The viva (oral examination)

The oral examination is a vital part of the assessment process. Find out what to expect during your viva, how it is arranged and what University facilities you can access after submitting your thesis. Please see our Guide to the thesis examination process for more detailed information.

The purpose of a viva

All PGRs must attend an oral examination (viva) to ensure that your thesis meets the University standards for the degree and that you have written and understood the work submitted. A ‘mock viva’ may be helpful for some PGRs and can be arranged with your supervisor.

Arrangements for your viva

Your internal examiner or school will let you know the date and time of your viva, which should normally be within three months after your thesis has been sent to your examiners. If you have a tight schedule (for example due to a job offer subject to award of the degree or your visa is due to expire) please tell your supervisor and Faculty Graduate School/School Office as soon as possible. The examination will usually take place in your parent school.

Preparing for your viva

The following may be helpful but please consult your supervisor(s) for appropriate guidance in preparation for your oral examination and also see our Guide to the thesis examination process:

  • A “mock viva” may be helpful for some PGRs, and if so, you should  consult your supervisors.
  • The Graduate Training and Support Centre offer training opportunities for postgraduate researchers.
  • You should, at an early stage in your candidature, make yourself aware of the criteria for award of the research degree programme for which you are registered.  This is the criteria that will be used by the examiners at the final examination stage.  The requirements and learning outcomes for research degrees are provided in the Ordinance and Regulations and Programmes of Study.
  • After the oral examination the examiners must produce a joint report which outlines their recommendation. You might find it helpful to look at the examiners’ report form which describes the criteria against which your examiners will be assessing your work.

Use of University facilities while awaiting your viva

Your access to library and ISS facilities is automatically extended without charge for a period of up to six months from the date of submission of your thesis. This is known as “registration whilst under examination”. It enables you to make use of University facilities whilst preparing for the viva examination and also for a short period after examination when some candidates are required to make minor corrections to their thesis.

Arrangements to extend access to the University facilities can be made at the time of thesis submission at the Student Services Centre counter and you can obtain a new student ID card.

Once your name has appeared on a pass list, your student ID card is no longer valid for use.

Attending your viva

You must make all reasonable efforts to attend your viva in person within three months of your thesis being sent to your examiners. This includes taking leave if you’re employed and making travel/visa arrangements if you’re coming from elsewhere. If exceptional circumstances arise which might prevent you from attending the viva in this period, please contact your Director of PGR Studies at the earliest opportunity. Without a completed viva, you can’t be awarded a research degree.

Please see our Guide to the thesis examination process for more detailed information.

What you can expect on the day

The University does not have specific regulations regarding the length of the oral examination or what should be discussed except that the thesis should be discussed with you. The viva gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and answer questions to support aspects of your thesis that the examiners may not be satisfied with. You can expect to see the internal examiner(s), the external examiner(s), the independent chair (if appointed) and your supervisor (as an observer only, if you wish them to be there).

Your viva must be conducted in English. (With the exception of research degrees in the modern languages, where, in certain circumstances approved by the Graduate Board, the viva might, with the agreement of the examiners, be conducted in a language other than English.)

Please take a copy of your thesis (which can be unbound) to your examination. Your copy of the thesis may be annotated or referenced with e.g. post-it notes, for example to mark editorial errors you have spotted when re-reading the thesis or help you find sections quickly. You are not permitted to bring any device containing a digitized copy of the thesis and unless required for the purposes of a presentation/demonstration by the PGR, the use of electronic equipment/devices during the oral examination by PGRs or examiners (or the supervisor if in attendance) is not permitted. Recording of the viva by any party is also not permitted.

Please see our Guide to the thesis examination process for more detailed information.  

Result of the viva

The result of the examination should be given informally to you, normally immediately after the oral examination, or within 24 hours of completing the viva. Further advice is available about possible outcomes and what happens after your examination. More information is also available in our Guide to the thesis examination process.