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Procedure for viva Examination MPhil/Phd Candidates


Appointing the Examiners

1  You must send your completed examination entry form to Student Records in the  Registry about three 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. 

2  Your supervisor is responsible for arranging the appointment of your examiners1. 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.

3  When your thesis is ready you must submit two soft-bound theses to the Student Centre in the Registry, for dispatch to the examiners.  Please refer to http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ras/research_degrees for full details of the process.

4  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.

5  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.  It should take place at UCL and will usually be held in your supervisor’s office.  Your examiners should have your thesis at least six working weeks before the viva and this should not be arranged until you have submitted your thesis.  Your viva should then take place within three months of the dispatch of the thesis to your examiners.

6  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. Examination by video conference or by webcam are not normally permissible, but if there are extenuating circumstances, supervisors may apply for the suspension of regulations through Research Degrees in the Registry. All applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (researchdegrees@ucl.ac.uk).


1  The most obvious form of preparation is to 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. 

2  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.

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


1  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.

2  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. 

3  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.

4  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. 

5  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.

6  Do not answer simply 'yes' or 'no' to questions; on the other hand do not give a prepared exposition. Try to answer the question as it is put, remembering that you are engaged in an academic conversation.

7  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.  If you make any comments to your examiners which put them under moral pressure (eg alluding to the consequences of failure for 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 the Registry.

1 UCL supervisors should have already established that the proposed individuals have agreed to act as examiners before they are nominated.
2 A substantial part of what follows is taken, with the kind permission of the author and of Liverpool University, from their publication Preparing for Your Viva by Martin Stanistreet, 1988, reprinted 1996.