The viva


As part of the examination process, you will be required to sit an oral examination (viva / viva voce) to defend your thesis.  

Why is there a viva?

The viva is held to allow your examiners to explore areas of your work that they have queries about and to allow you to respond to any shortcomings identified within the thesis. The viva is used to:

  • check that you are well acquainted with your subject matter and have a broader understanding of the subject area
  • confirm that the thesis is your own work
  • clarify any points that the examiners found unclear
  • explore whether you have applied the appropriate research methods and explore why you conducted the research the way in which you did
  • confirm that you understand the background for the work you have done and how it links to the work of others.

Vivas - online or face-to-face?

Candidates are now offered the option to have their viva held via video conference rather than face-to-face.  For further details and to help you make your choice, please refer to:

Who organises the viva?

Your thesis will be dispatched to both examiners and Independent Chair once they have both accepted the invitation to examine. The Doctoral School will let you and your supervisor know when the thesis has been dispatched. At this point, your supervisor will be asked to organise the viva. Please note:

  • it is the responsibility of your supervisor to organise the date and venue for the viva
  • it is expected that the viva should take place within three months of the theses being dispatched to the examiners
  • if you choose for your viva to be held face to gace, the viva should be held at Royal Holloway main campus or Bedford Square or Senate House in central London
  • examiners are required to submit individual preliminary reports on the thesis to the Doctoral School prior to the viva.
  • The Doctoral School should be advised when and where / how the viva will take place.


 At the viva 

What should I bring to the viva?

  • You must bring to the viva a copy of your thesis paginated in the same way as the copies submitted to the College. This may be an electronic copy.
  • It is acceptable to bring light snacks and drinks into the viva.

What format can I expect for the viva?

  • The viva will follow an interview format of questions and answers.  The questions can address any aspect of the submission.
  • For suggestions of common questions, you may find this article helpful.
  • There is no standard duration for the viva.   

Can I take notes during the viva?

  • Yes - you are allowed to take notes during the viva and point to places in the thesis where you have stated the answers to the questions.  This helps the examiners remember what they have read and shows that you know what’s in your own thesis.

Will anyone be in the viva besides my examiners and the Independent Chair?

  • If you choose for your viva to be held face-to-face, your supervisor is invited to attend the viva examination as an observer but will not participate in the examination unless invited to do so by the examiners.
  • If you choose for your viva to be held online, your supervisor will organise a date for the viva. The independent chair will set up the MS Teams meeting, be present during the viva to record the viva and to co-ordinate participants in case of any technical difficulties.
  • Observing the viva enables the supervisor to provide better support to you should you be required to complete amendments after the viva.
  • If you would prefer your supervisor not to attend the viva, you have the option to request this on your exam entry form.

Where can I find further guidance to help me prepare for the viva?

  • You can ask your department for a mock viva which will help you formulate answers to the questions you may be asked and to gain an experience of the viva format.
  • 'The Good Viva Video’, available through the Researcher Development Programme Moodle site will help you prepare for the viva, know what to expect on the day and how to understand the outcome. 
  • There is a ‘Preparing for your viva’ class through the Researcher Development Programme
  • You can find more resources on how to get ready for your viva here.

What about exam access arrangements?

If you have indicated on your exam entry form that you are registered with the Disability and Neurodiversity Services (DNS), the Doctoral School will contact the DNS team to ask for information about what reasonable adjustments can be made to the exam to better suit your needs. The examiners will be made aware of the DNS suggestions prior to the viva, as appropriate. Please contact the DNS for further information on how the viva may be adjusted.


Extenuating circumstances

If you feel that your academic performance on the date of the oral examination may be substantially affected by unexpected medical or other personal circumstances, you should inform the examiners of your situation no later than the start of the oral examination so that they can make a decision on whether or not to proceed. The examiners may require you to submit evidence of your condition to the Doctoral School within seven days.

Will the viva be recorded?

Yes - the Research Degree regulations stipulate that all vivas will be recorded for use in the event that you appeal the outcome of the viva. Recordings will be kept by the Doctoral School until you have been awarded and then destroyed.


 What happens after the viva?

The examiners are asked to send their decision and joint report form on the examination to the Doctoral School within two weeks of the viva.  Once this paperwork has been received, the Doctoral School will inform you of the outcome.

In some cases, the examiners may be in a position to indicate to you the outcome at the end of the viva (but this should not be an expectation and the official outcome is the one that will be communicated to you by the Doctoral School). If they provide you with a list of amendments to be made or an annotated copy of your thesis, please begin work on the amendments straightaway. The Doctoral School will confirm your deadline for submitting the amendments to the examiner(s) once the report forms have been received. 


What happens next?




Contact us


By email:

By phone:

  • 01784 276886
  • Manned 10am-4pm, Tuesday to Thursday

In person:

  • Visit our helpdesk in room S-105, Founder's South Tower
  • Open 10am-4pm on Tuesdays

Quick links

Overview of PhD/MPhil exam process

PhD/MPhil exam process post-viva

A to Z of the Doctoral School microsite

Reasonable adjustments for your viva

Resources to prepare for the viva examination