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The Oral Examination (viva) and Corrections

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The Oral Examination (viva)

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

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

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

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

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

Can I have my oral examination via video conference?

The Board may exceptionally approve that an oral examination is undertaken by i) video conference or ii) written examination. Permission will only be granted under exceptional circumstances. Applications must be made to the Secretary to the Board of Graduate Studies.

What happens at the oral examination ?

  • The oral examination will ordinarily take place in Cambridge
  • It is carried out between yourself and the two Examiners
  • It may include an Independent Chairperson if the Degree Committee requires this
  • There is no set duration, but expect it to last between 90 minutes and three hours

What is the purpose of the oral examination?

The oral examination gives the opportunity for:

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

What is the process following my oral examination?

The steps following your oral examination are as follows:

  • Your Examiners complete a joint report and make a recommendation which is sent to your Degree Committee;
  • Your Degree Committee consider the reports at their next available meeting and send their recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies;
  • Recommendations from all Degree Committees are added to the agenda for the next available meeting of the Board of Graduate Studies.

When will I know the result of my oral examination?

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

What are the possible outcomes from the oral examination?

Possible outcomes:

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

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Making Corrections to a Dissertation after Examination

The Board of Graduate Studies may confirm that you need to make corrections to your dissertation before full approval can be granted for your degree. This decision will be emailed to you by the Student Registry within two days of the Board of Graduate Studies meeting.

Once you have received your reports you need to undertake the following:

  • Check the joint report (PhD2) from your Examiners to see if corrections need to go to the Internal/External or both Examiners.
  • Ask your Examiners if they will accept an electronic copy of the corrected thesis - some prefer a new soft bound thesis.
  • Put the original and new page numbers on a separate list of corrections for the Examiners. For the convenience of the Examiners, the list of corrections should describe precisely how the earlier text has been amended - with page, paragraph and line references. The list should be in page order.
  • You are expected to make all the corrections required by your Examiners. If a change has been suggested, rather than required, you should indicate, as part of the list of corrections made, the extent to which you have taken account of such suggestions.

If you have been told directly by your Examiners or Degree Committee (and not the Student Registry) that you need to undertake corrections, you will need to follow their instructions taking note of the points above.

A brief overview of the corrections process can be found here:

Corrections Map

Corrections Map

How long do I have in which to submit my Minor Corrections?

You have 3 months in which to submit your corrected dissertation and list of corrections to your Examiner(s). Check your reports to see if corrections need to go to the Internal/External or both Examiners. The 3 month deadline begins from the date of the Board of Graduate Studies meeting. Count on three months from the date of the meeting to work out the due date for corrections.

How long do I have in which to submit my Major Corrections?

You have 6 months in which to submit your corrected dissertation and list of corrections to your Examiner(s). Check your reports to see if corrections need to go to the Internal/External or both Examiners. The 6 month deadline begins from the date of the Board of Graduate Studies meeting. Count on six months from the date of the meeting to work out the due date for corrections.

Do I need to go through another Board of Graduate Studies meeting?

Once you have received a conditional approval subject to corrections from the Board of Graduate Studies you do not need to be considered at a further Board of Graduate Studies meeting.

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Revising and Resubmitting the Dissertation

If the Board has confirmed that you need to revise and resubmit your dissertation for examination, you must respond to the email sent by the Student Registry to confirm that this is what you wish to do.

The Email will state the deadline for submission of your revised dissertation.

You must then begin work on revising your dissertation, taking full account of what your Examiners require you to do.

The examination of a revised dissertation begins afresh, possibly with new Examiners, and may include an oral or written examination on the revised dissertation.

On completion of the revised dissertation, candidates will have to submit two copies to the Student Registry along with all the submission paperwork - as if this was a first submission.

If candidates are unable to meet their new submission date, they must apply to extend it.

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Reinstatement to the Register for Graduate Students

If you are unable to undertake corrections or revisions by the given deadline, your name may be temporarily removed from the Register of Graduate Students.

When you have completed your work and wish to submit your corrected or revised dissertation, you will need to apply to be reinstated to the register. The application needs to be forwarded with all accompanying documents to the appropriate Degree Committee for consideration. The Degree Committee will make a recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies who will communicate its final decision to the candidate and all interested parties.

If you require a visa to return to the UK for reinstatement, or to complete your studies thereafter, please contact the International Student Team as early as possible. You must not return undertake your viva and/or complete corrections on a general visitor visa.

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