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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.

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. It is expected that during the COVID-19 pandemic most oral examinations will take place via video conference. A guide to conducting vivas online can be found here. Please note that this is external guidance and there may be a number of points which are not relevent to University of Cambridge practice. Your Department will advise on the relevant procedure for your viva.

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, although during the COVID-19 pandemic it is expected that most oral examinations will take place via video-conference
  • 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 Student Registry on behalf of the Postgraduate Committee. Following your Degree Committee's meeting they will forward their decison to the Student Registry who 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.