Guidelines for the oral defense of theses at CBS

Oral defense of master’s theses

The oral defense marks the completion of 5 years of studies and is therefore a day of celebration.

Below, you will find guidance for ensuring that the defense sticks to current rules and regulations.

The supervisor becomes the examiner the moment the thesis is submitted and from that point on, the examiner is not allowed to be in contact with the students until the oral defense.

The oral defense consists of:
  • A presentation controlled by the student(s)
  • A discussion controlled by the examiner
  • Deliberation / reviewing
  • Grade-giving and feedback

The timeframe varies from program to program and is shown in the course description (search on master’s thesis along with the relevant program). On most CBS programs one hour per student is allocated to the entire function (i.e. the list above).

The examiners have read the thesis in advance and the oral defense is therefore not a repetition of the content of the thesis. The oral defense is an opportunity for a discussion of particularly interesting aspects of the thesis. Examiners should try to form the defense as a discussion amongst interested parties rather than a question/answer session. All aspects within the delimitation of the thesis are subject to discussion and adjacent theory/methods/perspectives can be included, but the oral defense is not an exam in the entire syllabus of the graduate program.

The purpose of the defense, alongside the discussion among interested parties, is also to check that the thesis has indeed been written by the student. Therefore, the examiners have to ensure that the discussion does not get stalled in a corner of the research, but covers substantial parts of it. In a group oral defense, the examiners have to make sure that a basis for giving individual grades is established and this will normally imply that all students are heard more or less equally.

The defense is also the student’s opportunity to correct possible substantial errors or omissions in the written work. Since the current grading scale focuses exactly on the number/seriousness of errors and omissions in the student performance, normally most of the time and discussion in the oral defense will circle around this issue.


The assessment must be based on the criteria, which appear in the learning objectives and examination requirements in the program regulations. It is not allowed to include other criteria. Be aware that the criteria can vary across the different programs and that criteria might change over time. Therefore, it is important that you read the current criteria in each student’s learning objectives. The assessment includes the written work, including summary and bibliography (but excluding appendices), and writing- and expression skills. However, the academic content, as well as the oral defense, carries the biggest weight. See note on the overall assessment.

Assessment is conducted according to the 7-point grading scale.

Assessment of group theses

Each student must be given an individual grade, even though they have written and defended the thesis together. The students shall therefore be given different grades if the academic assessment dictates it.

Feedback on grade

The examiners must always justify the grade to students (normally referring to errors/omissions in the student performance regarding the learning objectives). The situation can be emotional, positive, or negative, so the examiner should ask the student whether he/she understands the reason for the grade and give the student an opportunity to ask questions regarding the assessment. However, the grade itself is not up for discussion or negotiation and the examiners are not allowed to communicate whether they disagree with the grade given. A reasonable explanation can prevent examination complaints and give the student a good completion of his/her studies, even if the student is disappointed with the grade.

If anything goes wrong

Is the student absent? Is the external examiner absent? Has the room been double-booked? Do the examiners suspect plagiarism? Or are there other things that go wrong, you must contact The Program Administration immediately:

Log on to and click on the name of the test and click on the exam administrator’s name for contact information.

Course in oral examination and assessment

Teaching & Learning is facilitating a course in oral examination and assessment that will help you qualify as an oral examiner in university education in Denmark, primarily bachelor and master level programs in social sciences, incl. business administration and economics.

Read more about the course here.