The viva (oral examination)

The oral examination is a vital part of the assessment process, giving you the opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of your research degree subject.

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 research students 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 students 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 be at most 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 student visa is due to expire) please tell your supervisor as soon as possible. The examination will usually take place in your parent school.

Preparing for your viva

A range of support is available to those nearing the completion of their research degree.
The Graduate Training and Support Centre offer training and development opportunities for postgraduate researchers targeted at completing their research on time.
Workshops include
‘The Final Stages of your Research and Thesis Presentation’ (which includes guidance on the format regulations for thesis, eThesis and copyright issues, the process to submission and the options open to examiners following the viva) and
‘Preparing for your Viva’ (which reviews the purpose of the viva, the viva format and associated regulations, types of questions and an opportunity for participants to practice in responding to typical Viva areas of questioning).

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 postgraduate research tutor 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 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). Please take a copy of your thesis (which can be unbound) to your examination. The examiners may set additional tests; one purpose of these tests could be to determine that the thesis is your own work.

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 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.