Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Sign in/register

  • Log in/Register Register

Vitae

https://www.vitae.ac.uk/doing-research/doing-a-doctorate/completing-your-doctorate/your-viva/your-phd-viva

This page has been reproduced from the Vitae website (www.vitae.ac.uk). Vitae is dedicated to realising the potential of researchers through transforming their professional and career development.

  • Vitae members' area

Defending your doctoral thesis: the PhD viva

Format for defending a doctoral thesis.

Every institution will have specific regulations for the thesis defence. In some countries or institutions, the convention is for thesis defences to be public events where you will give a lecture explaining your research, followed by a discussion with a panel of examiners (opponents). Both your examiners and the audience are able to ask questions.

In other countries, including the UK, the oral examination is usually conducted behind closed doors by at least two examiners, usually with at least one being from another institution (external examiner) and an expert in your topic of research. In the UK the supervisor does not participate in the viva, but may be allowed to observe. Sometimes someone from your own institution is appointed as an independent chair. Although it is now becoming more common for the candidate to have an opportunity to give a public lecture in UK institutions, this does not form part of the examination and may or may not be attended by the examiners.

Viva preparation

Take the preparation for your viva seriously and devote a substantial amount of time to it. The viva preparation checklist may be useful to help you prepare.

Your institution may offer courses on viva preparation and there may be opportunities to organise a practice viva. Take advantage of these opportunities: they can be extremely valuable experiences.

Things you may wish to take with you

  • your thesis – mildly annotated if you wish
  • a list of questions that you might be asked and your planned responses
  • any questions that you want to ask your examiners
  • additional notes which you have made during your revision
  • list of minor corrections that you have come across during your revision.

During the viva

Your study will have strengths and weaknesses: it is essential that you are prepared to discuss both. You could think of any weaknesses as an opportunity to demonstrate your skill at critical appraisal. Examiners will seek to find and discuss weaknesses in all theses. Do not interpret criticism as indication of a possible negative outcome.

Examiners have different personalities, styles and levels of experience. Sometimes a candidate may feel that a challenge is made in a confrontational way. Experienced, effective examiners will not be inappropriately confrontational, but some will. Do not take offence. A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response from you will help re-balance the discussion. Having an independent chair can help maintain a constructive environment.

Useful tips for during your viva:

  • Ask for clarification of ambiguous questions or ask for the question to be repeated if necessary
  • Take time to think before answering
  • Be prepared to ask questions and enter into a dialogue with your examiners
  • Be prepared to discuss your research in context of other work done in your field
  • Be ready to admit if you don't know the answer to a question
  • Be prepared to express opinions of your own

You are not expected to have perfect recall of your thesis and everything that you have read and done. If you get flustered, or need to refer to notes your examiners will understand. They have been in your situation themselves!

After your viva

There are several possible outcomes   of a thesis defence. Most commonly, your examiners will recommend to your institution that you are awarded your degree subject to minor corrections, although in some instances they might ask for more substantial work.

Bookmark & Share

Email

X

Viva examinations: guidance

Menu

This guidance explains the viva process, how to prepare, what will happen on the day and what the possible outcomes are.

This information is for postgraduate research students. It covers:

  • before your viva
  • preparing for your viva
  • during your viva
  • outcomes of the examination

Before your viva

Entry forms.

You must enter the exam via Portico about four months before you are ready to submit. You may not submit your thesis until you have entered for the examination and your examination may be delayed if you have not done this.  

Find out more about examination entry

Your supervisor is responsible for arranging the appointment of your examiners. This should be done at the same time as you complete your examination entry form, four months before you are due to submit your thesis. Examiners are appointed by UCL for their professional services as examiners with expert subject knowledge. A minimum of two examiners, one from outside UCL and (normally) one from UCL are appointed to co-examine all research degree candidates. The examiner nomination form can be found here .

Submit your thesis

Find out more about formatting, binding and submitting your thesis.

Collaborative research projects

If you are contributing to a collaborative research project you must include this information in the introduction to the thesis. You must clearly identify the demarcation between the research you are submitting for examination as an original contribution to knowledge and the work of your collaborators. 

Viva arrangements

Your supervisor (or nominee) will liaise with you and your examiners to arrange and confirm a mutually convenient time and place to hold the viva examination. The viva must not be arranged before the examiners are formally appointed by UCL. It may take place at UCL, or remotely. Your examiners should have your thesis at least six working weeks before the viva and you will receive an email once the thesis has been sent to the examiners. At this point, you will be able to record the viva via the ‘Research Student Administration’ section in Portico. A user guide is available with step-by-step instructions for submitting this information. Your viva should then take place within three months of the dispatch of the thesis to your examiners.

Download the viva notification user guide

PDF icon

Reasonable adjustments

If you or one of your examiners have a disability which UCL cannot accommodate, other reasonable arrangements can be made for the viva. You must make a request in writing when you complete the examination entry form to allow time for arrangements to be made. 

Preparing for your viva

We recommend that you re-read your thesis. Try to anticipate questions, comments and criticisms, and think how you would respond. Although you may not be able to anticipate actual questions to be asked by the examiners, this approach will encourage you to think actively about your work.   You should also refresh your memory of the relevant literature. Do not attempt to re-read every paper in the bibliography of your thesis; instead, re-read carefully some of the more recent key references. If you have left university after submitting your thesis you may be unaware of very recent work. Ask your supervisor a couple of weeks before the viva whether any work of direct relevance to your thesis has been published since you submitted your thesis.

You must not contact your examiners directly at any point leading up to the viva or afterwards.  All contact should be done by your supervisor or other relevant departmental staff member.  

A good way to prepare for your viva is to practice. Your supervisor should give you a mock viva, or arrange for this to be undertaken by a member of your upgrade panel.  

During your viva

A viva is an academic interview at which your examiners will be looking for an understanding of the subject matter of your thesis, an appreciation of its significance to established knowledge in the field, and an awareness of the breadth of the subject area. 

Your supervisor will be invited to attend your viva examination, unless you request otherwise; you must indicate this on your examination entry form. Your supervisor does not have the right to participate in the viva examination but may contribute if invited to do so by the examiners.  

The examiners will expect you to:

  • show a critical analysis of your own work and of that of others
  • appreciate the limitations of the methods employed and the results obtained by yourself and others
  • understand how the broad conclusions of your thesis support, add to or conflict with previous work
  • know the major concepts and recent developments in your subject

There is no formal procedure laid down for the conduct of the viva examination. Some examiners prefer to work through the thesis in the order in which it is written. Other examiners prefer to discuss topics. Very few examiners will perform a page by page criticism. You may be asked to prepare a presentation of your work in a suitable format.  

You are not expected to know your thesis by heart, but to refer to the appropriate page when the examiners wish to discuss a specific point. Please ensure that you bring to the viva examination a copy of your thesis paginated in the same way as the copies you have submitted to the Research Degree Examinations Office.

You should not simply answer 'yes' or 'no' to questions nor give a prepared exposition. Try to answer the question as it is put, remembering that you are engaged in an academic conversation.

Be prepared to justify your ideas and conclusions. If the examiners challenge your interpretation but you feel that your case is a good one, muster your arguments and be willing to present your case firmly but courteously. However, if the examiners have identified a genuine weakness, concede the point gracefully. Even if you feel the examiners are unreasonably critical do not become argumentative or allow the discussion to become heated. You can agree to differ and to reconsider the point. All participants in the viva must abide by UCL's Bullying and Harassment Policy . If you make any comments to your examiners which put them under moral pressure, for example alluding to what will happen if they fail you, or if you offer any incentive to your examiners to pass you, they must terminate the examination and report to the Chair of the Research Degrees Committee via Research Degrees in Student and Registry Services.

Outcome of the examination

The following are the three most often received results and the subsequent procedures.

We will email you with reports from your examiners, copied to your supervisor, instructing you to submit the following documents:

  • the electronic copy of your thesis 
  • thesis deposit agreement form (uploaded with the e-thesis)

We will award your degree once you have met the academic conditions, the Library have confirmed receipt of your e-thesis and the Deposit Agreement form, and you have cleared any outstanding fees. 

The electronic copy of your thesis and thesis deposit agreement form should be deposited to the Library via UCL's Research Publications Service. Please make sure that you remove, or blank out, all personal identifiers such as signatures, addresses and telephone numbers from the e-thesis. Any photographs that you have taken should not show identifiable individuals without their permission and any you have taken of children should mask their faces. If you have any queries regarding this aspect of the process, please contact the Library directly.

UCL no longer requires a printed copy of your final thesis. If you do wish to deposit a hard copy you can do so by sending it directly to the Cataloguing & Metadata department of Library Services by post, or in person at the Main Library help desk.  You will find more information about the process on the existing webpage for e-thesis submission. 

Find out more about depositing an electronic and printed copy of your thesis

Once you have submitted these, we will send an email containing the confirmation of award and your reports to your email address you have recorded on Portico. The degree certificate will follow approximately four months after the official award date.

In the case of an examination for specialist doctorates (including the EngD, EdD and MPhilStud), the award of the degree is also conditional upon students passing all taught elements of their programme of study. The modules should be entered on to Portico by the Department and confirmation these elements have been completed will be passed from the Examinations Department to Research Degrees.

Minor corrections

This is by far the most common result received from the examiners. 

We will email you with reports from your examiners, copied to your supervisor and Faculty Graduate Tutor. The deadline to submit your corrections officially starts from the date of this email, which will also indicate the name of the person designated to check your corrections. This deadline is for you to submit the corrections to the designated checker, and not to submit the final copy of your thesis.

Your examiners may have returned an annotated copy of your thesis to you and therefore you may already be aware of the work required. The designated checker should inform you of the format he/she expects to receive the corrections, although normally this will be in electronic format.

The designated checker should confirm the outcome of the examination within one month of receipt of the minor corrections to the thesis. This is usually done by sending an email directly to Research Degrees.

Once this has been received we will follow the procedure for a pass result.

Resubmission in a revised form

We will email you with reports from your examiners, copied to your supervisor, Departmental Graduate Tutor and Faculty Graduate Tutor. The 12 or 18 month deadline officially starts from the date of this email.

Unlike the outcome for minor corrections, where one person checks the amendments, the resubmission requires you to re-enter for the examination and submit two copies of your thesis for forwarding to the examiners. 

Your examiners may have returned an annotated copy of your thesis to you and therefore you may already be aware of the work required. 

Once you have completed the corrections, you will need to:

  • submit a new exam entry form to Research Degrees at least two weeks prior to the expected submission of the thesis
  • submit an electronic copy of your thesis to Research Degrees via the UCL Dropbox.  

Find out more about formatting, binding and submitting your thesis. Your supervisor will be emailed to confirm that the examiners are still willing to act and provide their current contact details. This is to avoid the thesis from being sent out incorrectly. We will then send an email to your supervisor and examiners reconfirming their appointment and send the thesis to them via the UCL Dropbox.

If the examiners have requested a second viva, your supervisor will arrange this. In these circumstances, the procedure will follow that of a typical research degree examination.

If a further viva is not required, your examiners are only required to submit a joint report. They cannot award another 18 month resubmission, but can allow minor corrections.

Once the reports are received we will follow the procedure for either the pass or minor corrections result.

Other results

If the result falls outside the above descriptions, we will email you detailing the procedure you will need to follow.

Related content

  • Research degrees: examination entry
  • Format, bind and submit your thesis
  • Doctoral school

Decorative - askUCL promotional image

  • International edition
  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

interview

How to survive a PhD viva: 17 top tips

Just handed in your PhD thesis? Now it’s time to plan for the next hurdle: a viva. Academics offer their advice on how to best prepare

  • Finishing your PhD thesis: tips from those in the know
  • The key to a successful PhD thesis? Write in your own voice
  • PhD: so what does it really stand for?

H anding in your PhD thesis is a massive achievement – but it’s not the end of the journey for doctoral students. Once you’ve submitted, you’ll need to prepare for the next intellectually-gruelling hurdle: a viva.

This oral examination is a chance for students to discuss their work with experts. Its formal purpose is to ensure that there’s no plagiarism involved, and that the student understands and can explain their thesis. It involves lots of penetrating questions, conceptually complex debates and is infamously terrifying.

How can PhD students best prepare? We asked a number of academics and recent survivors for their tips.

Preparing for the viva

1) Check your institution’s policies and practices

Institutional policies and practices vary. Find out who will attend your viva (eg will a supervisor attend, will there be an independent chair?) and what their roles are. Penny Tinkler and Carolyn Jackson, authors of The Doctoral Examination process: A Handbook for Students, Examiners and Supervisors

2) Re-read your thesis – and keep up-to-date with research

Don’t underestimate the amount of time the examiners will have spent reading and thinking about your thesis – however, you should remember that you are still likely to be the “expert in the room” on this particular topic. Check to see if any relevant recent papers have emerged since submitting the thesis and, if so, read these. Dianne Berry, dean of postgraduate research studies, University of Reading

3) As an examiner, you tend to stick to things you’re an expert in when driving the questioning

Your viva panel will consist of an external expertise in your subject area and an internal which may be in a subject field associated or directly related to yours. The external examiner is the one who mainly calls and fires all the shots and so it’s pretty important to have a knowledge of their published contributions, especially those that are related to your thesis in any way. Dr Bhavik Anil Patel, senior lecturer in physical and analytical chemistry

4) Think about what you will or won’t defend

Consider carefully what you will defend to the hilt in the viva, and what you are prepared to concede. It’s important to defend your claims about the originality of the thesis and its contribution to knowledge. However, no research is perfect, and showing that you have considered what could have been done differently, or even better, is not a bad thing. Penny Tinkler and Carolyn Jackson, authors of The Doctoral Examination process: A Handbook for Students, Examiners and Supervisors

5) Draw up lists of possible questions – especially ones you dread

I collected questions from a bunch of different places ( listed here ) which I then tailored to my PhD. Somebody I worked with also recommended that I put together my 10 nightmare questions. I found this really useful, by writing down and thinking about my dreaded questions, they were no longer so bad – it was almost as if I’d faced the beast.

Generally speaking, I was able to predict the questions that I was asked. There were a couple that were unexpected but they were either conceptual points or based on literature that I just didn’t know. Richard Budd, research assistant, University of Bristol who sat his viva in summer 2014 and has blogged about the experience

6) It’s not like sitting at a laptop where you can edit a sentence as you go along

By the time you finish your PhD you’ll know your thesis inside out. One of the things you won’t be as practised at is talking about it. When I was preparing for my viva, I practised vocalising answers. It’s not a case of needing to learn to answers verbatim – this would only work as a technique if you could guarantee the exact way your examiner will ask a question – but it is about thinking about how you will articulate certain things. A viva isn’t like sitting at a laptop where you can edit a sentence as you go along. Richard Budd, research assistant, University of Bristol who sat his viva in summer 2014 and has blogged about the experience

7) Bring a printed copy that is exactly the same as that of your examiners

Ensure you and your supervisor have a printed copy that is exactly the same as that of your examiners (specifically the same pagination). Mark with tabs the key sections and highlight for reference important quotes and points you might want to refer to. If you have some key diagrams it may help to have these printed larger on A4 sheets that can be used in a discussion.

There is a chance, albeit slim, that an examiner will wish to see some piece of experimental data, software, or other supporting evidence. Have this all neatly archived and accessible. You can do this after submission. Anthony Finkelstein, dean of the UCL faculty of engineering sciences who has blogged about surviving vivas

During the viva

8) Get off to a good start

Give a few detailed answers in the opening 15 minutes, demonstrating knowledge, describing your thinking and working - then the examiners are likely to relax into the viva. If the first few answers are short and non-specific, not demonstrating knowledge, this can begin to raise concerns, and that can set the tone for the whole viva. This is avoidable. Rowena Murray, author of How to Survive Your Viva: Defending a Thesis in an Oral Examination

9) Prepare for the icebreaker

Every viva opens with that dreaded icebreaker that is supposed to break you in gently but often seems to be the thing that gets students into a pickle. It’s so basic, students almost forget about it. Most often this would be to give a five to 10 minute introduction to your work and your key findings. This is such a common question that not preparing for it would be silly. Dr Bhavik Anil Patel, senior lecturer in physical and analytical chemistry

10) Silence doesn’t mean bad news

Don’t assume that you will be given any indication of the outcome at the start of the viva. The examiners may or may not offer comments on the thesis at this stage and candidates should not interpret a lack of comments at this point as a negative sign. In some cases institutional policy prohibits it. Penny Tinkler and Carolyn Jackson, authors of The Doctoral Examination process: A Handbook for Students, Examiners and Supervisors

11) Don’t point out your own weaknesses

Avoid shooting yourself in the foot by highlighting the weaknesses in the thesis by being overly humble (eg “I didn’t think this would be an acceptable piece of research given the way I handled x or y”) or by saying what you “failed to achieve” or “did not manage to carry out in a robust manner” etc. Leave that to the examiners to pick up in their reading, they don’t need help. Dr Mariana Bogdanova, lecturer in management, Queen’s University Belfast

12) Don’t talk like a politician There’s a danger of trying to over-prepare. Don’t learn answers off by heart – it removes the spontaneity and is obvious to examiners. If a student has pre-prepared answers they become a bit like politicians, answering questions they weren’t asked rather than the ones they were. I have come across mixed views on mock vivas. Some people really like them – and they can settle nerves – but other times it can remove spontaneity and steal your thunder. Jerry Wellington, head of research degrees at University of Sheffield and author of Succeeding with Your Doctorate

13) You may need to move from friendly questions to complex debates

Vivas can appear friendly and then suddenly go very conceptually complex. The language used is an alternation between accessible normal language and really specialised arguments. The student needs to be able to move orally between the two. Gina Wisker, professor of higher education and contemporary literature at Brighton University

14) If things get on top of you, use the excuse of having a look at the thesis

Make sure that before the viva you get plenty of sleep, eat properly and de-stress. If things get too much when you’re in there, use the excuse of having to look something up in your thesis. You could also pause and say “Can I write that down for a moment?” Stall for time until you get yourself back together again. Gina Wisker, professor of higher education and contemporary literature at Brighton University

15) Focus on your contribution

One of the most important things that the examiners will be looking for in your thesis, is the “contribution to knowledge”. It is the contribution which makes your work doctoral level. Be sure that you understand exactly what your contribution is, and that you are able to express and explain it clearly and concisely.

Write it down in a paragraph. Discuss it with you supervisor and fellow students. Make sure that you can relate your contribution to other work in your field and that you are able to explain how your work is different. Peter Smith, author of The PhD Viva

16) Expect your viva to last between one and three hours

Students frequently ask how long the viva is likely to be. Obviously they vary. Discipline differences are important. Our research suggests that most natural and applied sciences vivas were completed in one to three hours, whereas arts, humanities and social science vivas were typically less than two hours long. In the natural and applied sciences 43% of vivas lasted two hours or less, compared to 83% in arts, humanities and social sciences. Penny Tinkler and Carolyn Jackson, authors of The Doctoral Examination Process: A Handbook for S tudents, Examiners and Supervisors

17) Enjoy it

The best advice I ever got was “Try to enjoy it”. It seemed ludicrous at the time, but I actually found myself really getting into the discussion as the viva went on. It’s one of the earliest chances you get to talk to someone who not only informed your research (ideally) but is also conversant with your own. It’s a great chance to explore the contours of your research – treat it as such, and it doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Michael James Heron, school of computing science and digital media, Robert Gordon University

  • Share any advice you have in the comments below.

Enter the Guardian university awards 2015 and join the higher education network for more comment, analysis and job opportunities, direct to your inbox. Follow us on Twitter @gdnhighered .

  • Impact of research
  • Universities
  • Higher education

Comments (…)

Most viewed.

  • Log in
  • Site search

5 tips for passing your PhD viva

Every Doctoral researcher is expected to defend their thesis through an oral test - so discover how to prepare for your PhD viva and ensure you make a good impression on the examiners

What is a PhD viva?

A viva voce is an oral test, which literally translated means 'with the living voice'. It's a focused discussion giving you the opportunity to present your PhD thesis and then defend it in front of a panel of academic experts.

1. Understand what's expected of you

Traditionally, your thesis would always be discussed in person, with the interview style viva exam overseen by at least two (internal and external) examiners. Afterwards, they would provide you with a joint written report detailing any corrections that need to be made.

However, following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the online PhD viva has become more commonplace with this examination more likely to take place via Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom.

The virtual experience will still typically follow the same format, but you'll be briefed in advance about the arrangements and any technical aspects to bear in mind. You can prepare for an online PhD viva by reading our video interview tips .

The chair of the viva is usually the internal examiner, although it can be an independent person. If you and the examiners agree, your PhD supervisor can also be present.

The examiners' main objective is to ascertain that you've written your own thesis, so if you have and are ready to talk through how you completed it, there's no need to panic. You may even enjoy the viva voce test.

In addition to assessing your thesis, the examiners are also there to assist you in deciding how and where this research might be published.

There are various results between a 'pass' and 'fail' but it's very rare to slip up at this point of a PhD. Most Doctorate awards will be made upon the condition that a number of minor corrections are made, with re-submission requests far less common.

However, while the pass rate is high, the viva exam itself can still be intellectually demanding. This is because you'll be debating issues that are conceptually complex, so preparation is crucial to your success.

At the end of it, whatever the outcome, be prepared to take on board any advice, as the examiners are there to help you improve your argument or the presentation of your thesis.

2. Know your thesis inside out

While you can be sure this isn't a memory test - as you're fine bringing notes and a copy of your thesis with you to the PhD viva - it's still important to gain a good understanding of what you've written and be knowledge about your field of study.

You'll need to think carefully about where this original piece of work would be placed in the context of the wider body of research carried out in this field. Questions will surely be asked about this, as well as whether the project could possibly be developed further through any future research.

As you'll be explaining parts of the document to the examiners (who'll also have a digital or physical copy), make sure the pagination is the same in your version as the one they're looking at to avoid any issues regarding everybody being on the same page.

If you get stuck at any point during the viva exam, you can use looking at the thesis as an excuse to re-focus and gather your thoughts.

3. Anticipate the viva questions

The examiners will have prepared a series of questions for you to answer at the viva voce, but this is nothing to get too concerned about. The questions will all be based on your thesis - what it's about, what you did and what you found out - and why this matters, in relation to your field of study.

So when getting ready for the viva, consider the types of questions you're likely to be asked, including:

  • What original contribution has your thesis made to this field of study?
  • Explain the main research questions you were hoping to address.
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis?
  • If you had to start the thesis again, what would you do differently?
  • If funding was no object, describe how you'd follow on from this project.
  • What are your plans for the future?

It can be helpful to practise your answers beforehand, ideally vocalising them by arranging a mock mini viva - although, as you aren't restricted in terms of referring to notes in the exam, you can leave room for spontaneity, and you don't need to learn it all off by heart. If your viva is being held online, you can ensure any technical issues are identified before the day by having a run through with your supervisor or a friend.

While it may sound simple, stick to answering the questions posed. It's really easy to go off on a tangent and this can open up other lines of enquiry from the examiners - possibly in areas you hadn't expected to be quizzed about.

On the other hand, it's completely fine to bring personality to your reasoning and use stories as a means of describing the learning process you've gone through and the techniques mastered over the last three or four years that have brought you to this point.

4. Learn about your examiners' own work

The senior and well-respected academics who'll be reading your thesis will have their own ideas on conducting PhD standard research. Therefore, it's worth taking a look online at their academic profiles to discover if there's any correlation with the research they've had published and your own work.

From this, you should be able to gain a better idea of their motivations, their possible views on your thesis and the kinds of questions they might wish to discuss after having read through it.

You should research up-to-date theories, read any recent papers on the subject and speak to others who've recently had their own viva exam. Think about how your work differentiates from the research carried out by others in your chosen field.

Prepare to provide any supporting evidence asked of you by the examiners - for example, they may request to see experimental data you mention once the exam is over.

It's also necessary to check the policies and practices in place at your university and be sure of what the roles of the examiners are and how the viva panel will be structured. In many cases, Doctoral students can choose the examiners conducting the PhD viva.

5. Plan towards the viva exam

From the moment you know the date of your viva voce, work backwards and plan the steps you'll need to take before the day itself. Allow enough time to assess and review your work so that as the day approaches, you can focus on the practicalities.

This encompasses everything from making sure you relax, eat and sleep well the day before to arranging transport so you get to the viva on time - if you're attending in person.

An online PhD viva will present its own challenges, so ensure your working space is presentable and you still make an effort in terms of what you'll be wearing.

It's always advisable to adhere to interview etiquette and go with something that's both smart and comfortable. By looking the part, this should get you in the right frame of mind to communicate in a professional manner.

In the build-up, avoid any situations that might make you feel stressed and instead try to adopt a positive attitude, one that results in a genuine eagerness to engage in a debate about the work you've been toiling over for a substantial period of time.

If you're travelling to the examination, be sure to check that you have everything you wish to take with you, including the thesis, plus any notes or other materials that will help support your claims.

The PhD viva can last between one and four hours - usually two - so it's necessary to pace yourself to get off to the best possible start.

Remember, the examiners aren't trying to trip you up - they want you to pass and are primarily there to hear you talk about your project. So, after the polite introductions they'll typically start with an icebreaker to put you at ease and help calm the nerves.

It's meant to be an open and honest conversation about your work, so feel free to politely disagree with the examiners, especially on areas you feel strongly about. Don't forget to use examples from your thesis to back up what you're saying, remembering to be clear and concise.

If you know your way around your thesis and can explain your thinking and way of working, this test shouldn't be a problem. And if you don't know the answer to a specific question - admit it, as it's better to concede your limitations in an area than ramble on and hope they don't notice you're struggling to come up with an explanation. No research is perfect, so it's important to appreciate this during the discussion - but don't be too overcritical about your work either, as that's not your job.

Finally, as the PhD viva can quickly move from a series of friendly questions to those that are more in-depth, take some time to think before answering. Don't worry about any periods of silence from the examiners, as this certainly isn't an indication that you're doing badly.

Find out more

  • Explore possible careers at your PhD, what next?
  • Consider getting an academic job .

How would you rate this page?

On a scale where 1 is dislike and 5 is like

  • Dislike 1 unhappy-very
  • Like 5 happy-very

Thank you for rating the page

What is a PhD Viva?

  • Maisie Dadswell
  • September 6, 2023

phd viva in uk

After you have written and submitted your PhD thesis, the next stage in the process is to pass your PhD viva examination, which your PhD supervisor at UWS London will fully prepare you for. Your viva will happen within three months of submitting your thesis; after completing your viva, you will know if you have passed with flying colours and can call yourself a doctor in your respective field. Though the prospect may sound daunting, see it as the chance to prove that your creative knowledge makes you a peer to the academic panel that will be present for your viva; it is the perfect opportunity to establish yourself as an intellectual authority in your field. 

This article will cover what a viva is, how it works, what the potential outcomes are, who will be present on the panel and provide some helpful tips that are relevant for all fields of study.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is the highest academic degree one can earn in most fields of study. It typically involves conducting original research, making a significant contribution to the field’s knowledge, and writing a dissertation or thesis that demonstrates expertise in a specific area. Learn more about PhD at UWS Londo n here .

A PhD viva also referred to as a Viva Voce, Latin for ‘living voice’, is an oral examination which follows the submission of your doctoral thesis, where you will showcase your knowledge and defend your research in front of a panel comprised of academic experts. This examination is compulsory for the vast majority of doctoral students.

PhD Viva Questions

All the questions asked during your viva will assess: 

  • Your knowledge depth in your specific area of research. 
  • How deep your knowledge is concerning the broader research field relevant to your PhD. 
  • If you can place your work in a broader context. 
  • If you can demonstrate how your research contributes to your field. 
  • If you know of any potential limitations and oversights in your work – where applicable. 

If the panel has any suspicions that your work may not be your own, they may also question the authenticity of your work.

How Long Does a PhD Viva Take?

One of the most frequently asked questions is how long is a PhD Viva. The average length is around three hours, but several factors can extend or shorten your oral examination. If there are issues in your PhD thesis or if it is poorly presented or formatted, this could lead to confusion on the panel, which will necessitate more clarification for you to set the record straight and prove that you understand your field of study. Similarly, how well-prepared you are and how concisely you respond to questions will also have a bearing on the duration of the viva. 

However, lengthy PhD defences don’t always need to be a sign that it is going poorly! Your examiners may enjoy the discussion enough that they will want to talk about it long after they have concluded that you have passed the examination. Even though, in some rare instances, a viva can take up to eight hours there may be university or country-specific rules on maximum duration – feel free to discuss this with your PhD supervisor beforehand.

Who Will Be on Your Viva Panel?

Your PhD examination will be carried out by one examiner from your university and an examiner from an outside university. Your PhD supervisor may also be on the panel, although this is not always the case. If you do find your supervisor on your viva panel, in the UK, it is common that they are prohibited from speaking. If they are present, they will solely act as observers. 

Together, the examiners will highlight what they found when reading your PhD thesis thoroughly, focusing on the theories and key concepts you put forward in your research. To ensure that the examiners are being fair and appropriate in the viva process, there is also usually a chairperson on the panel who takes notes documenting any notable suggestions or comments. The chairperson will either be internal or external from the university.

What Are the Outcomes of a Viva Exam?

In the UK, there are six potential Viva PhD outcomes. We have listed them below from the best outcome to the worst. However, it is worth bearing in mind that even if you need to make minor or major corrections after your viva, you will be given equal credit as someone who was awarded their PhD degree without corrections.

The average pass rate for a PhD viva in the UK can vary depending on the university, field of study, and specific criteria used for evaluation. However, it is generally quite high.

In many UK universities, a significant majority of candidates who reach the viva stage pass, often with some amendments required. A “pass with minor amendments” is a common outcome, indicating that the candidate has demonstrated a sufficient understanding of the research. Recent research on viva experiences indicates that 84% of Ph.D. candidates are required to make minor revisions in order to achieve a passing grade.

1. Awarded PhD Degree with No Corrections

It is rare for students to pass their PhD degree without any corrections. So, if this is your outcome following your viva, celebrations are in order! It means you have seriously impressed your examiners with your research and examination.

2. Minor Corrections Required to Pass

Recent viva experience research has highlighted that 84% of PhD candidates must make minor corrections to pass. Typically, the minor corrections will be small issues with the thesis, such as grammatical errors, typos, typograph issues, or presentational faux pas, which can be quickly edited. Don’t be disparaged if you are presented with this outcome following your viva; it still means that you have done remarkably well with your thesis and viva.

3. Major Corrections Required to Pass

This outcome is the second most common following a viva; it means you have met the required standard to be awarded your doctorate, but some revisions or corrections need to be made. Typically, this will involve you improving the structure or clarity of your thesis by rewriting chapters or adding additional analysis. Once again, needing to make major corrections shouldn’t be seen as a failure; although it may be disparaging, it doesn’t invalidate your research or contribution to your field.

4. Revise and Represent to Pass

You will be asked to revise and represent your work if the panel can see the potential within your work and that it can meet requirements if you undertake additional research or analysis. You will be presented with this outcome if your work doesn’t quite reach the PhD degree standard; unlike with the minor and major corrections outcomes, if you are asked to revise and represent, you will need to present your revised work to the panel again.

5. Awarded an MPhil Degree

If the academic panel decide that major corrections or additional research still won’t allow your work to meet the PhD standard, you may be awarded a lower-standard MPhil degree instead. For example, philosophy PhD candidates will be awarded a Master of Psychology degree instead of a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Typically, MPhil degrees are awarded in place of PhDs if your work lacks originality or the knowledge creation that a PhD requires. An MPhil degree ranks above MA and MSc degrees as the most advanced Masters degrees. An MPhil degree still demonstrates that you have the same skill set as someone who successfully obtained a PhD, and they are still valuable to employers.

6. Immediate Fail

An immediate fail is rare; a 2022 survey found that only 3.3% of PhD candidates fail their viva outright – it certainly isn’t something you should obsess over. If when you are preparing for your viva, you find some faults in your thesis, don’t be afraid to broach them yourself in your exam; this will show that you can present a passable thesis. `

PhD Viva Tips:

Don’t work with irrelevant guidance or tips.

While brushing up on generalised tips online can help you to feel prepared for your viva, remember that there will always be variability in the process, the focus of the exam, and the questions asked. The variable factors include your field of study and the university you are obtaining your doctorate. With this in mind, always chat with your supervisor to ensure you are preparing with the right and relevant knowledge.

Treat the Examiners as Equals

Your PhD defence may technically be an exam, and naturally, many PhD candidates are stressed, daunted, or overwhelmed by the process for weeks. However, you will do much better if you go into the exam with the mindset that you are equal with the academic panel and treat the examination as a discussion rather than an inquisition. Remember, your viva is your chance to be seen as a doctor, not a student.

Mindset Matters

After spending years on your thesis, you will know your subject inside and out; it is your area of expertise; don’t go into the viva with a defensive and confrontational mindset; remain confident in your knowledge creation and how it benefits your field of study. Imposter syndrome can come in hard here, so limit your negative self-talk and silence your inner critic.

Ask for a Mock Viva with Your Supervisor

Never be shy about asking your PhD supervisor for the support you need as you prepare for your viva. They will be best placed to answer all of your questions as they will know the procedure for your university and your field of research. Your PhD supervisor will likely have already been present in viva exams; they will know the score, and more importantly, after working with you for years, they will want you to pass your viva – never be shy about asking them to arrange a mock viva to help you prepare.

How long is a PhD?

If you look for an answer to the question, how long is a PhD thesis, you will notice that there is a lot of contradictory information on the internet because there is no one-size-fits-all answer for PhD students. How long does a PhD take ? Well, we’ve got all the info you need in our other blog

You might also like

phd viva in uk

Do You Get Paid for a PhD?

Do You Get Paid for a PhD? For many students who don’t have the luxury of never worrying about money, one of the main considerations

PhD in Finance

Where Can a PhD in Finance Take Me?

Where Can a PhD in Finance Take Me? In the dynamic world of finance, a PhD is not just an academic accolade; it’s a launchpad

Blonde woman wearing a blue jumper drinking a coffee while deciding to study a PhD in London

Should I Do a PhD in London?

​​Should I Do a PhD in London? Embarking on a PhD journey is a significant decision, one that shapes your academic and professional future. Once

Enquire with us

We are here to help and to make your journey to UWS London as smooth as possible. Please use the relevant button below to enquiry about a course you would like to apply, to clarify any doubt you may have about us and our admission’s process, to send us a complaint or suggestion. After you submit your enquiry, one of our advisers will get back to you as soon as possible.

Cookie preferences

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish.

Privacy Overview

Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.

Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.

Analytical cookies are used to understand how visitors interact with the website. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc.

Functional cookies help to perform certain functionalities like sharing the content of the website on social media platforms, collect feedbacks, and other third-party features.

Advertisement cookies are used to provide visitors with relevant ads and marketing campaigns. These cookies track visitors across websites and collect information to provide customized ads.

Five top tips to pass your PhD viva

Research assistant Kirsty Devaney , who successfully completed her doctorate , provides five invaluable pieces of advice on passing the PhD viva.

First thing's first...what is the PhD viva?

Officially called the viva voce , meaning ‘living voice’ in Latin, the viva is an oral examination that sees a PhD student defend their thesis and showcase their knowledge to a panel of academic experts.

The viva takes place after you have completed your thesis and sees these experts ask you various questions to ensure you understand your work and have become an expert in your field.

Now, over to Kirsty…

1). Make your own learning space

"It's important on the lead up to the viva voce to have a space that's designated for your preparations. This could be at your university, in a coffee shop or at home.

"For instance, I took over my dining room table for a good two months. I had all of my resources there - my books, my thesis and lots of post-it notes."

2). Take some time away from your thesis

"I had a three-month wait in between submitting my thesis and sitting my viva, but I knew I couldn’t spend that time prepping as it would be far too intense. I took a full month off from revising and returned with a clear idea of what I needed to do."

3). Make a plan of action

"A month before my viva, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve before the day.

"One was to read through my thesis in full three times. I also committed to tabbing all of the important chapters, diagrams and data in my thesis, so I could refer to them quickly if needed.

"I then compiled a series of questions which I thought might come up in the viva and put them all into a pot. Once I’d got enough questions, I’d ask my husband to pull out one of the pieces of paper at random and ask me the question. 

"Some days I would also catch up on any recent literature I may have missed that could be relevant.

"All of this proved incredibly useful for when my viva arrived."

4). Know your examiners

"When you’re close to completing your doctorate, you might have a conversation with your supervisors about the people in the field who might be external examiners.

"Once you know who they are going to be, it’s really important to get to know their research, what their research interests are and what methodologies they use."

5). Become the expert

"BCU does a mock viva, which I found incredibly helpful as it meant I could work on any difficulties I faced.

"One issue that arose from my mock was that I had to become a lot more confident and assertive about my research and my findings.

"When you walk into the room to do your viva, you are making the leap from being a student to having the certainty of an expert."

How scary was the PhD viva?

Kirsty, who also runs the successful Young Composers Project , says it’s important not to be too fearful of the examiners.

"They are there to challenge you, but they’re not trying to be mean for the sake of it,” she explains. “They want to make sure you know your stuff and haven’t just plagiarised the material.

"However, it’s important to breathe and take your time – they’re not expecting rapid-fire responses."

Kirsty credits the support of the  School of Education and Social Work  for getting her through her PhD.

"They really got it right,” she says. "They have been incredibly supportive. I never felt alone."

Research phds blog

Thinking about a PhD?

Take a look at our PhD courses and become an expert in your field.

View courses

Advice from our student reps

Image of a PhD student self-isolating

Diary of a self-isolating PhD student

A PhD student working during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How Covid-19 radically altered my PhD study

For PhD blog on Emma Nenadic

Being part of a research community

An academic giving a conference

Five reasons why academic conferences are essential

Recent searches

We won't record your recent searches as you have opted out of functional cookies. You can change this on our Manage Privacy page should you wish to.

Popular searches

  • Scholarships
  • Postgraduate Guide
  • Student Finance
  • Student Support

Suggested searches

  • Life in Birmingham
  • Graduate Scholarship

Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division

  • Researcher Training & Development
  • Self-Access Resources
  • Completing your DPhil

Preparing for the Viva Exam

Introduction.

The Viva exam is an integral part of completing your DPhil. See the links at the bottom of this section for information and guidance on the formal University processes and what you need to do. This section also includes advice and hints and tips on how to prepare.

Don’t expect to do your Viva without preparing for it - take the preparation as seriously as writing your thesis. Take and plan the time to do the preparation – have a look at the Time Management section for help with this. You won’t be able to do everything that is suggested in this section, so think about the areas where you feel less confident, and prioritise those.

This content draws on the presentation made by Professor David Gavaghan, Director of the MPLS Graduate School, on the   Completing your DPhil  course, and on material from Dr Melanie Ghoul , who delivers the Viva Preparation and Practice course for the Division.

The aim of the Viva is

  • To check that the research in your thesis is of the required standard for a DPhil*
  • To check that the work in your thesis is your own
  • To check that you have a general knowledge of the research area covered by your thesis commensurate with holding a DPhil in that area

*The standard is 'that the student present a significant and substantial piece of research, of a kind which might reasonably be expected of a capable and diligent student after three or at most four years of full-time study in the case of a full time student, or eight years in the case of a part-time student.'

How to prepare

There is a lot you can do to prepare for your Viva and make it an effective and also – dare we say it – enjoyable experience! Yes, people do find it enjoyable to talk about their work and discuss it with their examiners – who are also after all, knowledgeable in your field. Remember that however many experts there are in your field, you are the only person who has done your specific piece of research, so you are the expert in your DPhil, and your examiners will be interested to hear about it.

Dr Melanie Ghoul delivers the Viva Preparation and Practice Course  for the Division. Her slides for the Viva Preparation course  provide comprehensive information and advice on the kind of things you can do to prepare in different areas. Working through them will help you get ready for the exam. These are some suggestions to help you replicate the face to face activities referred to in the slides:

Listing concerns

You are encouraged to think about and note your concerns, and discuss them with friends / colleagues / supervisor / others in your field. If that’s not possible, think about and note what you can do to address each concern.

  • What strategies can you formulate?
  • Who can you ask to help you?
  • Where can you find information?

The examiner’s perspective

Talk to your supervisor and other academics in your field who have acted as examiners. What is their perspective?

  • What are they looking for the candidate to demonstrate during the viva?
  • What is their advice?
  • What is the purpose of the viva, in their opinion?
  • What makes a strong viva performance?
  • What makes a weak performance?
  • Advice on how to prepare beforehand
  • Advice on how to cope during the viva.

 The University’s Memorandum for Examiners will also give you a perspective on what they are looking for.

The Student's Perspective

Find someone – in your field or another – who has recently completed their Viva. Ask them how it was.

  • What did they do to prepare?
  • What do they wish they had done differently?
  • What kind of questions did the examiners ask?
  • What advice do they have for appointing examiners?
  • What other advice do they have for you?

Practice Session

The face to face Viva preparation course offers an opportunity for a ‘live’ short practice session with other students. You could organise the same kind of session with fellow students or colleagues.  There are some ideas for questions in this Vitae resource .

Other resources and ideas

Vitae pages on The Viva . These contain useful information, including book recommendations and a Viva preparation checklist.

Book: How to Survive your Viva, R Murray

Formal bits

The Division's pages on Examination and Graduation , which include a section on the Viva.

The University page on Research Examinations .

On this page

The Essex website uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are consenting to their use. Please visit our cookie policy to find out which cookies we use and why. View cookie policy.

How the viva process works

The viva is a long-established part of the examination process for a research degree. The main focus of the assessment is on the written thesis/dissertation (and other outputs, for a Practice as Research students). However, the viva, which is the oral part of the assessment, is used to inform the examiners’ final assessment decision.

The viva gives the examiners the opportunity to explore any issues in detail and provide inspiring advice for your future research career. Examiners may have a strong sense of the outcome from reading the thesis, but the viva gives you an opportunity to defend your work, as well as to validate the thesis and demonstrate your skills in participating in academic discussion with research colleagues.

Viva arrangements

Your department is responsible for nominating two examiners: one internal and one external, whose names must be approved by the Faculty Dean (Postgraduate).

The internal examiner is expected to undertake any arrangements necessary for conducting the viva. You’ll then be contacted to confirm the arrangements for the examination of the thesis, including the date and time of the viva.

The viva should be held no later than two months after your examiners receive your thesis for examination unless exceptional circumstances prevent it from happening. In the case of a staff candidate, the department must nominate two external examiners, rather than an internal and an external, and an Independent Chair is appointed to oversee the examination process.

Students who fail to engage in viva arrangements, to the extent where it has not been possible to conduct a viva, shall be deemed to have withdrawn permanently from the University.

Viva format

Two formats are available as standard viva examination formats of the University: Video Link Vivas and In-Person Vivas. The availability of both video link vivas and in-person vivas means that the most appropriate format can be sought, to support any individual needs and adjustments appropriately, including cultural and/or interpersonal challenges.

Video Link Vivas provide the ability to expand the network of external examiners internationally as potential barriers, such as financial constraints, time commitments and our environmental efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, are removed. There are both financial and time-saving benefits for all viva attendees, including candidates, who will not have to bear the costs of returning to campus for their viva.

The diverse nature of some thesis and viva formats (including, but not limited to, Practice as Research examinations) are potentially not well-suited to the video link format, so this should be considered when deciding on the viva format.

In advance of the thesis submission, students should discuss with their supervisor which examination format is most appropriate and preferred. Where possible, the department will look to accommodate a student’s preference, and will liaise with the examination team before making a decision.

Venue (in-person vivas)

In cases where the viva is taking place in-person, the venue for the viva should normally be on campus, reasonably quiet and allow the viva to proceed without interruption.

The Faculty Dean (Postgraduate)’s approval is required for a viva to be held at a venue outside the University of Essex or one of its Partner Institutions.

Technical preparation (video-link vivas)

The University recommends the use of Zoom as its preferred and supported video- conferencing software. The Graduate Administrator within each Department/School will be responsible for arranging the Zoom meeting, and wherever possible a University video- conferencing room should be used.

Technical assistance will be provided by Audio Visual Services as required. This will include practical advice on the protocols of communication by video link. Time should be allowed before the start of the viva to ensure the software and equipment is working correctly, and that all parties are satisfied with the arrangement.

Who attends?

The viva will normally only involve the internal examiner, the external examiner and the student.

The Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) may appoint an Independent Chair, who is a senior member of the Academic or Research staff of the University of Essex, to oversee the conduct of the oral examination in line with the Policy for the Appointment of Independent Chairs for Research Degree Vivas  (.pdf).

The student’s supervisor can only be present in exceptional circumstances, approved on an individual basis by the Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) and with the agreement of the external examiner.

The length of a viva will vary but if it is longer than two hours the internal examiner will recommend an adjournment for a break.

If you feel the need for a break earlier than two hours, please feel free to inform the examiners. Any breaks taken will not affect the outcome of the viva.

Discussion between examiners

Once you’ve submitted your thesis and the examiners have been appointed, copies of the thesis/dissertation and examination paperwork are sent to the examiners by the Postgraduate Research Education Team.

The examiners must not contact each other to discuss their assessment of your thesis, nor engage in discussion with you ahead of the viva, except for when making logistical arrangements. On the day of the viva and before seeing the student, the examiners will have a pre-viva meeting at which they discuss their initial assessment and agree the approach to the viva, including the areas of questioning.

It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to oversee the proceedings at the viva and to ensure that the University’s Principal Regulations for Research Degrees are adhered to, unless an Independent Chair has been appointed.

The start of the viva

At the start of the viva, the internal examiner will introduce the examination team, confirm the purpose of the viva, and explain how the viva will proceed. If there is anything you’re unsure of, now is a good time to ask.

Questioning

Remember, no one is perfect. There will be strengths and weaknesses to your research and your examiners will want to explore these in more detail.

Normally, the examiners will start with some general/introductory questions that will ease you into discussing your thesis and research. These will be followed by a discussion of strengths and weaknesses of the thesis. It will be an opportunity for you to demonstrate your abilities of self-analysis and reflection, exploring things you’d do differently in future and what you’ve learnt during the process.

The examiners will be asking questions to provide clarification, and seek explanation and elaboration where appropriate. Please remember that each examiner has a different style, and some questions may appear quite direct and challenging. In this situation, it’s important to stay relaxed and take your time to give a thoughtful response.

If you are asked a question which you don’t understand, feel free to ask for clarification.

Reaching a decision

Once the viva has finished, you’ll be asked to leave the room, whilst the examiners reach a conclusion about the recommended result. The result will be one which is listed in the University’s Principal Regulations for Research Degrees .

You’ll then be invited back into the room to be told the recommended result and the reasons for the decision. If corrections are required, you’ll be sent a written list of corrections after the viva.

Arrow symbol

  • For enquiries contact your Student Services Hub
  • University of Essex
  • Wivenhoe Park
  • Colchester CO4 3SQ
  • Accessibility
  • Privacy and Cookie Policy
  • Home »

find your perfect postgrad program Search our Database of 30,000 Courses

How to prepare for a phd viva.

Preparing for your PhD viva can be a daunting task. You'll want to ensure that you are ready to defend your thesis successfully.

To help, we've rounded up some useful tips on what to expect during your viva experience, how you can fully prepare for the process and what to expect after viva is done.

What is a PhD viva?

PhD Viva Interview

For the majority of PhD students, finishing the dissertation is a seminal moment. After all, knowing that such a long project has come to an end may seem almost surreal.

However, a hard copy of the dissertation is not the end of the PhD experience , each dissertation will have to be orally ‘defended’ in an examination called a viva, which usually takes between one and two hours to complete.

A PhD is an oral examination in the form of a discussion in which PhD students present their PhD thesis and defend their research methods and outcomes to a panel of academic experts.

The word ’viva’ is a shortened form of the Latin term ‘viva voce’ which means ‘live voice’.

How to prepare for a PhD viva

A key way to ensure success in your PhD viva is to make sure you are properly prepared – this can be done in four simple ways:

1. Know your research project inside out.

2. Find out about your viva examiners if you can. If you know about their areas of expertise, you may be able to anticipate their lines of questioning and even work out what they’d like to hear more about.

3. Compile a list of possible questions and practice your explanation/defence of methods used and outcomes discovered.

4. Prepare properly for the actual day by planning your journey to the PhD viva, knowing what you’re going to wear and compiling all the documentation that you need to have with you.

How to prepare ahead of your PhD viva – 5 steps to success

After you hand in your thesis/dissertation, you will usually have a few free weeks before undertaking the PhD viva. It is important that you prepare well during this period and walk out of your examination with at least a “pass mark subject to minor corrections”.

We have compiled a list of some of the most important PhD viva preparation steps to help you succeed in your viva.

STEP 1 – Take a break

After you have submitted your thesis, it is good to take a one or two week break and avoid thinking about your work. This will allow you to see your thesis from a third-person perspective and to understand your own shortcomings more clearly when you read it once again.

STEP 2 ­– Get to know your thesis

Read each section carefully and summarise its main points. You need to know how to explain and justify the main aspects of your thesis including the research question, methodology and data analysis. Writing any thoughts that come to your mind while reading the thesis as comments will help you to establish a "personal connection" with the thesis and understand it in greater depth.

STEP 3 – Critically examine your thesis

The crucial step of preparation is to lose any "compassion" towards your own work and criticise any weak points that you find in your thesis. It is very likely that your examiners will focus on some of these points in your viva, and you need to find out how to justify them.

STEP 4 – Learn how to defend your thesis!

Write a list of possible critical questions regarding your research and learn how to answer them convincingly. Try to think of yourself as a lawyer and of your thesis as the defendant whom you need to defend!

STEP 5 – Arrange a mock viva with your supervisor around 1-2 weeks before the actual viva

This will help you determine whether your preparation has been complete or there are still some aspects to be prepared before you can successfully defend your thesis. And don't forget to do something enjoyable and relax on the day before your actual viva!

PhD viva tips

We have compiled some of the most useful PhD viva tips to help you understand what is awaiting you if you ever decide to become a PhD student or if you already are one.

Who will be at a PhD viva?

A viva is attended by the PhD student and at least two academic experts.

In some universities, in addition to the student and the two examiners, there may be a senior member of academic staff present to act as chair of the examination. Your supervisor may also be present, although some universities do not allow this.

If there is a chair or your supervisor present at your PhD viva, they are not allowed to ask you questions or to take part in any of the discussion about the outcome.

PhD Viva Interview

What questions are asked at a PhD viva?

The examiners will usually start by trying to make you feel comfortable, perhaps by welcoming you and having some polite ‘social’ conversation to start with, for they will understand that you are nervous.

They will soon move on to the range of questions they have planned. These questions could cover anything about the thesis. They might ask you about the methods you have used, the results and findings or the conclusions you have drawn.

They may ask very detailed questions, or they may ask about the overall methods or findings. They will certainly want to explore any areas they feel you have not explained clearly enough or in enough detail in your thesis.

You may be asked to justify some of the conclusions you have made and to show exactly how your data has led you to draw those conclusions. In the area of methodology, you may be asked to justify your choice of the overall method you used, as well as explaining the decisions you made about the detailed methods you chose.

You may also be asked to show how well you know the range of literature and previous research in your field and how your findings add to the literature. In most vivas you will be asked to explain carefully what you believe to be your distinctive ‘contribution to knowledge’ from your research.

What will the PhD examiners want to know?

Understanding what PhD examiners might ask during your viva and having your answers is one way to prepare for success.

How do you justify the critical aspects of your work?

No dissertation is perfect and there will be some aspects of your PhD research that your examiners will be specifically critical about. Thus, it will be important for them to ask you some of the questions regarding these 'critical' aspects of your work to see if you can justify them. These questions will probably be decisive in determining the outcome of your viva.

Can you elaborate on specific sections of your research?

Besides focusing on some 'critical' aspects of your work, the examiners may ask you to give some more elaborate explanations of specific sections of your thesis or specific techniques used in your research. This will help them determine whether you really understand your own work and can think critically about your research.

How does your research contribute to your field of study?

Last, but not least, your examiners will be interested in how well you understand the place of your work within your field of research , and they will ask you to explain the overall contribution of your research to your discipline. As an aspiring student, you will always need to see the big picture and understand how your ideas can shape your academic field.

PhD viva – an academic discussion

A helpful way to think of the viva is as a serious academic discussion. It is an opportunity to sit and talk about your work and your field with two senior academics who know the field well.

As such, it should be challenging and stimulating, and should give you a chance to show that you can engage in serious academic discussion and debate at a very high level.

After the examination many students look back on their viva and see it as a stimulating and enjoyable experience, and they forget the nerves they felt when they first entered the viva room.

The dos and don’ts of a PhD viva

After you have carefully prepared how to defend the content of your thesis, it is important to think of how you should behave during the actual viva.

We have a whole host of PhD viva tips for you. From how to answer properly and be convincing to what to say and what not to say – here, we have clarified these things in our list of PhD viva  dos and don’ts . 

Are you a Doctor after your viva?

Once you have passed your PhD viva, you cannot officially use the title ‘Dr’ until you receive official documentation from your university stating that you are a ‘Doctor’.

Can you fail a PhD viva?

Although the majority of PhD students are happy with the outcome of their PhD viva, things don’t always go as expected, and some of the least appealing outcomes do happen. You can fail a PhD viva – although according to recent research by Discover PhDs this number is only 4%. It is more common for borderline students to be awarded a provisional pass pending amends to their research project.

If, as a PhD student, you feel that your own work is not of very high quality and you are aware that the unfavourable outcome is your fault, there is not much you can do except for complying with the decision of your examiners.

Appealing a PhD viva decision

If you feel that your viva has not been appropriately conducted and the outcome doesn’t match the quality of your performance, there are some things you can do.

Universities in the UK will usually allow you to appeal against how your examination was conducted and if you do appeal, a panel of researchers within your university will be appointed to investigate the issue, but you must possess clear evidence in your support.

If your appeal is successful, you will get a chance to undertake another viva with different examiners.

If the university hasn’t decided in your favour, you will be able to appeal to an external organisation, such as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). But remember, appeals are usually not very successful, and it is always better to make sure that your thesis is of high quality and that you have done the right amount of PhD viva preparation.

Related articles

What Is A PhD?

How Long Is A PhD?

PhD In The USA

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries

Postgrad.com

Exclusive bursaries Open day alerts Funding advice Application tips Latest PG news

Sign up now!

Postgrad Solutions Study Bursaries

Take 2 minutes to sign up to PGS student services and reap the benefits…

  • The chance to apply for one of our 5 PGS Bursaries worth £2,000 each
  • Fantastic scholarship updates

phd viva in uk

Study at Cambridge

About the university, research at cambridge.

  • Undergraduate courses
  • Events and open days
  • Fees and finance
  • Postgraduate courses
  • How to apply
  • Postgraduate events
  • Fees and funding
  • International students
  • Continuing education
  • Executive and professional education
  • Courses in education
  • How the University and Colleges work
  • Term dates and calendars
  • Visiting the University
  • Annual reports
  • Equality and diversity
  • A global university
  • Public engagement
  • Give to Cambridge
  • For Cambridge students
  • For our researchers
  • Business and enterprise
  • Colleges & departments
  • Email & phone search
  • Museums & collections
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught
  • Postgraduate examinations
  • Writing, submitting and examination
  • PhD, EdD, MSc, MLitt
  • Cambridge students
  • New students overview
  • Pre-arrival courses
  • Student registration overview
  • Frequently Asked Questions overview
  • Who needs to register
  • When to register
  • Received registration in error/not received registration email
  • Problems creating an account
  • Problems logging in
  • Problems with screen display
  • Personal details changed/incorrectly displayed
  • Course details changed/incorrectly displayed
  • Accessing email and other services
  • Miscellaneous questions
  • Contact Form
  • First few weeks
  • Manage your student information overview
  • Student record overview
  • Camsis overview
  • Extended Self-Service (ESS)
  • Logging into CamSIS
  • What CamSIS can do for you
  • Personal information overview
  • Changing your name
  • Changing Colleges
  • Residing outside the University's precincts
  • Applying for person(s) to join you in Cambridge
  • Postgraduate students overview
  • Code of Practice for Master's students
  • Code of Practice for Research Students
  • Postgraduate student information
  • Requirements for research degrees
  • Terms of study
  • Your progress
  • Rules and legal compliance overview
  • Freedom of speech
  • Public gatherings
  • Disclosure and barring service overview
  • Cambridge life overview
  • Student unions
  • Extra-curricular activities overview
  • Registering societies
  • Military, air, and sea training
  • Food and accommodation
  • Transport overview
  • Bicycles and boats
  • Your course overview
  • Undergraduate study
  • Postgraduate study overview
  • Changes to your student status (postgraduates only) overview
  • Applying for a change in your student status (postgraduates only)
  • Changing your mode of study
  • Withdrawing from the University
  • Allowance/exemption of research terms
  • Withdrawal from Study
  • Reinstatement
  • Changing your course registration
  • Changing your department/faculty
  • Changing your supervisor
  • Exemption from the University composition fee
  • Confirmation of Study: Academic Verification Letters
  • Extending your submission date
  • Medical intermission (postgraduates)
  • Non-medical intermission (postgraduates)
  • Returning from medical intermission
  • Working away
  • Working while you study
  • Postgraduate by Research Exam Information
  • Research passports
  • Engagement and feedback
  • Student elections
  • Graduation and what next? overview
  • Degree Ceremonies overview
  • The ceremony
  • Academical dress
  • Photography
  • Degree ceremony dates
  • Eligibility
  • The Cambridge MA overview
  • Degrees Under Statute B II 2
  • Degree certificates and transcripts overview
  • Academic Transcripts
  • Degree Certificates
  • After Graduation
  • Verification of Cambridge degrees
  • After your examination
  • Exams overview
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught overview
  • All students timetable
  • Undergraduate exam information overview
  • Postgraduate examinations overview
  • Examination access arrangements overview
  • Research programmes
  • Taught programmes
  • Writing, submitting and examination overview
  • PhD, EdD, MSc, MLitt overview
  • Research Best Practice
  • Preparing to submit your thesis
  • Submitting your thesis
  • Word limits
  • The oral examination (viva)
  • After the viva (oral examination)
  • After the examination overview
  • Degree approval and conferment overview
  • Final thesis submission
  • Examination allowances for certain Postgraduate degrees (except PhD, MSc, MLitt and MPhil by thesis degrees)
  • Requesting a review of the results of an examination (postgraduate qualifications)
  • Higher degrees overview
  • Higher doctorates
  • Bachelor of divinity
  • PhD under Special Regulations
  • Faith-provision in University exams
  • Publication of Results
  • Exam Support
  • Postgraduate by Research
  • Resources overview
  • Build your skills
  • Research students
  • Fees and financial assistance overview
  • Financial assistance overview
  • Overview of Financial Assistance
  • General eligibility principles and guidance
  • Cambridge Bursary Scheme funding overview
  • What you could get
  • Scottish students
  • EU students
  • Clinical medics and vets
  • Independent students
  • Extra scholarships and awards
  • Undergraduate Financial Assistance Fund
  • Postgraduate Financial Assistance Fund
  • Realise Financial Assistance Fund
  • The Crane's Charity
  • Loan Fund I
  • External Support 
  • Support from your Funding Sponsor
  • Guidance for Academic Supervisors and College Tutors
  • Fees overview
  • Funding overview
  • Travel Awards
  • Support for UKRI Studentship Holders overview
  • Student loans overview
  • US loans overview
  • Application procedure
  • Entrance and Exit Counselling
  • Cost of attendance
  • What type of loan and how much you can borrow
  • Interest rates for federal student loans
  • Proof of funding for visa purposes
  • Disbursement
  • Satisfactory academic progress policy
  • In-School Deferment Forms
  • Leave of absence
  • Withdrawing and return to Title IV policy
  • Rights and Responsibilities as a Borrower
  • Managing Repayment
  • Consumer information
  • Submitting a thesis — information for PhD students
  • Private loans
  • Veteran affairs benefits
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Student support
  • Complaints and appeals

The Oral Examination (viva) - Doctoral degrees, MSc and MLitt

If you have not been advised of the date for your viva within six weeks of submitting your thesis, you should contact your Degree Committee.

Location of the viva

The viva will normally take place in-person in Cambridge, but you may choose to be examined remotely by video conference. You should inform your Degree Committee of your preference when you notify them of your intention to submit/apply for appointment of examiners. Please also make your supervisor aware of your preference as it may affect the choice of available examiners.

Arrangements where you and one examiner are co-located in Cambridge, with the second examiner participating by video conference, where both examiners are co-located and you participate by video conference, or where you and the examiners are all in separate locations, are permissible provided all parties agree.

In-person oral examination:  In-person examinations may be delayed depending on the availability of the examiners as travel time will need to be factored in. Students who are overseas and returning to Cambridge for their viva should contact the International Student Office for visa advice if their student visa has expired or will be expiring soon.

Video conference oral examination: A guide to conducting vivas by video conference can be found here .

The choice of in-person or video conference viva does not constitute procedural irregularity grounds for complaint should you fail the examination.

Adjustments to the oral examination on the grounds of disability

If you wish to notify examiners of a disability or request adjustments on account of a disability for your viva (either your first year assessment or final examination), you can do this via your Degree Committee by completing and submitting the voluntary disclosure form . It is recommended you do this at least four weeks before your expected date of examination to allow time for appropriate recommendations and adjustments to be made. 

Once you have submitted the form, your Degree Committee will contact the University’s Accessibility and Disability Resource Centre (ADRC) who will advise the Degree Committee on the appropriate course of action. You may be contacted by the ADRC 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.

If you already have a Student Support Document (SSD) that includes recommendations for adjustments to the viva , and you have given permission for the SSD to be shared with the Degree Committee, you do not have to complete the voluntary disclosure form but may do so if you wish.

What happens at the viva?

  • The viva will normally take place in Cambridge, although some may take place via video-conference (please see above)
  • It is carried out between yourself and the two examiners and is conducted in English
  • 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 should be informed at least two weeks in advance of the viva
  • The viva cannot be recorded
  • Your supervisor cannot attend the viva

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

Purpose of the viva

The viva 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

Possible outcomes of the viva

The possible outcomes are:

  • Conditional approval - pass without correction (but for doctoral degrees subject to submission of hardbound and electronic copies of the thesis ); or pass, 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 subject 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

Notification of the result of the viva

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 decision to the Student Registry who will email your reports to you, copying in your Supervisor.

Process following the viva

Information about the process following your viva can be found here.

© 2024 University of Cambridge

  • Contact the University
  • Accessibility
  • Freedom of information
  • Privacy policy and cookies
  • Statement on Modern Slavery
  • Terms and conditions
  • University A-Z
  • Undergraduate
  • Postgraduate
  • Research news
  • About research at Cambridge
  • Spotlight on...

York Graduate Research School

phd viva in uk

Following the submission of your thesis or dissertation for examination you may be required to sit an oral examination known as a viva.

PhD ,  MPhil  or  EngD  students: Your department will contact you to arrange your viva.

MA / MSc  students do not usually sit an oral examination. However you may be called for a viva by your department, or at your examiners' discretion.

Your viva will take place within three months of submitting your thesis/dissertation.

Researcher development Look out for forthcoming training sessions on Preparing for your viva .

The purpose of an oral examination is to allow your examiners to explore your work and satisfy themselves that:

  • the work is of appropriate quality;
  • you are well acquainted with your subject matter;
  • you have applied appropriate research methods;
  • that the work is your own, or if a collaborative piece, that your contribution is adequate.

The oral examination also allows you to respond to any shortcomings identified by the examiners.

You should bring an annotated copy of your thesis to your oral examination (this may be electronic if preferred). No additional material is allowed, unless previously agreed with your examiners. No new material should be presented.

Online oral examinations

You can request that your viva be held online. 

Guidance on conducting online vivas

The Graduate Chair in your Department will complete a Google Form to request an online oral examination .

Recording of oral examinations

Oral examinations for all research degrees are recorded. The recordings are used only in the event of an appeal based on the conduct of the examination, or when an additional examiner has been subsequently appointed to resolve a dispute. Recordings will be destroyed one year after the result of the examination has been confirmed, or one year after appeal proceedings have been concluded.

Full regulations surrounding oral examination and recording can be found in the University  Policy on Research Degrees (12.16 - 12.31) .

[email protected] +44 (0)1904 325962 Student Hub, Information Centre Basement, Market Square

Related links

  • For external examiners

jobs.ac.uk - Great jobs for bright people

  • Skip to primary navigation
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar
  • Skip to secondary sidebar
  • Skip to footer

career-advice.jobs.ac.uk

Your PhD Viva and How to Prepare

GettyImages 522225823

At the end of the long road of your PhD research, lies the viva examination . Just as every PhD is different, then every viva is different. But there are some things that all PhD candidates can do ahead of time to prepare academically, mentally and physically for the viva examination. Handing in your thesis at the first submission as it gets passed to the examiners feels like a huge weight has been lifted. However, it can be some weeks, even months between that hand in date and the viva. What this time gives you is distance and a chance to prepare.

Re-read your thesis

No matter the length of time between submission and the day of the viva, good preparation is key. In the first instance, as the viva date approaches giving yourself plenty of time, read your thesis, from cover to cover. This seems obvious, but that distance between submission and viva date allows you to step back from your research and allows you to read over it again with a more critical eye. In the midst of the final weeks of research and writing, ensuring all referencing is correct, all figures are identified, and getting copies printed and bound, PhD candidates are so close to their work that it is difficult to see the full picture of the thesis. Re-reading with some distance from submission will help to familiarise yourself with your work again, and to see it as a whole cohesive piece of research.

So what to keep in mind when you are re-reading? In addition to taking in the whole thesis, during the re-read go over your methodology again, in good detail. Make sure that you know your research design and the reasons for that methodology inside and out. A common viva question, regardless of discipline, will be centred on your methodological design. Why did you design it in the way that you did? What were the benefits of your methodology, and were there any problems along the way?

When you have read your thesis, have a think about and form succinct answers to these questions.

  • What is your contribution to your field? Why is your study important?
  • What was the inspiration for the study and what is it about? It can be a useful exercise to write a one page summary of each chapter.
  • What did you do – be able to explain your methodology and how you went about doing it.
  • What did you find, what were your outcomes?

Think about and prepare answers to these questions, write them down and importantly, practice saying them out loud. This is a preparation point that everyone should do. In much the same way that you might practice giving a speech or a conference paper, practice – with these questions as a guideline – talking about your thesis out loud. This will help you to avoid getting tongue-tied, and you will be able to answer your examiners’ questions smoothly. You can take these notes into the viva with you.

Know about developments in your field

Another thing to be up to date on is other developments in your field that occurred during the process of your own PhD research. And crucially, where would you position yourself and your work in your field? This is essential to the viva examination, as knowing your position in your particular academic field shows that you understand the past and current academic frameworks and contexts around your own thesis subject. It is also helpful to think about where your research will take you next. Does your thesis open doors for more research ? Development into a publication ?

Practicalities

Make sure that you know in advance where the viva will take place, where the building is and what room number. Have your journey planned, taking into account public transport access, parking or avoiding busy rush hours. Nothing will add to pre-viva stress than being late. Get a good nights sleep the night before, and make sure that you eat before you begin your viva.

What to take with you

Take a bottle of water in with you. It is also useful to take in with you a notebook and pen. Write down the questions as your examiners ask you, or make notes as you discuss your work. This way you can refer to what they have asked and what is being discussed with confidence.

It is perfectly acceptable to ask for clarification on anything that your examiners ask you, and you can and should take time to think before you answer. Even write down your points before you start to answer. It is good practice to take a printed copy of your thesis into the viva with you. The examiners will have their copies, your own copy to refer to will be helpful. You can also prepare some questions that you might like to ask of your examiners.

Feel positive

The viva can seem incredibly daunting and makes all PhD candidates nervous. But your viva can actually be a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience. Your examiners have been chosen as the ideal professionals in the field to read and feedback on your research. They want to see you do well, they are not there to make problems or to try and trip you up. Remember, your PhD examiners are on your side and they are interested in your work and they want to hear you talk about it.

Research your examiners

Take some time to do a little background research on your examiners. What are their interests, and what are they working on. A relaxed and fulfilling viva often becomes more of a mutual discussion between yourself and the examiners, rather than them only firing questions at you. Of course, there can be no guarantee what questions the examiners might ask you and what they might not. As long as you are very familiar with your own research, your methods, your outcomes and results, and your contribution to the knowledge of your field, the viva will go smoothly. You might even enjoy it.

Post PhD, Where Do I Go From Here?

Share this article

' src=

Stella Gaynor

Dr Stella Gaynor is an Associate Lecturer at the University of Salford in the Broadcast Media Department, with eight years teaching experience in Higher Education. She completed her PhD thesis on the horror genre and the US television industry and is developing this into a monograph. She has written a chapter in the forthcoming edited collection Global TV Horror, an article for the Revenant journal, and regularly blogs for Critical Studies in Television. She is also a freelance copywriter.

Reader Interactions

You may also like:, leave a reply cancel reply.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Please enter an answer in digits: sixteen + 17 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

The Savvy Scientist

The Savvy Scientist

Experiences of a London PhD student and beyond

Common PhD Viva Questions

PhD interview scenario

It can be pretty difficult knowing how to prepare for your PhD viva. Having successfully defended my own STEM PhD remotely in the last year, I want to help you to prepare! What follows are some common PhD viva questions which your examiners may ask you. Plus some additional advice based off my own PhD viva experience.

For an intro to the PhD viva including the typical structure and potential outcomes please see my introductory post:

  • How to Defend a Thesis: An Introduction to the PhD Viva

How Much Do You Need to Prepare For A PhD Viva?

There is no hard and fast rule for how much you need to prepare. And unlike a written exam, there are of course no past-papers to practice on!

It may help ease your mind to think about what the purpose of a PhD viva is. Namely the purpose of the PhD viva (or defence) is to check that:

  • You did the work;
  • You understand the work;
  • The research is up to the standard for a PhD.

For more detail see my separate post here including Imperial’s PhD viva mark scheme.

In hindsight I probably didn’t spend as much time preparing for my viva as is normal. Though I did unexpectedly move house less than a week before !

Besides reading through my thesis once in the few days leading up to it, I didn’t spend much time thinking up answers to questions or “revising” certain topics which could come up. The viva went fine, but it wouldn’t have done me any harm to have been a little better prepared.

It certainly helped that I’d managed to schedule a viva which took place less than six weeks after I submitted the thesis so it was all very fresh in my mind. If you submitted your thesis months before your viva I’d suggest spending slightly more time refreshing your memory in preparation for questions you may get asked.

In summary, I think it’s useful for all PhD students to get an idea of some potential lines of questioning for their oral exam!

Update: Keen to get prepared for your viva? I’ve put together a set of viva preparation worksheets which are available in the resource library. Click the image below for free access!

phd viva in uk

Listed below are common PhD viva questions which I’ve roughly grouped together. We’ll start with some higher-level questions about your PhD which should be quite easy and friendly, then progress through to some more technical (and potentially unfriendly!) questions.

It is worth noting that many examiners will ask for a short presentation at the start of the viva and this could eliminate some potential questions. In this list I’ve left in the main questions I’d expect for this presentation to address, such as what future work you’d recommend.

Very few of the questions are ones you’re guaranteed to get asked, but I can assure you that you’ll get asked at least some of them!

General PhD Viva Questions – usually friendly!

These ones are simply inquisitive and you don’t really have to worry about getting caught out. The examiners are simply interested in the work and want an insight from someone who has spent the last few years working on it.

  • What is the most important finding from your PhD work?
  • What was the motivation behind this research?
  • Who is your research relevant to?
  • Which aspects of your work are you publishing? Follow on: and where?
  • What future work would you recommend?
  • What are the limitations of your research?
  • Which aspect of your work surprised you the most?
  • What are the potential applications of your PhD research?

Method-Specific Questions – mostly friendly!

These questions dive a little deeper but even so shouldn’t be too much of a cause for concern. They come down to your own judgement and as long as you justify your decicisions you’ll be fine in answering them.

  • Why did you do [things] a certain way?
  • What were the alternatives to [this certain method]?
  • Why did you test [that specific number] of samples?
  • What effect did you think changing [something in your method] would have?
  • What do you think you could have gained by using [another approach]?
  • Why did you not use [another technique]?
  • How did you deal with the ethical implications of your work?

Results & Analysis-Specific Questions – mostly friendly!

In a similar manner to the previous section about your methodology, you’ll often get some questions targeting your analysis and presentation of results.

  • What is this graphical figure illustrating?
  • Why was [this analytical technique] appropriate? Follow on: why did you use [this other technique]?
  • Which of your results do you find the most interesting?
  • How do you know that your findings are correct?

Literature Questions – may be less friendly!

This is where things may get tough if your examiners want to try and test your limits. Even so, they’ll still likely cut you some slack. If you have 100+ references it’s very possible that under the nerves of your exam you can’t remember specifics for each and every reference. Just don’t make things up. They’d rather you were honest than trying to deceive them.

  • Please explain the key findings of reference number [X]
  • Which papers would you say had the biggest impact on your work?
  • What do you think are the biggest differences between [these two previous studies]?
  • What have been the biggest advancements in the field over the last 10 years?
  • Why did you not reference [this other study]?
  • How does your work compliment the existing literature?
  • What do you think the next big advancements will be in the field?

Highly Technical Questions – potentially very unfriendly!

These are the ones I was a bit scared of getting, but it is a PhD viva after all. Of course it should be expected that you have a solid understanding of the principles that underpin your project. Even so it can be unnerving thinking of how large the range of potential questions like this can be!

Unlike at a conference or in other settings where you may be able to brush over things you’re not 100% comfortable with, there is no hiding when your examiners need to test your knowledge. Particularly when they have hours of time at their disposal to do so!

  • Explain how [a technique] works. This could be anything from sample preparation, equipment and analysis through to statistics. I’ve known people to get asked to explain things like a statistical t-test from first principles, with follow-on questions being asked with every answer to drill deeper.
  • Explain [some fundamental concept, phenomenon or principle]. Just like the last question but applied to basic-sciences. I’ve known students to get asked questions such as: explain energy (to a mechanical engineer) and explain toughness (to a materials scientist). I’m sure we can all explain these concepts to a certain level but my concern was whether or not I could explain them at a deep enough level to satisfy the examiner.

With both of these types of questions there ultimately comes a point where you (or the internal examiner ) can push back and say that answering that question was not the focus of your PhD!

What Questions I Got Asked at My Own PhD Viva

I was really surprised at my own viva how few questions I actually got in general.

The viva lasted a whopping five hours (excluding a quick break) and yet almost all of the time was spent discussing improvements to my viva to help with publishing papers.

Even so, I could have done with putting a bit more time into preparing for potential questions: which was my motivation to help you by putting together this post!

The few questions I had included:

  • If you were to do the project again would you do anything differently?
  • Clarification of what I meant by certain sentences in my thesis .

You may be wondering if I avoided getting asked deeper questions by the examiners because I already had a relationship with them so they were satisfied with my knowledge and capabilities. But I didn’t really know the examiners! I’d met my external examiner at a conference and he had seen me present but I’d never actually met my internal examiner before.

Instead, what I think did go a long way to helping was having already had something published in a respected journal.

Nevertheless, in a way I actually walked away a little unsatisfied by the lack of questioning at my PhD viva.

It was great to get so much feedback on my thesis which has already helped to get two more papers published since the viva, but I felt like it would have been nice to feel a bit more taxed and known that I could hold my own in the exam if it came down to it.

Now looking back on the viva 10 months later, I’m just happy to have the PhD done!

My Tips for Answering Common PhD Viva Questions

  • Keep calm and take your time before answering . There is no rush to answer questions. Having a sip of a drink may help provide a pause for thinking up an answer.
  • Tell the truth. If you don’t know something, just say so! It’s likely the examiners will quickly be able to tell that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Plus, there is the risk that they’ll ask deeper follow-on questions which could unravel any lies.
  • Try to enjoy the experience. Think of it as a discussion, rather than a police investigation. Your examiners are interested in the work and want to hear more about it!

If you’d like personalised help with preparing for your PhD viva I am now starting to offer a small number of one-to-one sessions. Please contact me to find out more or click here to book a call.

I hope these common PhD viva questions can help you to prepare for your own viva.

If there are other aspects of the examination you want covered, just let me know.

I have many more upcoming PhD (and beyond!) posts . I f you want to get notified about them you can subscribe here:

Share this:

  • Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
  • Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)

Related Posts

Graphic of a zen-like man meditating, surrounded by graphics of healthy food, sport, sleep and heart-health: all in an effort to stay healthy as a student

How to Stay Healthy as a Student

25th January 2024 25th January 2024

Cover photo with post title and cartoon image of a scientist

How to Master LinkedIn for Academics & PhD Students

22nd December 2023 22nd December 2023

My PhD Viva

What is a PhD Viva Like? Sharing Graduates’ Experiences

23rd November 2023 30th January 2024

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of follow-up comments by email.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .

Privacy Overview

Enago Academy

Top 12 Potential PhD Viva Questions and How to Answer Them

' src=

Breathed a sigh of relief after submitting the PhD thesis you’ve burnt the midnight oil for? Not so soon! While submitting your thesis is a massive achievement, defending it decides whether you will receive the doctoral degree or not. Although every PhD viva examination is different, there are similarities in the types of questions asked at each. In this article, we shall discuss the most common and potential PhD viva questions and how to answer them.

Types of PhD Viva Questions

Generally, examiners prepare a series of questions for you to answer at the PhD viva voce examination. These questions are primarily based on your thesis. However, the questions asked in PhD viva examinations can be broadly grouped under four basic headings:

  • General Questions
  • Research Context and Methods
  • Analysis and Findings
  • Discussions and Conclusion/Implications

Therefore, while preparing for your PhD viva and defending your thesis , you must consider the types of questions you’re likely to be asked. This helps in practicing your answers in advance and not being baffled during the viva. Practicing how you would answer questions based on these four basic categories will take you a long way in your preparations.

Commonly Asked PhD Viva Questions and How to Answer Them

While sticking to answering the most commonly asked questions might sound simple, it is equally important to be prepared for counter questions. Furthermore, it’s easy to go off on a tangent due to nervousness. This leads to opening up other lines of enquiry from the examiners in areas you hadn’t probably expected to be questioned about.

Ideally, you aren’t expected to dictate your thesis as it is. Examiners are interested in knowing your understanding of the research, its methods, analysis and findings, conclusion and implications, etc.

Despite the differences in every PhD viva, you must be prepared to answer these common questions logically. Below are some popular PhD viva questions to prepare:

1. Tell me about yourself.

Introduce yourself and talk about your areas of interest related to research. More importantly, focus on the areas you are extremely positive about. Briefly speak about your past achievements without overwhelming the examiners and sounding boastful. Keep the introduction professional.

2. What is the reason for selecting this research question?

The response to this question is often generalized by saying that you are interested in the topic. However, examiners want to hear the specifications of your interest in the topic. You must plan your answer stating the most interesting aspect of your research and why did you choose the research question over another topic from the same or allied domain. Furthermore, cite certain instances that helped you in selecting the research topic and the particular field for your project.

3. What is the key focus of your research?

Remember that the answer to this question is not about summarizing your research. It involves talking about the area of primary focus of research. Most importantly, in order to demonstrate the viability of your research, it is essential to identify some of the key questions it addresses.

4. Did the research process go as per your plan or were there any unexpected circumstances that you had to deal with?

The purpose of this question is not only to see whether you can work as per your structured plan, but also to understand your readiness with backup plans in case of unforeseen situations. An ideal way to answer this is by clearly stating if the project went as per your predefined plan. Furthermore, be honest in mentioning if you were assisted by others in dealing with it, as it may lead to a new set of questioning from the examiners.

5. After completion of your research, which part of the process did you enjoy the most and why?

Remember that the examiners know about a PhD student’s stressful journey . Therefore, do not elaborate on the hardships that you went through during your research, unless asked otherwise. Emphasize on the aspects of the research project that you enjoyed and looked forward to every time you stepped in your laboratory. Describe how you developed interest in newer approaches to conduct research.

6. As a researcher, what change has this research brought in you?

This question demands a strong, progressive, and positive response. Remember your first day in the research laboratory and compare it to today. Identify the differences in your traits as a researcher. Mention how following, reading, and analyzing other researchers’ works have brought a positive change in you. Furthermore, address how you overcame your shortcomings as a researcher and upskilled yourself.

7. Summarize your thesis.

Be well versed with the entire project. Start by explaining why you selected the topic of your thesis and close your explanation by providing an optimum solution to the problem. You must prepare for 3 types of answers for this question. Prepare a 1-minute, 3-5 minutes, and 10-minute summary and use the correct one based on your audience at the viva.

8. What developments have you witnessed in this field since you began your doctorate? How did these developments change your research context?

Familiarize yourself with the advances in your field throughout your PhD. Mention works of researchers you have referred to while working on your project. Additionally, elaborate on how other researchers’ work influenced your research and directed you to finding results.

9. What original contribution has your thesis made to this field of study?

Answer this question by keeping in mind what was known before in published literature and what you have added as part of being awarded your PhD. Firstly, you must present a major piece of new information during your research project. Secondly, elaborate on how your research expands the existing literature. Thirdly, mention how your work is different from other researchers’ works that you referred. Finally, discuss how you developed a new product or improved an existing one.

10. How well did the study design work?

While answering this question, you must focus on how your planned methods and methodologies were executed. Furthermore, mention how you tackled difficulties in study design and concluded your research.

11. Elaborate on your main findings and how do they relate to literature in your field?

While answering this question, elaborate on how you evaluated the key findings in your research. Mention the key factors involved and the reason for choosing a particular process of evaluation. Furthermore, explain how your findings are related with the literature review of your project. Mention its significant contributions in your field of research. In addition, discuss how your research findings connect with your hypothesis as well as the conclusion of your research.

12. What is the strength and weakness of your research?

While you may want to impress the examiner by emphasizing on the strengths of your research, being aware of the weaknesses and planning a directional move to overcome them is also equally important. Hence, mention the strengths first and elaborate on how they connect with the key findings. Additionally, underline the limitations and the factors that could be transformed into strengths in future research.

How nervous were you while preparing for your PhD viva voce? Did you follow any specific tips to ace your PhD viva voce ? How important is it to prepare for these common PhD viva questions beforehand? Let us know how you prepared for your PhD viva voce in the comments section below! You can also visit our  Q&A forum  for frequently asked questions related to different aspects of research writing and publishing answered by our team that comprises subject-matter experts, eminent researchers, and publication experts.

' src=

Really useful in helping me put a plan / script together for my forthcoming viva. Some interesting questions that I hadn’t thought about before reading this article – the proof of the pudding will be how well the viva goes of course, but at least I now have a head start! Many thanks

Thank you, this is super helpful. I have my viva voce in a month and I’ll be using these questions as a guide

Well framed questions

Rate this article Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

phd viva in uk

Enago Academy's Most Popular

Content Analysis vs Thematic Analysis: What's the difference?

  • Reporting Research

Choosing the Right Analytical Approach: Thematic analysis vs. content analysis for data interpretation

In research, choosing the right approach to understand data is crucial for deriving meaningful insights.…

Addressing Biases in the Journey of PhD

  • Diversity and Inclusion

Addressing Barriers in Academia: Navigating unconscious biases in the Ph.D. journey

In the journey of academia, a Ph.D. marks a transitional phase, like that of a…

Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Study Design

Comparing Cross Sectional and Longitudinal Studies: 5 steps for choosing the right approach

The process of choosing the right research design can put ourselves at the crossroads of…

Networking in Academic Conferences

  • Career Corner

Unlocking the Power of Networking in Academic Conferences

Embarking on your first academic conference experience? Fear not, we got you covered! Academic conferences…

Research recommendation

Research Recommendations – Guiding policy-makers for evidence-based decision making

Research recommendations play a crucial role in guiding scholars and researchers toward fruitful avenues of…

Intersectionality in Academia: Dealing with diverse perspectives

Meritocracy and Diversity in Science: Increasing inclusivity in STEM education

Avoiding the AI Trap: Pitfalls of relying on ChatGPT for PhD applications

phd viva in uk

Sign-up to read more

Subscribe for free to get unrestricted access to all our resources on research writing and academic publishing including:

  • 2000+ blog articles
  • 50+ Webinars
  • 10+ Expert podcasts
  • 50+ Infographics
  • 10+ Checklists
  • Research Guides

We hate spam too. We promise to protect your privacy and never spam you.

I am looking for Editing/ Proofreading services for my manuscript Tentative date of next journal submission:

phd viva in uk

  • PhD Failure Rate – A Study of 26,076 PhD Candidates
  • Doing a PhD

The PhD failure rate in the UK is 19.5%, with 16.2% of students leaving their PhD programme early, and 3.3% of students failing their viva. 80.5% of all students who enrol onto a PhD programme successfully complete it and are awarded a doctorate.

Introduction

One of the biggest concerns for doctoral students is the ongoing fear of failing their PhD.

After all those years of research, the long days in the lab and the endless nights in the library, it’s no surprise to find many agonising over the possibility of it all being for nothing. While this fear will always exist, it would help you to know how likely failure is, and what you can do to increase your chances of success.

Read on to learn how PhDs can be failed, what the true failure rates are based on an analysis of 26,067 PhD candidates from 14 UK universities, and what your options are if you’re unsuccessful in obtaining your PhD.

Ways You Can Fail A PhD

There are essentially two ways in which you can fail a PhD; non-completion or failing your viva (also known as your thesis defence ).

Non-completion

Non-completion is when a student leaves their PhD programme before having sat their viva examination. Since vivas take place at the end of the PhD journey, typically between the 3rd and 4th year for most full-time programmes, most failed PhDs fall within the ‘non-completion’ category because of the long duration it covers.

There are many reasons why a student may decide to leave a programme early, though these can usually be grouped into two categories:

  • Motives – The individual may no longer believe undertaking a PhD is for them. This might be because it isn’t what they had imagined, or they’ve decided on an alternative path.
  • Extenuating circumstances – The student may face unforeseen problems beyond their control, such as poor health, bereavement or family difficulties, preventing them from completing their research.

In both cases, a good supervisor will always try their best to help the student continue with their studies. In the former case, this may mean considering alternative research questions or, in the latter case, encouraging you to seek academic support from the university through one of their student care policies.

Besides the student deciding to end their programme early, the university can also make this decision. On these occasions, the student’s supervisor may not believe they’ve made enough progress for the time they’ve been on the project. If the problem can’t be corrected, the supervisor may ask the university to remove the student from the programme.

Failing The Viva

Assuming you make it to the end of your programme, there are still two ways you can be unsuccessful.

The first is an unsatisfactory thesis. For whatever reason, your thesis may be deemed not good enough, lacking originality, reliable data, conclusive findings, or be of poor overall quality. In such cases, your examiners may request an extensive rework of your thesis before agreeing to perform your viva examination. Although this will rarely be the case, it is possible that you may exceed the permissible length of programme registration and if you don’t have valid grounds for an extension, you may not have enough time to be able to sit your viva.

The more common scenario, while still being uncommon itself, is that you sit and fail your viva examination. The examiners may decide that your research project is severely flawed, to the point where it can’t possibly be remedied even with major revisions. This could happen for reasons such as basing your study on an incorrect fundamental assumption; this should not happen however if there is a proper supervisory support system in place.

PhD Failure Rate – UK & EU Statistics

According to 2010-11 data published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (now replaced by UK Research and Innovation ), 72.9% of students enrolled in a PhD programme in the UK or EU complete their degree within seven years. Following this, 80.5% of PhD students complete their degree within 25 years.

This means that four out of every five students who register onto a PhD programme successfully complete their doctorate.

While a failure rate of one in five students may seem a little high, most of these are those who exit their programme early as opposed to those who fail at the viva stage.

Failing Doesn’t Happen Often

Although a PhD is an independent project, you will be appointed a supervisor to support you. Each university will have its own system for how your supervisor is to support you , but regardless of this, they will all require regular communication between the two of you. This could be in the form of annual reviews, quarterly interim reviews or regular meetings. The majority of students also have a secondary academic supervisor (and in some cases a thesis committee of supervisors); the role of these can vary from having a hands-on role in regular supervision, to being another useful person to bounce ideas off of.

These frequent check-ins are designed to help you stay on track with your project. For example, if any issues are identified, you and your supervisor can discuss how to rectify them in order to refocus your research. This reduces the likelihood of a problem going undetected for several years, only for it to be unearthed after it’s too late to address.

In addition, the thesis you submit to your examiners will likely be your third or fourth iteration, with your supervisor having critiqued each earlier version. As a result, your thesis will typically only be submitted to the examiners after your supervisor approves it; many UK universities require a formal, signed document to be submitted by the primary academic supervisor at the same time as the student submits the thesis, confirming that he or she has approved the submission.

Failed Viva – Outcomes of 26,076 Students

Despite what you may have heard, the failing PhD rate amongst students who sit their viva is low.

This, combined with ongoing guidance from your supervisor, is because vivas don’t have a strict pass/fail outcome. You can find a detailed breakdown of all viva outcomes in our viva guide, but to summarise – the most common outcome will be for you to revise your thesis in accordance with the comments from your examiners and resubmit it.

This means that as long as the review of your thesis and your viva examination uncovers no significant issues, you’re almost certain to be awarded a provisional pass on the basis you make the necessary corrections to your thesis.

To give you an indication of the viva failure rate, we’ve analysed the outcomes of 26,076 PhD candidates from 14 UK universities who sat a viva between 2006 and 2017.

The analysis shows that of the 26,076 students who sat their viva, 25,063 succeeded; this is just over 96% of the total students as shown in the chart below.

phd viva in uk

Students Who Passed

Failed PhD_Breakdown of the extent of thesis amendments required for students who passed their viva

The analysis shows that of the 96% of students who passed, approximately 5% required no amendments, 79% required minor amendments and the remaining 16% required major revisions. This supports our earlier discussion on how the most common outcome of a viva is a ‘pass with minor amendments’.

Students Who Failed

Failed PhD_Percentage of students who failed their viva and were awarded an MPhil vs not awarded a degree

Of the 4% of unsuccessful students, approximately 97% were awarded an MPhil (Master of Philosophy), and 3% weren’t awarded a degree.

Note : It should be noted that while the data provides the student’s overall outcome, i.e. whether they passed or failed, they didn’t all provide the students specific outcome, i.e. whether they had to make amendments, or with a failure, whether they were awarded an MPhil. Therefore, while the breakdowns represent the current known data, the exact breakdown may differ.

Summary of Findings

By using our data in combination with the earlier statistic provided by HEFCE, we can gain an overall picture of the PhD journey as summarised in the image below.

DiscoverPhDs_Breakdown of all possible outcomes for PhD candidates based on analysis of 26,076 candidates at 14 universities between 2006 and 2017

To summarise, based on the analysis of 26,076 PhD candidates at 14 universities between 2006 and 2017, the PhD pass rate in the UK is 80.5%. Of the 19.5% of students who fail, 3.3% is attributed to students failing their viva and the remaining 16.2% is attributed to students leaving their programme early.

The above statistics indicate that while 1 in every 5 students fail their PhD, the failure rate for the viva process itself is low. Specifically, only 4% of all students who sit their viva fail; in other words, 96% of the students pass it.

What Are Your Options After an Unsuccessful PhD?

Appeal your outcome.

If you believe you had a valid case, you can try to appeal against your outcome . The appeal process will be different for each university, so ensure you consult the guidelines published by your university before taking any action.

While making an appeal may be an option, it should only be considered if you genuinely believe you have a legitimate case. Most examiners have a lot of experience in assessing PhD candidates and follow strict guidelines when making their decisions. Therefore, your claim for appeal will need to be strong if it is to stand up in front of committee members in the adjudication process.

Downgrade to MPhil

If you are unsuccessful in being awarded a PhD, an MPhil may be awarded instead. For this to happen, your work would need to be considered worthy of an MPhil, as although it is a Master’s degree, it is still an advanced postgraduate research degree.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma around MPhil degrees, with many worrying that it will be seen as a sign of a failed PhD. While not as advanced as a PhD, an MPhil is still an advanced research degree, and being awarded one shows that you’ve successfully carried out an independent research project which is an undertaking to be admired.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Additional Resources

Hopefully now knowing the overall picture your mind will feel slightly more at ease. Regardless, there are several good practices you can adopt to ensure you’re always in the best possible position. The key of these includes developing a good working relationship with your supervisor, working to a project schedule, having your thesis checked by several other academics aside from your supervisor, and thoroughly preparing for your viva examination.

We’ve developed a number of resources which should help you in the above:

  • What to Expect from Your Supervisor – Find out what to look for in a Supervisor, how they will typically support you, and how often you should meet with them.
  • How to Write a Research Proposal – Find an outline of how you can go about putting a project plan together.
  • What is a PhD Viva? – Learn exactly what a viva is, their purpose and what you can expect on the day. We’ve also provided a full breakdown of all the possible outcomes of a viva and tips to help you prepare for your own.

Data for Statistics

  • Cardiff University – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • Imperial College London – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • London School of Economics (LSE) – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • Queen Mary University of London – 2009/10 to 2015/16
  • University College London (UCL) – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Aberdeen – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Birmingham – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • University of Bristol – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Edinburgh – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Nottingham – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • University of Oxford – 2007/08 to 2016/17
  • University of York – 2009/10 to 2016/17
  • University of Manchester – 2008/09 to 2017/18
  • University of Sheffield – 2006/07 to 2016/17

Note : The data used for this analysis was obtained from the above universities under the Freedom of Information Act. As per the Act, the information was provided in such a way that no specific individual can be identified from the data.

Browse PhDs Now

Join thousands of students.

Join thousands of other students and stay up to date with the latest PhD programmes, funding opportunities and advice.

Recommended pages

  • Undergraduate open days
  • Postgraduate open days
  • Accommodation
  • Information for teachers
  • Maps and directions
  • Sport and fitness

Join our Postgraduate Open Day - Wednesday 20 March

PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)/ MA by Research

On campus: Annual tuition fee 2024 entry: UK: £4,778 full-time; £2,389 part-time International: £21,840 full-time Distance learning PhD: Annual tuition fee 2024/25: £12,330 part-time  More detail .

  • Visit an Open Day
  • Request a prospectus
  • Course details
  • Entry Requirements
  • Employability

Carry out your research with one of the UK’s leading English Language departments, renowned for its expertise in Corpus Research, Cognitive Linguistics and Psycholinguistics, and Discourse Analysis and Stylistics, from anywhere in the world. 

We offer both and campus-based and distance learning PhD courses. There are two distance learning PhD programmes in English Language and Applied Linguistics: a standard programme and a modular programme. There is no assessed taught component, but students follow online research training modules. Both distance learning options are part-time, while the campus programme can be either full-time or part-time.

All programmes have regular contact with your supervisor. On the distance learning programmes, this contact is by email and/or video conference and allow you to remain in your resident country while pursuing your research. This is particularly beneficial if you are interested in relating your research to your current work. 

The Standard PhD

The standard programme requires a traditional 80,000-word thesis. The work is examined at the end of the programme, as with other PhD programmes. Students identify and refine a thesis topic and research design in consultation with their supervisor and send drafts of the various chapters for comment as they work through the programme. As with all PhDs, progress is monitored throughout the registration period.

Distance Modular PhD

The modular programme requires three modules: two shorter research papers (Module 1 - 12,000 words, Module 2 - 20,000 words) and a final thesis of 50,000 words (Module 3). The work is examined in three phases, at the end of each module. The final product (in terms of total quantity and quality of work) is therefore similar to the standard PhD; however the modular option provides an incremental, continuously assessed route allowing students to progress through explicitly marked stages to a PhD. Students identify a topic they wish to work on and to which all their written work should be related; the nature of the assessment means however that the topic may not be as tightly focused as that in a traditional PhD.

Virtual Open Day: Postgraduate opportunities in English Language and Applied Linguistics - 28 April 2020, 14:00-15:00

vod-promo

Join us online to watch a range of staff and student videos, and take part in our online chat where staff from the Department will be answering your questions about postgraduate study.

Find out more and register

Postgraduate scholarships available

phd viva in uk

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes to ensure that the very best talent is nurtured and supported.

Learn more about our scholarships

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

  • Graduate School Language Skills

phd viva in uk

The staff are extremely friendly and approachable which makes for a really productive atmosphere in the department. I also really value the range of expertise across the department. Helena

Why study this course?

  • World-leading research : The University of Birmingham is ranked equal 10th in the UK amongst Russell Group universities in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 according to the Times Higher Education. Additionally, the University of Birmingham is ranked in the top 50 for the study of English Language and Literature in the 2023 QS World University Rankings. These rankings are compiled annually to help prospective students identify the leading universities worldwide in a particular subject.
  • Distance learning experience : The Department has many years of experience in delivering high quality distance learning programmes at postgraduate level. Staff also have expertise in supervising doctoral research at a distance. Through the University library, you will have electronic access to a wide range of applied linguistic research journals and e-books.
  • Exceptional student support : While the programmes are rigorous in their standards and expectations, they also provide excellent support and a high degree of flexibility. You will receive the same level of support and supervision as our on-campus students.
  • Research resources :  Our English Language programmes benefit from the 450 million-word Bank of English corpus, an invaluable collection of authentic language data. All students and researchers working within English Language also have free access a variety of language corpora, and, where necessary, training in how to use them. Additionally, the Main Library houses an extensive collection of books on English language and linguistics, including English language teaching, and subscribes to 250 periodicals in the fields of English language and literature.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience .

Content and assessment for the Modular PhD

Module 1 - Subject-focused work, to include some research training and preparation related to the subject, such as empirical work, literature searches, and research methodology.

The 12,000-word assessment may be divided into 3 x 4,000 papers or combinations amounting to the total (60 credits). Pass/Fail.

Module 2 - Structured research and writing on the research topic. It may be linked in a linear way to Module 1, or the connection may be looser.

The 20,000-word assessment may be divided into one or two papers amounting to the total (120 credits). Pass/Fail

Module 3 - The thesis (maximum 50,000 words - 360 credits). Pass/Fail

The assessed work from Modules 2 and 3 should be of publishable quality.

Each assessment (i.e. each module) is submitted and passed before the student can proceed to the next. One re-submission of each module is permitted. The external examiner is consulted when each module is completed. Like all PhD theses at Birmingham, a Modular PhD is examined in a viva voce examination which takes place after the submission of Module 3.

We charge an annual tuition fee:

On campus PhD/MA by Research: Annual tuition fee 2024 entry:

  • UK: £4,778 full-time; £2,389 part-time *
  • International: £21,840 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2024.

Distance learning PhD:

  • Fees for students joining between September 2023 and August 2024 are as follows: £11,730 part-time
  • Fees for students joining between September 2024 and August 2025 are as follows: £12,330 part-time

Tuition fees will be payable each year for between four years (minimum registration) and six years (maximum registration). Students who go into Writing Up after four or five years will pay a nominal continuation fee (the same as for the full-time PhD).

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about  fees for international students .

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about  postgraduate tuition fees and funding .

How To Apply

Application deadlines.

Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by 1 July 2023.

Additional guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six-step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas, which includes detailed advice on research proposals and how to write them.

You may also wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

  • How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate research programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the research programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page . Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Our Standard Requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK, usually in a relevant area.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent), usually in a relevant area.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a GPA of 14/20 from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of the Licenciado or an equivalent professional title from a recognised Argentinian university, with a promedio of at least 7.5, may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. Applicants for PhD degrees will normally have a Maestria or equivalent

Applicants who hold a Masters degree will be considered for admission to PhD study.

Holders of a good four-year Diplomstudium/Magister or a Masters degree from a recognised university with a minimum overall grade of 2.5 will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students with a good 5-year Specialist Diploma or 4-year Bachelor degree from a recognised higher education institution in Azerbaijan, with a minimum GPA of 4/5 or 80% will be considered for entry to postgraduate taught programmes at the University of Birmingham.

For postgraduate research programmes applicants should have a good 5-year Specialist Diploma (completed after 1991), with a minimum grade point average of 4/5 or 80%, from a recognised higher education institution or a Masters or “Magistr Diplomu” or “Kandidat Nauk” from a recognised higher education institution in Azerbaijan.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a GPA of 3.0/4.0 or 75% from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with a CGPA of 3.0-3.3/4.0 or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Students who hold a Masters degree from the University of Botswana with a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0 or 3.5/5.0 (70%/B/'very good') will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.

Please note 4-year bachelor degrees from the University of Botswana are considered equivalent to a Diploma of Higher Education. 5-year bachelor degrees from the University of Botswana are considered equivalent to a British Bachelor (Ordinary) degree.

Students who have completed a Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.

A Licenciatura or Bacharelado degree from a recognised Brazilian university:

  • A grade of 7.5/10 for entry to programmes with a 2:1 requirement
  • A grade of 6.5/10for entry to programmes with a 2:2 requirement

Holders of a good Bachelors degree with honours (4 to 6 years) from a recognised university with a upper second class grade or higher will be considered for entry to taught postgraduate programmes.  Holders of a good Masters degree from a recognised university will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good post-2001 Masters degree from a recognised university will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students with a minimum average of 14 out of 20 (or 70%) on a 4-year Licence, Bachelor degree or Diplôme d'Etudes Superieures de Commerce (DESC) or Diplôme d'Ingénieur or a Maîtrise will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.

Holders of a bachelor degree with honours from a recognised Canadian university may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. A GPA of 3.0/4, 7.0/9 or 75% is usually equivalent to a UK 2.1.

Holders of the Licenciado or equivalent Professional Title from a recognised Chilean university will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. Applicants for PhD study will preferably hold a Magister degree or equivalent.

Students with a bachelor’s degree (4 years minimum) may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. However please note that we will only consider students who meet the entry guidance below.  Please note: for the subject areas below we use the Shanghai Ranking 2022 (full table)  ,  Shanghai Ranking 2023 (full table) , and Shanghai Ranking of Chinese Art Universities 2023 .

需要具备学士学位(4年制)的申请人可申请研究生课程。请根据所申请的课程查看相应的入学要求。 请注意,中国院校名单参考 软科中国大学排名2022(总榜) ,  软科中国大学排名2023(总榜) ,以及 软科中国艺术类高校名单2023 。  

Business School    - MSc programmes (excluding MBA)  

商学院硕士课程(MBA除外)入学要求

School of Computer Science – all MSc programmes 计算机学院硕士课程入学要求

College of Social Sciences – courses listed below 社会科学 学院部分硕士课程入学要求 MA Education  (including all pathways) MSc TESOL Education MSc Public Management MA Global Public Policy MA Social Policy MA Sociology Department of Political Science and International Studies  全部硕士课程 International Development Department  全部硕士课程

  All other programmes (including MBA)   所有其他 硕士课程(包括 MBA)入学要求

Please note:

  • Borderline cases: We may consider students with lower average score (within 5%) on a case-by-case basis if you have a relevant degree and very excellent grades in relevant subjects and/or relevant work experience. 如申请人均分低于相应录取要求(5%以内),但具有出色学术背景,优异的专业成绩,以及(或)相关的工作经验,部分课程将有可能单独酌情考虑。
  • Please contact the China Recruitment Team for any questions on the above entry requirements. 如果您对录取要求有疑问,请联系伯明翰大学中国办公室   [email protected]

Holders of the Licenciado/Professional Title from a recognised Colombian university will be considered for our Postgraduate Diploma and Masters degrees. Applicants for PhD degrees will normally have a Maestria or equivalent.

Holders of a good bachelor degree with honours (4 to 6 years) from a recognised university with a upper second class grade or higher will be considered for entry to taught postgraduate programmes.  Holders of a good Masters degree from a recognised university will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good Bacclaureus (Bachelors) from a recognised Croatian Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 4.0 out of 5.0, vrlo dobar ‘very good’, or a Masters degree, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a Bachelors degree(from the University of the West Indies or the University of Technology) may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. A Class II Upper Division degree is usually equivalent to a UK 2.1. For further details on particular institutions please refer to the list below.  Applicants for PhD level study will preferably hold a Masters degree or Mphil from the University of the West Indies.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good Bachelors degree from a recognised institution with a minimum overall grade of 6.5 out of 10, or a GPA of 3 out of 4, and will usually be required to have completed a good Masters degree to be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Bakalár from a recognised Czech Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 1.5, B, velmi dobre ‘very good’ (post-2004) or 2, velmi dobre ‘good’ (pre-2004), or a good post-2002 Magistr (Masters), will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good Bachelors degree from a recognised institution with a minimum overall grade of 7-10 out of 12 (or 8 out of 13) or higher for 2:1 equivalence and will usually be required to have completed a good Masters/ Magisterkonfereus/Magister Artium degree to be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of the Licenciado or an equivalent professional title from a recognised Ecuadorian university may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. Grades of 70% or higher can be considered as UK 2.1 equivalent.  Applicants for PhD level study will preferably hold a Magister/Masterado or equivalent qualification, but holders of the Licenciado with excellent grades can be considered.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a GPA of 3.0/4.0 or 75% from a recognised institution. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Bakalaurusekraad from a recognised university with a minimum overall grade of 4/5 or B, or a good one- or two-year Magistrikraad from a recognised university, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Masters degree with very good grades (grade B, 3.5/4 GPA or 85%) will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. 

Holders of a good Kandidaatti / Kandidat (old system), a professional title such as Ekonomi, Diplomi-insinööri, Arkkitehti, Lisensiaatti (in Medicine, Dentistry and Vetinary Medicine), or a Maisteri / Magister (new system), Lisensiaatti / Licenciat, Oikeustieteen Kandidaatti / Juris Kandidat (new system) or Proviisori / Provisor from a recognised Finnish Higher Education institution, with a minimum overall grade of 2/3 or 4/5, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters/Maîtrise with a minimum overall grade of 13 out of 20, or a Magistère / Diplôme d'Etudes Approfondies / Diplôme d'Etudes Supérieures Specialisées / Mastère Specialis, from a recognised French university or Grande École to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a Magister Artium, a Diplom or an Erstes Staatsexamen from a recognised university with a minimum overall grade of 2.5, or a good two-year Lizentiat / Aufbaustudium / Zweites Staatsexamen or a Masters degree from a recognised university, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. Most taught Masters programmes require a minimum of an upper second class degree (2.1) with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or 3.5/5.0 Students who have completed a Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good four-year Ptychio (Bachelor degree) with a minimum overall grade of 6.5 out of 10, from a recognised Greek university (AEI), and will usually be required to have completed a good Metaptychiako Diploma Eidikefsis (Masters degree) from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

4-year Licenciado is deemed equivalent to a UK bachelors degree. A score of 75 or higher from Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala (USAC) can be considered comparable to a UK 2.1, 60 is comparable to a UK 2.2.  Private universities have a higher pass mark, so 80 or higher should be considered comparable to a UK 2.1, 70 is comparable to a UK 2.2

The Hong Kong Bachelor degree is considered comparable to British Bachelor degree standard. Students with bachelor degrees awarded by universities in Hong Kong may be considered for entry to one of our postgraduate degree programmes.

Students with Masters degrees may be considered for PhD study.

Holders of a good Alapfokozat / Alapképzés or Egyetemi Oklevel from a recognised university with a minimum overall grade of 3.5, or a good Mesterfokozat (Masters degree) or Egyetemi Doktor (university doctorate), will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with a 60% or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of the 4 year Sarjana (S1) from a recognised Indonesian institution will be considered for postgraduate study. Entry requirements vary with a minimum requirement of a GPA of 2.8.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a score of 14/20 or 70% from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree from a recognised institution, with 100 out of 110 or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Students who hold the Maitrise, Diplome d'Etude Approfondies, Diplome d'Etude Superieures or Diplome d'Etude Superieures Specialisees will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees (14-15/20 or Bien from a well ranked institution is considered comparable to a UK 2.1, while a score of 12-13/20 or Assez Bien is considered comparable to a UK 2.2).

Students with a Bachelor degree from a recognised university in Japan will be considered for entry to a postgraduate Masters degree provided they achieve a sufficiently high overall score in their first (Bachelor) degree. A GPA of 3.0/4.0 or a B average from a good Japanese university is usually considered equivalent to a UK 2:1.

Students with a Masters degree from a recognised university in Japan will be considered for PhD study. A high overall grade will be necessary to be considered.

Students who have completed their Specialist Diploma Мамаң дипломы/Диплом специалиста) or "Magistr" (Магистр дипломы/Диплом магистра) degree (completed after 1991) from a recognised higher education institution, with a minimum GPA of 2.67/4.00 for courses requiring a UK lower second and 3.00/4.00 for courses requiring a UK upper second class degree, will be considered for entry to postgraduate Masters degrees and, occasionally, directly for PhD degrees.  Holders of a Bachelor "Bakalavr" degree (Бакалавр дипломы/Диплом бакалавра) from a recognised higher education institution, with a minimum GPA of  2.67/4.00 for courses requiring a UK lower second and 3.00/4.00 for courses requiring a UK upper second class degree, may also be considered for entry to taught postgraduate programmes.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. Most taught Masters programmes require a minimum of an upper second class degree (2.1) with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or 3.5/50

Holders of a good Postgraduate Diploma (professional programme) from a recognised university or institution of Higher Education, with a minimum overall grade of 7.5 out of 10, or a post-2000 Magistrs, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a score of 16/20 or 80% from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a Bachelors degree from a recognised university in Libya will be considered for postgraduate study. Holders of a Bachelors degree will normally be expected to have achieved score of 70% for 2:1 equivalency or 65% for 2:2 equivalency. Alternatively students will require a minimum of 3.0/4.0 or BB to be considered.

Holders of a good pre-2001 Magistras from a recognised university with a minimum overall grade of 8 out of 10, or a good post-2001 Magistras, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes

Holders of a good Bachelors degree from a recognised Luxembourgish Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 16 out of 20, or a Diplôme d'Études Supérieures Spécialisées (comparable to a UK PGDip) or Masters degree from a recognised Luxembourgish Higher Education institution will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Masters degree will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees (70-74% or A or Marginal Distinction from a well ranked institution is considered comparable to a UK 2.1, while a score of 60-69% or B or Bare Distinction/Credit is considered comparable to a UK 2.2).

Holders of a Bachelors degree from a recognised Malaysian institution (usually achieved with the equivalent of a second class upper or a grade point average minimum of 3.0) will be considered for postgraduate study at Diploma or Masters level.

Holders of a good Bachelors degree from the University of Malta with a minimum grade of 2:1 (Hons), and/or a Masters degree, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree (Honours) from a recognised institution (including the University of Mauritius) will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.  Most taught Masters programmes require a minimum of an upper second class degree (2:1).

Students who hold the Licenciado/Professional Titulo from a recognised Mexican university with a promedio of at least 8 will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.

Students who have completed a Maestria from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree, licence or Maîtrise and a Masters degree, with a score of 14/20 or 70% from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Students with a good four year honours degree from a recognised university will be considered for postgraduate study at the University of Birmingham. PhD applications will be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with 60-74% or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Doctoraal from a recognised Dutch university with a minimum overall grade of 7 out of 10, and/or a good Masters degree, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree (minimum 4 years and/or level 400) from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.  Most taught Masters programmes require a minimum of an upper second class degree (2.1) with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0/4.0 or 3.5/5.0

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good Bachelors degree from a recognised institution with a minimum GPA of B/Very Good or 1.6-2.5 for a 2.1 equivalency, and will usually be required to have completed a good Masters, Mastergrad, Magister. Artium, Sivilingeniør, Candidatus realium or Candidatus philologiae degree to be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with a CGPA of 3.0/4 or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a Bachelors degree from a recognised university in the Palestinian Territories will be considered for postgraduate study. Holders of Bachelors degree will normally be expected to have achieved a GPA of 3/4 or 80% for 2:1 equivalency or a GPA of 2.5/4 or 70% for 2:2 equivalency.    

Holders of the Título de Licenciado /Título de (4-6 years) or an equivalent professional title from a recognised Paraguayan university may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. Grades of 4/5 or higher can be considered as UK 2.1 equivalent.  The Título Intermedio is a 2-3 year degree and is equivalent to a HNC, it is not suitable for postgraduate entry but holders of this award could be considered for second year undergraduate entry or pre-Masters.  Applicants for PhD level study will preferably hold a Título de Maestría / Magister or equivalent qualification, but holders of the Título/Grado de Licenciado/a with excellent grades can be considered.

Holders of the Licenciado, with at least 13/20 may be considered as UK 2.1 equivalent. The Grado de Bachiller is equivalent to an ordinary degree, so grades of 15+/20 are required.  Applicants for PhD level study will preferably hold a Título de Maestría or equivalent qualification.

Holders of a good pre-2001 Magister from a recognised Polish university with a minimum overall grade of 4 out of 5, dobry ‘good’, and/or a good Swiadectwo Ukonczenia Studiów Podyplomowych (Certificate of Postgraduate Study) or post-2001 Magister from a recognised Polish university with a minimum overall grade of 4.5/4+ out of 5, dobry plus 'better than good', will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good Licenciado from a recognised university, or a Diploma de Estudos Superiores Especializados (DESE) from a recognised Polytechnic Institution, with a minimum overall grade of 16 out of 20, and/or a good Mestrado / Mestre (Masters) from a recognised university, will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good Bachelors degree from a recognised Romanian Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 8 out of 10, and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree/Diploma de Master/Diploma de Studii Academice Postuniversitare (Postgraduate Diploma - Academic Studies) or Diploma de Studii Postuniversitare de Specializare (Postgraduate Diploma - Specialised Studies) to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Диплом Специалиста (Specialist Diploma) or Диплом Магистра (Magistr) degree from recognised universities in Russia (minimum GPA of 4.0) will be considered for entry to taught postgraduate programmes/PhD study.

Students who hold a 4-year Bachelor degree with at least 16/20 or 70% will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.   

Students who hold a Maitrise, Diplome d'Etude Approfondies,Diplome d'Etude Superieures or Diplome d'Etude Superieures Specialisees will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. A score of 14-15/20 or Bien from a well ranked institution is considered comparable to a UK 2.1, while a score of 12-13/20 or Assez Bien is considered comparable to a UK 2.2

Students who hold a Bachelor (Honours) degree from a recognised institution with a minimum GPA of 3.0/4.0 or 3.5/5.0 (or a score of 60-69% or B+) from a well ranked institution will be considered for most our Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees with a 2:1 requirement.

Students holding a good Bachelors Honours degree will be considered for postgraduate study at Diploma or Masters level.

Holders of a good three-year Bakalár or pre-2002 Magister from a recognised Slovakian Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 1.5, B, Vel’mi dobrý ‘very good’, and/or a good Inžinier or a post-2002 Magister from a recognised Slovakian Higher Education institution will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good Diploma o pridobljeni univerzitetni izobrazbi (Bachelors degree), Diplomant (Professionally oriented first degree), Univerzitetni diplomant (Academically oriented first degree) or Visoko Obrazovanja (until 1999) from a recognised Slovenian Higher Education institution with a minimum overall grade of 8.0 out of 10, and/or a good Diploma specializacija (Postgraduate Diploma) or Magister (Masters) will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students who hold a Bachelor Honours degree (also known as Baccalaureus Honores / Baccalaureus Cum Honoribus) from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. Most Masters programmes will require a second class upper (70%) or a distinction (75%).

Holders of a Masters degree will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a Bachelor degree from a recognised South Korean institution (usually with the equivalent of a second class upper or a grade point average 3.0/4.0 or 3.2/4.5) will be considered for Masters programmes.

Holders of a good Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with 7 out of 10 or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and will usually be required to have completed a Masters degree, with 60-74% or a CGPA 3.30/4.0 or higher for 2:1 equivalency from a recognised institution to be considered for entry. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Kandidatexamen (Bachelors degree) or Yrkesexamen (Professional Bachelors degree) from a recognised Swedish Higher Education institution with the majority of subjects with a grade of VG (Val godkänd), and/or a good Magisterexamen (Masters degree), International Masters degree or Licentiatexamen (comparable to a UK Mphil), will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good "PostGraduate Certificate" or "PostGraduate Diploma" or a Masters degree from a recognised Swiss higher education institution (with a minimum GPA of 5/6 or 8/10 or 2/5 (gut-bien-bene/good) for a 2.1 equivalence) may be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a Bachelors degree and a Masters degree, with a GPA of 3.0/4.0, 3.5/5 or 75% from a recognised institution to be considered. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

Holders of a good Bachelor degree (from 75% to 85% depending upon the university in Taiwan) from a recognised institution will be considered for postgraduate Masters study. Holders of a good Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.  Most taught Masters programmes require a minimum of an upper second class degree (2.1) Students who have completed a Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.

Holders of a good Masters degree from a recognised institution will be considered for entry to our postgraduate research programmes.

Holders of a good Masters degree or Mphil from a recognised university will be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes.

Students with a Bachelors degree from the following universities may be considered for entry to postgraduate programmes:

  • Ateneo de Manila University - Quezon City
  • De La Salle University - Manila
  • University of Santo Tomas
  • University of the Philippines - Diliman

Students from all other institutions with a Bachelors and a Masters degree or relevant work experience may be considered for postgraduate programmes.

Grading Schemes

1-5 where 1 is the highest 2.1 = 1.75 2.2 = 2.25 

Out of 4.0 where 4 is the highest 2.1 = 3.0 2.2 = 2.5

Letter grades and percentages 2.1 = B / 3.00 / 83% 2.2 = C+ / 2.5 / 77%

Holders of a postdoctoral qualification from a recognised institution will be considered for PhD study.  Students may be considered for PhD study if they have a Masters from one of the above listed universities.

Holders of a Lisans Diplomasi with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0/4.0 from a recognised university will be considered for postgraduate study at Diploma or Masters level.

Holders of a Yuksek Diplomasi from a recognised university will be considered for PhD study.

Students who hold a Bachelor degree from a recognised institution will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. Most Masters programmes will require a second class upper (2.1) or GPA of 3.5/5.0

Applicants for postgraduate research programmes should hold a good Bachelors degree / Диплом бакалавра (Dyplom Bakalavra), Диплом спеціаліста (Specialist Diploma) or a Dyplom Magistra from a recognised Ukrainian higher education institution with a minimum GPA of 4.0/5.0, 3.5/4, 8/12 or 80% or higher for 2:1 equivalence and will usually be required to have completed a good Masters degree to be considered for entry to postgraduate research programmes. Applicants with lower grades than this may be considered on an individual basis.

The University will consider students who hold an Honours degree from a recognised institution in the USA with a GPA of:

  • 2.8 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) for entry to programmes with a 2:2 requirement 
  • 3.2 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) for entry to programmes with a 2:1 requirement 

Please note that some subjects which are studied at postgraduate level in the USA, eg. Medicine and Law, are traditionally studied at undergraduate level in the UK.

Holders of the Magistr Diplomi (Master's degree) or Diplomi (Specialist Diploma), awarded by prestigious universities, who have attained high grades in their studies will be considered for postgraduate study.  Holders of the Fanlari Nomzodi (Candidate of Science), where appropriate, will be considered for PhD study.

Holders of the Licenciatura/Título or an equivalent professional title from a recognised Venezuelan university may be considered for entry to a postgraduate degree programme. Scales of 1-5, 1-10 and 1-20 are used, an overall score of 70% or equivalent can be considered equivalent to a UK 2.1.  Applicants for PhD level study will preferably hold a Maestria or equivalent qualification

Holders of a Bachelors degree from a recognised Vietnamese institution (usually achieved with the equivalent of a second class upper or a grade point average minimum GPA of 7.0 and above) will be considered for postgraduate study at Diploma or Masters level.  Holders of a Masters degree (thac si) will be considered for entry to PhD programmes.

Students who hold a Masters degree with a minimum GPA of 3.5/5.0 or a mark of 2.0/2.5 (A) will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees.   

Students who hold a good Bachelor Honours degree will be considered for Postgraduate Diplomas and Masters degrees. 

We specialise and welcome applications from prospective research students interested in corpus linguistics, cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics, and stylistics and discourse analysis.

A summary of our key research areas, and staff working within those, can be found below. General queries which are not subject-specific (including fees, scholarship enquiries and paperwork) are best directed to the  College of Arts and Law Graduate School .

  • Applied linguistics and second language acquisition  
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Discourse and analysis and stylistics
  • Sign language and gesture
  • Cognitive linguistics and psycholinguistics
  • Iconicity and figurative language
  • Sociolinguistics and language variation and change
  • Quantitative linguistics and data visualisation

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network  provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team  who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: English Language and Linguistics

Birmingham's English Language and Linguistics postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by employers, particularly in relation to verbal and written communication. They also develop crucial skills in organisation, time management, analysis and interpretation of information.

Many of our graduates enter roles for which their programme has prepared them, such as becoming a language analyst or data scientist. Others use their transferable skills in a wide range of occupations including teaching, research administration and events.

  • Online chat events
  • Ask our students

Culture and collections

phd viva in uk

Schools, institutes and departments

College of arts and law.

  • Birmingham Law School
  • English, Drama and Creative Studies
  • History and Cultures
  • Language, Cultures, Art History and Music
  • Philosophy, Theology and Religion

College of Medical and Dental Sciences

  • Applied Health Research
  • Biomedical Science
  • Birmingham Medical School
  • Cancer and Genomic Sciences
  • Cardiovascular Sciences
  • Clinical Sciences
  • Graduate School
  • Immunology and Immunotherapy
  • Inflammation and Ageing
  • Metabolism and Systems Research
  • Microbiology and Infection
  • Nursing and Midwifery

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

  • Biosciences
  • Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

College of Engineering and Physical Sciences

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Metallurgy and Materials
  • Physics and Astronomy

College of Social Sciences

  • Birmingham Business School
  • Social Policy

See all schools, departments, research and professional services

  • Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences

Services and facilities

  • Conferences and Events
  • The Exchange
  • Birmingham Day Nurseries
  • Guild of students
  • Facilities search
  • University of Birmingham School
  • UoB Sport and Fitness
  • Online Shop
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Accessibility
  • Canvas Learning Environment
  • Publication Scheme
  • Information for Applicants
  • Freedom of information
  • Charitable information
  • Cookies and cookie policy
  • Website feedback

IMAGES

  1. 5 Tips for Preparing for Your PhD Viva

    phd viva in uk

  2. What PhD Students Should Know About the PhD Viva

    phd viva in uk

  3. How to survive the PhD viva

    phd viva in uk

  4. How do you prepare PhD comprehensive viva Examination? PhD

    phd viva in uk

  5. BU Research Blog

    phd viva in uk

  6. 25 Potential PhD Viva Questions

    phd viva in uk

VIDEO

  1. I Passed my Registration Viva │ Cambridge PhD Vlog

  2. Challenges during PhD journey #phd #phdlife #phdstudies #highereducation

  3. Ph.D. Viva Voce Synopsis Presentation |Dr.Umesh Ghodeswar #phd #phdinterview #phdresearch #sgbau

  4. JNU PHD ADMISSION. Strategy for Interview/Viva। इंटरव्यू की तैयारी कैसे करें।

  5. Succeeding the PhD Viva

COMMENTS

  1. Defending your doctoral thesis: the PhD viva

    Defending your doctoral thesis: the PhD viva Once you have submitted your thesis you will be invited to defend your doctorate at a 'viva voce' (Latin for 'by live voice') or oral examination.

  2. A guide to answering PhD viva questions (with examples)

    The PhD viva is an oral examination conducted by a panel that takes place as part of the PhD defence. The panel asks a PhD student questions about their research project and thesis, which requires the candidate to demonstrate knowledge in the subject area and understanding of how it applies to their project's topic.

  3. Viva examinations: guidance

    Students Exams and assessments Research assessments Viva examinations: guidance Viva examinations: guidance This guidance explains the viva process, how to prepare, what will happen on the day and what the possible outcomes are. This information is for postgraduate research students. It covers: before your viva preparing for your viva

  4. PhD Viva Voces

    In the UK, at least two examiners must take part in all vivas. Although you could have more than two examiners, most will not in an attempt to facilitate a smoother questioning process. One of the two examiners will be internal, i.e. from your university, and the other will be external, i.e. from another university.

  5. How to survive a PhD viva: 17 top tips

    How to survive a PhD viva: 17 top tips Just handed in your PhD thesis? Now it's time to plan for the next hurdle: a viva. Academics offer their advice on how to best prepare Finishing your...

  6. 5 tips for passing your PhD viva

    1. Understand what's expected of you 2. Know your thesis inside out 3. Anticipate the viva questions 4. Learn about your examiners' own work 5. Plan towards the viva exam

  7. What is a PhD Viva?

    September 6, 2023 Home » PhD » What is a PhD Viva? After you have written and submitted your PhD thesis, the next stage in the process is to pass your PhD viva examination, which your PhD supervisor at UWS London will fully prepare you for.

  8. PDF A Guide for Viva Preparation

    1. What is the viva? The viva voce, shortened to viva, is an oral examination where you are expected to 'defend' your thesis, and the quality of your research will be assessed. The viva will take place usually within 3 months of submitting your thesis; it is a required examination in order to achieve a postgraduate research degree.

  9. Five top tips to pass your PhD viva

    Officially called the viva voce, meaning 'living voice' in Latin, the viva is an oral examination that sees a PhD student defend their thesis and showcase their knowledge to a panel of academic experts.

  10. Preparing for the Viva Exam

    The Viva exam is an integral part of completing your DPhil. See the links at the bottom of this section for information and guidance on the formal University processes and what you need to do. ... Exploring and celebrating East and Southeast Asian identities in the UK; Innovation & Business. University of Oxford, TU Berlin and Siemens AG Seed ...

  11. How the viva process works

    The viva is a long-established part of the examination process for a research degree. The main focus of the assessment is on the written thesis/dissertation (and other outputs, for a Practice as Research students). However, the viva, which is the oral part of the assessment, is used to inform the examiners' final assessment decision.

  12. Vivas

    A PhD is an oral examination in the form of a discussion in which PhD students present their PhD thesis and defend their research methods and outcomes to a panel of academic experts. The word 'viva' is a shortened form of the Latin term 'viva voce' which means 'live voice'.

  13. How to Defend a Thesis: An Introduction to the PhD Viva

    In the UK it is typical for the PhD viva to include: One or more experts from your university (internal examiner). One or more experts in your field from another institution to your own (external examiner). You! And sometimes your supervisor, though in my experience this is quite rare unless you actively ask them to be there.

  14. The oral examination (viva)

    The oral examination (viva) Cambridge students Exams Information for students Postgraduate examinations Writing, submitting and examination PhD, EdD, MSc, MLitt Research Best Practice Preparing to submit your thesis Submitting your thesis Word limits The oral examination (viva) After the viva (oral examination) MPhil/MRes CPGS Diploma

  15. Viva

    Viva Following the submission of your thesis or dissertation for examination you may be required to sit an oral examination known as a viva. PhD , MPhil or EngD students: Your department will contact you to arrange your viva. MA / MSc students do not usually sit an oral examination.

  16. Your PhD Viva and How to Prepare

    At the end of the long road of your PhD research, lies the viva examination. Just as every PhD is different, then every viva is different. But there are some things that all PhD candidates can do ahead of time to prepare academically, mentally and physically for the viva examination.

  17. PDF PhD Vivas

    According to the Regulations the purposes of a PhD viva are to enable the Examiners: to clarify any ambiguities in the thesis, to satisfy themselves that the thesis is the candidate's own work, that the candidate is familiar with the relation of his/her work to the field of study. and that his/her knowledge and appreciation of adjoining ...

  18. Common PhD Viva Questions

    Namely the purpose of the PhD viva (or defence) is to check that: You did the work; You understand the work; The research is up to the standard for a PhD. For more detail see my separate post here including Imperial's PhD viva mark scheme. In hindsight I probably didn't spend as much time preparing for my viva as is normal.

  19. Top 12 Potential PhD Viva Questions and How to Answer Them

    By Uttkarsha Bhosale Oct 29, 2021 5 mins read 🔊 Listen (average: 5 out of 5. Total: 3) Breathed a sigh of relief after submitting the PhD thesis you've burnt the midnight oil for? Not so soon! While submitting your thesis is a massive achievement, defending it decides whether you will receive the doctoral degree or not.

  20. PhD Viva: What it is and How to Prepare

    The official name for a PhD Viva is Viva Voce, which is Latin for living voice. It is an oral examination, comprising 20% towards the evaluation of a doctoral degree. The other 80% of the doctoral degree is allocated to the research work. ... However, in the UK, the oral examination is conducted in a closed room with restricted access. Also ...

  21. PDF vivas dran [Read-Only]

    Internal examiner - duties. Responsibility for all aspects of organisation of viva. Date, time, venue and communication with student. Complete Part I report - Postgraduate Office expect it within two months of receipt. Organise and host viva, ensuring: Appropriate conduct All paperwork is completed Feedback is provided to student.

  22. PhD Failure Rate

    The PhD failure rate in the UK is 19.5%, with 16.2% of students leaving their PhD programme early, and 3.3% of students failing their viva. 80.5% of all students who enrol onto a PhD programme successfully complete it and are awarded a doctorate. Introduction. One of the biggest concerns for doctoral students is the ongoing fear of failing ...

  23. PhD English Language and Applied Linguistics via distance learning

    Like all PhD theses at Birmingham, a Modular PhD is examined in a viva voce examination which takes place after the submission of Module 3. Fees. We charge an annual tuition fee: On campus PhD/MA by Research: ... (the same as for the full-time PhD). Fee status. Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions.