Research student exams

Detailed information on graduate research degree stages and all progression forms is available via the Graduate on-course guidance page of the Oxford Students website. Further details on the submission of work, and access to the relevant forms are available on the Research degree stages page of the Oxford Students website. Information for graduate student supervisors and examiners is available here and also on the Research exams page of the Oxford Students website.

Appointment of examiners

An Appointment of Examiners (GSO.3) form is required for all Research Degree submissions. The form can be found on Student Self Service. Once the candidate has submitted their section, supervisors will be asked to provide the names and contact details of two first-choice and two reserve examiners. Please note that all examinations require at least one examiner external to the University, and that anybody employed by the University of Oxford within the last three years is ineligible to act as an external examiner.

Once the Submissions and Research Degrees Team receive an “Appointment of Examiners” form (GSO.3) that has been approved by all the required parties, formal invitations will be issued to examiners. Examiner copies of a student's thesis cannot be despatched until these invitations have been formally accepted by both examiners.

Examiner copies of thesis

The examination copies of all research degrees must be digitally submitted as a pdf document via the Research Theses Digital Submission (RTDS) portal before 11:59pm UK time on the student’s maximum submission date. If a student is unable to meet this maximum submission date, they should speak to their Graduate Studies Assistant in the first instance. Once the student has uploaded their thesis to RTDS, and both nominees have accepted the formal invitation to act as examiners, they will receive an email containing the relevant forms and guidance, and a link to download the thesis from the RTDS portal. The student and supervisors will also be emailed to confirm when the thesis has been dispatched to the examiners.

Examiners may still request a hard copy of the thesis: when an examiner is granted access to the digital copy of the thesis in RTDS and visits the application, they will be able to then request a printed copy of the thesis by completing and submitting an online form. 

The minimum time between both examiners receiving the official copy of the thesis via RTDS and a viva date remains at 4 weeks (as referred to under ‘the oral exam or viva’ section of the Research exams web page).

For more information about RTDS please read the Quick Reference Guide (QRG) below:

Extenuating circumstances and viva adjustments

Should a student suffer from a disability that may affect their thesis, this needs to be considered at the time that the student is writing their thesis. There are a number of measures that can be put in place to support disabled students whilst writing their thesis, which can be discussed with DAS and department / college disability advisors. These could include extensions of time for milestones, assistive technology, use of proof reader, etc.

By the time the student submits their thesis no further consideration of the disability for the written work is appropriate, as the student will have been given sufficient support so that their thesis can be examined under the same academic criteria as those theses submitted by students without a disability.

However, if a student wishes to make the examiners aware of any illness, disability, or personal circumstance which may affect their performance in the viva, they can make an application for Adjustments to Assessment Arrangements using form GSO.19 (the form and related guidance can be found on the Graduate Forms webpage).

The viva exam and outcome

It is the responsibility of the internal examiner to make all arrangements for the viva. This includes: arranging the viva date with their co-examiner; booking a University or College room for the viva, if it is to be held in person; gaining the relevant permissions should the viva be held remotely; informing the student of these arrangements; advertising the viva in the Gazette; and confirming the date to the Submissions and Research Degrees Team.

A viva examination may be held remotely where an examiner or candidate is based outside of the UK, and would be travelling to the UK specifically for the purpose of attending the viva. Permission to do so must be sought from the relevant Board (usually via the Director of Graduate Studies), and more information can be found in Annexes D and E of the Policy and Guidance on Research Degrees.

The internal examiners are sent a GSO.9 form (viva notice form), minor corrections notice, and a report form with the thesis download link. Depending on the stage of the exam, both examiners are also sent a GSO.10 form (claim form). Duplicate copies of these forms can be requested from the Submissions and Research Degrees Team, and under no circumstances should forms issued for another student be used or modified.

Report forms should be returned to the relevant Graduate Studies Assistant (GSA), for whom contact details are given on the last page of the document.

Once the relevant Board has ratified the result, the GSA will notify the Submissions and Research Degrees Team of the outcome, who will in turn formally notify the candidate and log the result on the Student System.




Students granted leave to supplicate no longer need to submit a hardbound copy of their thesis to the Examination Schools in order to graduate. This includes any students granted leave to supplicate in previous academic years who have not yet submitted a hard copy of their thesis.

All candidates for the degrees of DPhil, MLitt and MSc by Research must submit an electronic version of their finalised thesis, as approved by the examiners, to the Oxford University Research Archive (ORA) following being granted to leave to supplicate. Students for theses degrees must do so a minimum of five working days prior to their graduation date, and will not be able to attend a degree ceremony (even in absentia) without doing so.

Please visit the Graduation and leaving Oxford section of the Oxford Students website for more information regarding obtaining proof of a degree and graduation ceremonies.


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