11, 19:13
Avatar for mak_2011
posted about 9 years ago
ZoePhD

First of all many congratulations!
Secondly, I hear you that it was very tough. I had a similar experience and for weeks, I could not get the viva out of my head (I kept repeating answering their questions because I was not allowed much say during it at times). But listen, good thing is, one major step is over. And you did a great job. Think about it. These ppl grilled you and you successfully defended yourself. You should pat yourself on your shoulder for this. :p

Now, chill for some time, plz take a break! Next step is getting the corrections done. . .

Cheers
posted
16-Sep-11, 21:54
Avatar for TwankyPhD
posted about 9 years ago
many congratulations!!! i hate when people do that kind of thing at meetings and interviews. YOU PASSED though and that's the main thing, even if they were being assholes about it!
posted
16-Sep-11, 23:10
Avatar for Keenbean
posted about 9 years ago
Hey Zoe! Congrats on passing- that really is the main thing here! But I totally get how you feel about it being a horrible experience, and it's a shame, but in time it will become irrelevant as you move on to the next challenge in life. I had my viva about a month ago, and it was also completely  unpleasant (nasty internal examiner and some similar issues to yours but not as bad!), although I had a good outcome fortunately (just v minor corrections). However, it took me a long time to wind down and put it behind me. Many other people I know have actually described their viva as a pleasant experience, and I guess we all hope that we will have one of those. As you say, it is all down to the examiners and how they conduct the viva, so everyone's experience is different. It would be nice to look back and remember it as being a positive thing, but sometimes it just isn't. Believe me, you got the outcome you needed, and when you've made the changes and had them accepted this will be irrelevant. So congrats again on passing, and I hope you are able to celebrate!! Best, KB
posted
17-Sep-11, 00:14
by LilMsss
Avatar for LilMsss
posted about 9 years ago
It sounds like a horrific experience and while you managed to get through it, and more importantly PASSED - I understand how the bad experience would colour the feelings you have about the Viva. I know if it was me (or when it is me - I have couple of years before I get that far), I would have gained a lot of satisfaction from the process of completing a PhD and having created an original body of work and that my supervisors seemed pleased with my progress but I know for a fact I would be obsessing for months over how I feel the Viva went or should have gone.

At the end of the day, you achieved your goal - you completed your PhD, had the full support of your supervisors, survived a horrible, uncomfortable and stressful panel and passed your Viva! Congratulations where they are due - well done!!! (up)
posted
17-Sep-11, 14:12
by skig
Avatar for skig
posted about 9 years ago
Oh! It sounds like it was a bit of a disaster and you never really got a chance to properly defend it but... you did pass! It sounded a bit unfair to be honest, but as others said, you achieved your goal!

And thank you for sharing your experiences as well.

Congrats on passing your viva!

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