PhD Viva Results: a Guide


10th January 2024

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The culmination of years of dedicated doctoral research dovetails with your viva, an oral examination that stands as the ultimate hurdle before obtaining your PhD. In this blog post, we will delve into the different PhD viva results and offer valuable guidance on dealing with a potential failure.

What is a PhD Viva?

The PhD viva, short for viva voce (from Latin, meaning ‘living voice’), is an oral examination that doctoral candidates undergo to defend their research and thesis. The viva is conducted by an examination panel consisting of internal and external examiners who rigorously assess the candidate’s understanding of their subject matter, research methodology, and the contributions made by their work. In the US, the viva voce is often referred to as ‘PhD defence’, because candidates need to defend themselves from the questions asked by the internal and external examiners.

PhD Viva Results Guide

Upon completion of the viva, candidates can receive different results based on the assessment of their performance. Let’s explore the various viva outcomes:

1. Pass with No Corrections or Editorial Corrections:

This is the ideal outcome, indicating that the candidate has successfully defended their thesis, and no further amendments are required (or only some small typographical errors should be taken care of). Candidates passing their viva with no corrections typically have one month to submit their thesis and can then proceed to the graduation process.

2. Pass with Minor Corrections:

In most cases, the candidate may be asked to make minor revisions to their thesis. These corrections usually involve clarifying certain points and you will normally have three months to go through the list of corrections. Once these revisions are made and approved by the examiners, the candidate can proceed to graduation.

3. Pass with Major Corrections:

If significant issues are identified during the viva, you may be required to make substantial revisions to your thesis. These corrections could involve re-analysing data, restructuring chapters, or addressing fundamental flaws in the research. You will usually be given six months to address all these major corrections. Once the corrections are completed and accepted, the candidate can move forward.

4. Be Recommended for MPhil:

In some rare cases, the examiners may feel that the research falls short of doctoral standards but is still of sufficient quality for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree. In such instances, the candidate may be recommended for an MPhil instead of a PhD.

5. Fail:

A recurring question among PhD candidates is: ‘Can you fail a PhD viva? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, there is the possibility of failing the viva. This outcome, however, is extremely rare, as candidates typically undergo extensive preparations before facing the examination. If a candidate fails, they may be required to revise and resubmit their thesis, or in extreme cases, the degree may be terminated.

What Happens if You Fail Your PhD Viva?

Facing the prospect of failing your PhD viva can be a daunting and disappointing experience. However, it’s crucial to understand that it doesn’t mark the end of your academic journey. Here’s a step-by-step guide on what happens if you find yourself in this situation:

1. Immediate Feedback:

After the viva, you will receive detailed feedback from the examiners, outlining the specific areas where your thesis fell short. This feedback is invaluable in understanding the weaknesses in your work.

2. Identify Areas of Concern:

Take the time to carefully go through the feedback and identify the specific areas of concern. Understanding the shortcomings is the first step towards addressing them in the revision process.

3. Consultation with Supervisors:

Reach out to your supervisors for guidance. They are there to support you through the challenging process of revising and resubmitting your thesis. Discuss the examiners’ feedback and work together to develop a strategy for improvement.

4. Revision and Resubmission:

You will be required to make the necessary revisions to your thesis based on the feedback received. These revisions can range from minor adjustments to more substantial changes. The goal is to address the identified issues and strengthen your overall work.

5. Second Viva:

Following the revision process, you will face a second viva. This examination will primarily focus on the revised sections of your thesis. The examiners want to ensure that you have effectively addressed the concerns raised during the initial viva.

6. Outcome of the Second Viva:

The second viva can result in various outcomes. You may pass with either minor or major corrections, depending on the extent to which you’ve successfully addressed the issues. In some cases, the examiners might recommend a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) if they feel the work doesn’t meet doctoral standards but is still of merit.

7. Learning and Growth:

While the process of revising and resubmitting your thesis is undoubtedly challenging, it provides an opportunity for significant learning and growth. Use this experience to refine your research skills, strengthen your argument, and enhance the overall quality of your work.

8. Persistence and Determination:

It’s important to approach the revision process with persistence and determination. Understand that setbacks are a natural part of the academic journey, and many successful researchers have faced challenges along the way. Use this experience to strengthen your resolve and commitment to your research.

9. Celebrating Success:

If you successfully navigate the second viva, you can celebrate your resilience and commitment. Passing the viva, even after initial failure, is a testament to your dedication and the quality of your research.

10. Graduation:

Once you have successfully addressed the examiners’ concerns and received approval, you can proceed towards graduation. This marks the culmination of your PhD journey, demonstrating your academic prowess and your ability to overcome challenges.

A Comprehensive Preparation for a Successful Outcome

If you are worried about your viva results, why not consider our viva preparation service

With a dedicated academic by your side, you will receive unwavering support in anticipating and addressing potential viva questions. You can engage in invaluable mock viva sessions before the big day to refine your responses and gain the confidence needed on the pivotal day of your academic career. 

Our service goes beyond mere guidance; it equips you with effective strategies, ensuring you are thoroughly prepared to defend your thesis. Contact us and learn more about how we can help you.