Examination overview

What examiners look for

Examiners evaluate your work for understanding of the relevant literature, the methods and techniques used, the results and conclusions obtained. The full criteria used are included in the Graduate Research Training Policy.

The Thesis Examination System (TES)

The Thesis Examination System (TES), allows you to register your intention to submit and to submit your thesis electronically. It also allows for the examination to be managed online by the Graduate Research Examinations Office.

You can also view the progress status of your examination when you logon. Further information regarding the different types of TES statuses can be found here.

Need more information? Please refer to some of the Frequently Asked Questions regarding TES that may help.

Examination process

The exam process, from submitting your thesis to being notified of your result, will usually take a minimum of four months. The process and length of time will vary for each examination as external examiners are involved, so some will need more time due to their heavy workloads and other responsibilities and commitments.  You will receive a result only when the Chair of Examiners has received and considered all reports.  Once you receive your examination outcome you will have a clear idea on when you are likely to complete all degree requirements.  See below for a flow chart of the exam process. An additional step of submission through iThenticate thesis submission will become mandatory during 2020.

Step 1

Thesis submitted

Step 2

Thesis sent to approved examiners who have accepted

Step 3

Examiners assess and provide a report of their recommendations

Step 4

Reports sent to Chair of Examiners for consideration

Step 5

Thesis may need amendment (and/or resubmission)

Step 6

50-word citation submitted to be approved

Step 7

Final copy of thesis to be submitted to Chair of Examiners

Step 8

If passed, submit an electronic copy to the Thesis Examination System

Step 9

Final examination outcome advised

Step 10

Identities of your examiners may be revealed

Once all requirements have been fulfilled, you will receive notification stating that you have successfully completed your degree. You will be considered eligible to pass once the final thesis is certified by the Chair of Examiners and an approved citation (prepared by your supervisor) has been received by the Examinations Office.

If the examiners have agreed, their identities will be released, and if you are a Masters by Research student, you will be informed of your final percentage mark. Information about graduation will accompany the completion of degree notification via email.  Once you have graduated, either by attending a ceremony or by graduating in absentia, you can add post-nominals, for example, PhDMelb.  Doctoral degree candidates will be able to use the title Dr.

If you require an official statement of your completion, including the official date of completion, you will be able to download a free Evidence of Qualification statement from my.unimelb. The University will also issue an Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS), which will include your citation, after your degree is conferred at a graduation ceremony. You can also learn more about what documents you receive once you complete, such as academic statements and transcripts as well as other documents you can order.

The rules governing examination are contained in the Graduate Research Training Policy.

If you have any issues with your examiner go to: Resolving Issues.

Examination of jointly awarded PhD

Your examination will be carried out in a manner that meets the requirements of both universities. These requirements should be stated in the agreement governing your program and you should consult with your supervisors for more detail.

Some jointly awarded degree programs require an oral examination as well as examination of the thesis. You should only be required to make one oral defence of the thesis which is recognised by both institutions. Unless otherwise stated in your agreement, the oral examination should be conducted as described in the University of Melbourne Graduate Research Training Policy.

Examination criteria and marking

The examination criteria and processes are described in detail in the Graduate Research Training Policy.

Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may have been necessary for you to alter your research plan, leading to a project that is different to the one you had originally intended.  In some cases, this may mean that the thesis you submit is not typical for your discipline. Your discussion in the thesis of COVID-19 impacts will guide the examiners’ understanding of the reported work and the environment in which it was undertaken.

All theses are graded as:

  • Pass
  • Pass with minor amendments
  • Pass with revision
  • Revise and resubmit
  • Fail

Masters theses also receive a numerical mark and a letter grade according to the Grading Scale for Masters Degrees (Research). A mark of 65% is required to pass.

The tables in the Graduate Research Training Policy describe how examiners reports work.

Responding to examiners

Upon receiving the examiners' recommendations you are required to consider their feedback and discuss them with your supervisor and Chair of Examiners.

If you have been asked to resubmit your thesis for a second examination, you will be invited to write a response to the examiners' reports, which they will receive along with the revised thesis.

For theses requiring minor changes or revision, written responses to the examiners are not required.

Changes to the thesis

The majority of theses require some amendment before the degree is awarded. You will be informed of the changes required and supplied with copies of the examiners' reports, which will be edited for confidentiality. Note that you're only allowed to make changes to your thesis based on the recommendations of your examiners – no additional changes are permitted.

The corrections to your thesis should be incorporated in the body of the text. If you need more time to finish the corrections, you can apply for an extension by completing an Application for an Extension to Submit Revisions.

  • Minor amendments are required if the examiners recommend that you be awarded your degree subject to making specified minor corrections and/or additions to the Chair of Examiner's satisfaction. You are usually given six weeks to complete minor amendments.
  • Revisions entail revising sections of your thesis to the satisfaction of the examiners. In some cases, the examiners may delegate this task to the Chair of Examiners. You are usually given two months to complete revisions. Examiners are asked to make their final decision on revisions within three weeks of receipt.
  • Resubmission occurs when your result is deferred. Doctoral students are given 12 months to revise and resubmit the thesis; Masters students are given six months. If you need to undertake a major revision, you may need to re-enrol for the period, and as such will be liable for any associated fees. Your revision should address and respond to any concerns raised by the examiners, as well as make other changes in order to improve the thesis. Your revised thesis will be re-examined in its entirety. This is your final opportunity to ensure your thesis meets the requirements of your degree.

For more information, view the Graduate Research Training Policy.

Citation for Completion

A citation is a completion requirement that is prepared by your supervisor. The citation will be read out at the graduation ceremonies for PhD and Doctorate students. The citation will also be included in the University's Evidence of Qualification and in the Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS).

The citation will summarise the nature of the independent research, the contribution to knowledge made, and the intellectual and/or practical value of the work. It is important that a lay person, without specialist knowledge of the field or its technical terms, is able to comprehend the nature of the research and appreciate its contribution to society.  Where technical terms or technical descriptors cannot be avoided they should either be expressed in plain language or include a plain language explanation so that the meaning is easily understood. Citation examples are provided below, including an example where technical terms are used.

Citation format

The citation should:

  • be restricted to 50 words to prevent delays in the conferring ceremony (Please note citations that exceed the 50-word limit will be returned for revision to the appropriate length)
  • commence with either of the words:  who investigated.../ who studied.../ who examined.../ who found.../ who argues.../ whose work will benefit... (the name of the candidate will be automatically added once the citation has been submitted)
  • contain a brief description about what the research achieved or 'found'
  • give an indication about the impact of the research or its potential application
  • be grammatically correct and written in language which can be understood by a lay audience at the conferring ceremony
  • use present or future tense to describe the findings, impact or potential application
  • only use those technical or specialised terms which are in general use; otherwise a plain language explanation should be added
  • refer back to the student by using 'his findings' or 'her study' (the student's name should not be used within the text of the citation).

Citation examples

Technical terms

who investigated biofilms of the hospital 'superbug' Klebsiella. Biofilms are resistant to standard disinfection and treatment regimes.  He discovered that biofilm formation was mediated by Mrk, a bacterial attachment structure, regulated by a protein, MrkH. The identification of MrkH presents opportunities for creating biofilm-resistant plastics and drug inhibitors of biofilms.

who investigated the invasion process of cancer cells. A protein known as Tks5 was implicated in the formation of membrane structures on the cell surface known as invadopodia. His study gives unique insight as to how cancer cells utilise Tks5 within invadopodia to facilitate invasion throughout the body.

Discipline-specific examples


"who completed a study of Victoria's celebrated initiatives in community consultation in the 1970s and 80s. She showed how governments and key mediating agencies marginalised radical and politically turbulent values and interests to achieve forms of consultation consistent with conservative interest accommodation practices traditional to Victorian politics."

Business & Economics

"who studied how leaders use performance evaluations and rewards to influence employee behaviours. He finds that while lenient evaluations have negative organizational consequences, the opposite is true for lenient rewards. He also finds that being somewhat lenient with rewards helps leaders more clearly communicate their priorities and build their credibility."

Psychological Sciences

"who studied parents of adolescents with emerging psychosis. She found that certain coping styles and beliefs about mental illness were associated with parents' distress and grief, and with problematic interactions with their children. Her study has important implications for psychological interventions with mentally ill young people and their caregivers."

Earth Sciences

"who investigated the origins of diamond-bearing magmas from India. He established a new analytical technique and used this to reveal subtle differences in the mantle source characteristics between provinces. This technique has attracted international interest and is currently being applied to the kimberlites of South Africa."


"who investigated the impact of learning on the political literacy of young activists. He developed our understanding of political knowledge, skills and values and how these influenced participation.  His study gives unique insight to a new generation of activists and poses challenges for researchers, policy makers and education practitioners."


"who studied the structural behaviour of concrete walls, composite steel-concrete columns and industrial buildings when subjected to fire. The study improved our understanding of appropriate levels of building safety and now forms the basis of structural design requirements for building elements and buildings in situations involving fire."


"who examined the problem of human trafficking for forced labour in the fishing industries of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. He demonstrates the failure of these countries to harmonise their responses under norms of ‘transnational criminal law’. His findings expose legal and policy ‘fault-lines’ for the benefit of future industry regulation."


"who investigated the role of chromosome breaks in the development of leukaemia in mice. A new tumour suppressor gene was unequivocally implicated, and its position refined to a degree which will allow cloning of the gene, and examination of the role of the equivalent gene in human cancer."


"who developed a system for analysing tonal implications in fifteenth-century European Music. He found that many Renaissance works, unlike later Classical music, project two tonal centres. His study opens the way for a richer understanding of the links between Early Music and the music of today."


"who investigated the relationship between fire, vegetation and climate in western Tasmania, Australia, over the last 12,000 years. She identified climate as the dominant control over fire activity, and produced Australia’s first ever pollen-based estimates of vegetation change, reconciling a long-standing debate over the evolution of this landscape."

Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences

"who studied key pork supply chain factors that influence eating quality to develop cuts-based predictive eating quality models for pork. Her studies focussed on reducing eating quality variability of Australian pork, informed by quantitative consumer analyses, to improve consumer acceptability and support its differentiation as a consistently high quality product."

Next: Submitting my thesis