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The Oral Examination (viva)

I have submitted my soft bound thesis- how long will I have to wait for my oral examination date?

If you have not been given a date for your viva within six weeks of submitting your thesis, you are advised to contact your Degree Committee.

I am leaving the UK - do I have to return to undertake the oral examination?

The examination procedure can take several weeks and frequently much longer. If you are expecting to leave the UK after completing your course of research, you must submit your thesis early enough for your Examiners to have a reasonable time in which to read it and to hold an oral examination before you leave. If you leave before having the oral examination you will need to return to the UK.

If you require a visa to return to the UK, please contact the International Student Office ( You must not return for your viva on a general visitor visa.

Can I have my oral examination via video conference?

The Degree Committee may exceptionally approve that an oral examination is undertaken by video conference.  Applications must be made to the Secretary to the Degree Committee.

Can I request adjustments to my oral examination on the grounds of disablity?

If you wish to notify examiners of any disability or request adjustments on account of such disability for your viva voce examination (either for your first year assessment or final examination), you can do this via your Degree Committee by completing and submitting the voluntary disclosure form.

Once you have submitted the form, your Degree Committee will contact the University’s Disability Resource Centre (DRC) who will advise the Degree Committee on the appropriate course of action. You may be contacted by the DRC if additional information is required or to provide you with an offer of additional support.

The information provided on the voluntary disclosure form will be kept confidential and will not be used for any other purpose

What happens at the oral examination?

  • The oral examination will ordinarily take place in Cambridge
  • It is carried out between yourself and the two Examiners
  • It may include an Independent Chairperson if the Degree Committee requires this
  • There is no set duration, but a viva will normally last between 90 minutes and three hours
  • You may be required to do a presentation - please check with your Department whether this is the case. If you are required to give a presentation, you will be informed at least two weeks in advance of the viva

Your Department should advise on any department-specific conventions or procedures.

What is the purpose of the oral examination?

The oral examination gives the opportunity for:

  • you to defend your thesis and clarify any matters raised by your Examiners
  • the Examiners to probe your knowledge in the field
  • the Examiners to assure themselves that the work presented is your own and to clarify matters of any collaboration
  • the Examiners to come to a definite conclusion about the outcome of the examination

What are the possible outcomes from the oral examination?

Possible outcomes:

  • Unconditional approval
  • Conditional approval - subject to submission of a hard bound copy for the library, or subject to minor or major corrections
  • Revision and resubmission of the work for a fresh examination
  • Revision and resubmission of the work for a fresh examination or acceptance of the MSc/MLitt without further examination (but possibly suject to corrections)
  • Not to be allowed to revise the thesis, but offered the MSc/MLitt without further revision or examination (but possibly subject to corrections)
  • Outright failure


When will I know the result of my oral examination?

Your Examiners are asked not to give any direct indication of the likely outcome of the examination as the official result can be confirmed only by the Board of Graduate Studies. Following the meeting of the Board of Graduate Studies, the Student Registry will email your reports to you, copying in your Supervisor.

What is the process following my oral examination?

Information about the process following your oral examination can be found here.