Investigating oral vivas as a form of assessment in business and management education

Gabor Lukacs, Business School

In modern British universities the use of the oral viva as part of the assessment of undergraduate business students is not very widespread. In general, written forms of assessment dominate summative assessment in higher education whereas oral assessment is often being considered as a form of “alternative assessment” (Joughin, 1998).

I have carried out a research project that included students who took the viva. Primary research methods were used, supported by a thorough literature review, including focus group interviews, anonymous questionnaires with students, data from the feedback and discussion session in class after the formative viva.

A preliminary analysis shows that students feel they have enormously benefited from the viva experience and this paper will explore the empirical data in more detail. Based on the research, I am convinced that oral vivas are an appropriate means of assessment and bear a huge potential to develop students in order to achieve the module learning outcomes and to create a more balanced and creative assessment structure. The development of communication and employability skills for professional work can also be enhanced using vivas as a form of oral assessment, and students need formative practice with their peers (in communities) supported by staff, to develop those skills.

The evaluation of primary data shows that the preparation for the oral viva encouraged students to form “learning” communities, whereby learning was characterised by discussion, debate, and sharing knowledge and best practice.

The importance of this work for other colleagues at Brookes lies in the potential this form of assessment presents to encourage learning, discussion, debate, argument, and learning throughout the whole assessment process, including the viva itself.


Joughin, G. (1998) ‘Dimensions of Oral Assessment’ Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education Vol. 23, No. 4., pp. 367-378.

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