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 examiners’ recommendations, will usually take a minimum of four months. The process and length of time will vary for each examination as examiners who are external to the University are involved. Some examiners need more time due to their other responsibilities and commitments. Regular follow-ups with supervisors and examiners are an integral part of the exam process to minimise delays. 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 clearer idea of when you are likely to complete all degree requirements. The identity of your examiners will remain anonymous until you have been awarded a final 'pass’ grade. See below for a flow chart of the exam process.

Step 1

Intention to submit is registered

Step 2

Supervisor contacts potential external examiners

Step 3

Thesis submitted (along with iThenticate report of submitted thesis)

Step 4

Thesis sent to approved examiners who have accepted a formal invitation

Step 5

Examiners assess thesis and provide a report with their recommendations

For Joint PhDs, your partner institution will usually arrange your oral examination after the required written reports are received (if an oral examination is outlined in the Joint Award Agreement)

Step 6

Reports sent to Chair of Examiners for consideration

Step 7

Examination outcome sent with recommendations for any required amendment (and/or resubmission)

Step 8

50-word citation submitted by supervisor to be approved by Associate Dean (Graduate Research)

Step 9

Final copy of thesis submitted to Chair of Examiners

Step 10

Once approved, electronic copy of final thesis is submitted to the Thesis Examination System

Step 11

Final examination outcome advised

Step 12

Identities of your examiners may be revealed, if they agree

Once all requirements have been fulfilled, you will receive a 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 has been received by the Examinations Office. If you have completed a Masters by Research, you will be informed of your final percentage mark.

Information about graduation will be included in your completion of degree notification 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 graduates can 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 issue an Australian Higher Education Graduation Statement (AHEGS), which will include your citation, after your degree is conferred at a graduation ceremony. You can learn more about the documents you will 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.

You must meet both institutions’ requirements, as the examinations will be run independently.  You will therefore need to register your intention to submit and submit your thesis to both institutions.

Most jointly awarded degree programs require an oral examination in addition to the examination of the thesis. The oral examination is usually arranged by your partner institution as outlined in the signed Joint Award Agreement. Where the oral examination is held at the University of Melbourne, your Chair of Examiners will oversee the arrangements.

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 examiners will be asked to recommend that the thesis should:

  • Pass
  • Pass with Revisions (Chair of Examiners)
  • Revise, Resubmit and Regrade (Examiners), or
  • 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 should only make changes to your thesis based on the recommendations of your examiners. The only other permitted change is if the publication status of a publication incorporated into your thesis has changed and you update that material to reflect the latest version (usually up to the author accepted version).

The corrections to your thesis should be incorporated in the body of the text.  If your examiner has provided an enumerated list of requested changes, you will also be required to supply a similarly enumerated list to address how you have responded to those requests.

  • Pass with minor edits are required if the examiners recommend that you be awarded your degree, but minor corrections (such as typographical errors or formatting issues) are requested to the Chair of Examiner's satisfaction. You are usually given six weeks to complete minor amendments.
  • Revisions entails minor revisions to content. These revisions will be reviewed and verified by your Chair of Examiners who may consult your Examiner to verify the changes.  You will be given two months to complete any revisions.
  • Revise, resubmit and regrade (Examiner) occurs when serious shortcomings in the content of the thesis are present but can be resolved with major revision. Your revised thesis is returned to the Examiner to consider, and the Examiner regrades the thesis accordingly. Doctoral candidates are given 12 months to revise and resubmit the thesis; Masters candidates are given 6 months.  Your revision should address and respond to any concerns raised by the examiners, as well as make other changes to improve the thesis. Your revised thesis will be re-examined in its entirety.  This is a final opportunity to ensure your thesis meets the requirements of your degree.

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.

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 candidate by using 'their findings' (the candidate'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