Oral Examinations

All PhD students who commenced from 1 July 2022 must complete an oral examination examination (sometimes known as Defence, viva voce) in addition to submitting their PhD thesis to complete their degree.  PhD students who commenced prior to this time can choose to voluntarily opt in to complete an oral examination.  If you want to opt into an oral examination, you should answer yes to the question on the Notification of Intention to Submit form.

When there is an oral examination, the thesis will be examined as described in the Research Student Handbook and the examiners will provide a written report and make a recommendation of whether you should proceed to the oral examination.  You will receive copies of the written reports and the oral examination will be scheduled approximately 2 weeks later.  The oral examination will be scheduled at some time during the normal working hours for the University, i.e. between 7am to 7pm and will take a maximum of 2.5 hours and may be in person or online or a combination of both.  An oral examination will be in two parts; the first part consists of a short presentation/seminar by the student of 20-30 minutes, which can be public, dependent on the School, followed by a closed question and answer session.

An Independent Chair will lead the examination which is attended by you and the examiners of your thesis.  Your principal supervisor can attend the oral examination but only if you request them to, but they do not participate in any way.

The outcome of the oral examination will be verbally communicated to you shortly after the oral examination and then confirmed in writing.  The examiners can recommend the standard examination outcomes as outlined in the Research Student Handbook or request that the oral examination be repeated.  If a repeat oral examination is required, this would happen within 4 weeks of the first one.

The CaRST course “Preparing for your doctoral oral examination” will help you to prepare for the oral examination.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What are the benefits of an oral examination?

    You get to discuss your research with your examiners who are leaders in your discipline and actively demonstrate your understanding of your research.  For examiners they get further insight into your research and an opportunity to discuss which is not possible when they just read the thesis text.

  • Do I need to do an oral examination?

    PhD students who commenced their program from 1 July 2022 must complete an oral examination.  PhD students who commenced prior to this date can choose to opt in to complete an oral examination from January 2024.

  • I am not confident in public speaking. What help can I get?

    In addition to the CaRST course “Preparing for your doctoral oral examination”, check out other CaRST courses on presenting.  The old saying that practice makes perfect has merit.  During your candidature try to take every opportunity to present your research, see feedback on how you can improve and keep practicing.  Your supervisors should also help you prepare.

  • My supervisor wants me to do an oral examination. I commenced prior to 1 July 2022 so I am not required to complete one. Do I have to?

    Technically no, however, it would be worth discussing with your supervisors why they think completing an oral examination would be of benefit to you.  It may seems like a challenge but it is a great opportunity to discuss your research with your examiners who will be internationally recognised experts in your discipline, which may not be possible otherwise.

  • How do I inform the AGRS that I want to do an oral examination?

    Answer yes to the question on your Notification of Intention to Submit form.

  • What if I change my mind about doing an oral examination between submitting my Notification of intention to submit and actually submitting my thesis?

    You should ensure that your supervisor knows that you have changed your mind as they will be contacting potential examiners and need to let them know what will be expected of them for the examination.  Inform the AGRS as soon as you know and also ensure that you confirm this decision when you submit your thesis.

  • What is the role of the Independent Chair. Who will they be? Will they know anything about my discipline?

    The Independent Chair leads the oral examination. They will make sure that everyone knows what the expectations of the oral examination is, that the examiners are being fair and that they keep to the allotted time.  They will lead the discussion of what the outcome ism although they do not get a vote and they will inform the AGRS of the outcome by ensuring all forms and paperwork is completed.  They will not be an expert in your discipline but they will be a very experienced academic who has a natural curiosity for all research and are a keen supporter of HDR students.

  • Why might my oral examination be scheduled before of after 9am-5pm?

    Your supervisors will be asked to consider time zones when nominating your examiners as the combination of locations is important to ensure that everyone is participating at a time that they can focus.  Preference will always be given where possible to ensure that students are completing their oral examination at a time as close as possible to normal business hours in their location, noting that University of Adelaide normal hours are 7am – 7pm.

  • What if I am nervous on the day?

    Let your Chair know.  They will be experienced in making presentations, will understand your nerves and are there to support you.  Make sure you have some water as taking a sip can be a good way to pause and collect your thoughts.  Remember that your examiners are from universities and are educators, they are not there to fail you but to find out more about your research and your understanding of your research.  Many examiners like to participate in oral examinations as they enjoy the opportunity to discuss research.

  • What if I give a terrible oral examination?

    Your examiners may choose to recommend that you re-do your oral examination and you will be invited back to do it within 4 weeks.  You will generally be told on the day the outcome and it may not be as bad as you think it was.

  • What if I am not confident using Zoom?

    Your Chair will be well practiced in using Zoom and will be able to help you.  We recommend that you practice using the links provided prior to the day.  AGRS staff are more than happy to help you.

  • What kind of questions will I be asked at the oral examination?

    Your examiners can ask any question about your research.  As you will have access to the examiners’ reports two weeks before the oral examination, you are encouraged to closely review the reports as they are likely to give clues to the interests or concerns your examiners may have had about your research.

  • I am completing a masters. Can I do an oral examination?

    No.  Only PhD students can do an oral examination.

  • English is not my first language. Can I complete an oral examination in a language other than English?

    No.  The oral examination must be in English.  The language of tuition at the University of Adelaide is English and this is certified in a number of places.  As a graduate you are expected to be able to write and converse in English therefore your thesis and oral examination must be in English.