The 3MT® competition

The idea for the competition came about at a time when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then Dean of the University of Queensland Graduate School, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, put two and two together and the idea for the competition was born.

The 3MT® is a competition that challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a general audience in just three minutes. The 3MT competition supports a common Graduate Attribute for research degree candidates: the capacity to communicate ideas effectively to a range of audiences.

It is a reality that many PhD students will need to communicate their ideas and results to people who may not necessarily have expertise in their field.
— Professor Alastair McEwan, Dean of The University of Queensland’s Graduate School

The first 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2008 with 160 Research Higher Degree students competing. In 2009 and 2010 the 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew. Due to its adoption in numerous universities, a multi-national event was developed, and the Inaugural Trans-Tasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT competitions are now held in over 350 universities across 59 countries worldwide. 2016 brought an expansion of the Trans-Tasman 3MT competition to include a select number of Asian universities. The competition is now called the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition. VUW held its first 3MT competition in 2010 and it has continued as a popular annual event within the postgraduate community, hosted by the Postgraduate Students’ Association.


What is it?

The 3MT is an exercise in developing academic and research communication skills. All currently enrolled postgraduate students may enter the VUW competition.  Participants will have three minutes (and one power point slide) to give an engaging and dynamic talk on their thesis topic and its significance in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.

What it is not

It is not an exercise in trivialising or dumbing-down research.  The talk should engage the audience without reducing research to entertainment value only.

Why do it?

The 3MT competition supports a common Graduate Attribute for research degree candidates: the capacity to communicate ideas effectively to a range of audiences.

VUW 3MT Competition Final 2019:

The VUW 3MT Final will be held on 25 July 2019, 12pm-1:30pm in the Hunter Council Chambers, Kelburn Campus. Lunch will be provided.


1st prize: $3000  (and travel to the Asia-Pacific Grand Final for highest ranking PhD winner)
2nd prize: $1000
3rd prize: $500
Resilience & Sustainability prize: $500
Vic International prize: $250
Top Female Competitor (Sponsored by Graduate Women Wellington): $250
Faculty of Education prize (Sponsored by Graduate Women Wellington): $250
Masters/Honours Prize: $250
People’s Choice Award: $100 VicBooks voucher
Heats: winner $200, runner-up $50



The Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition brings together university 3MT finalists from across Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, North-East Asia and South-East Asia. The 2019 Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition will be held on Friday 4 October at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. For more info:


Anyone who is a currently enrolled postgraduate student can enter the Victoria University of Wellington 3 Minute Thesis Competition.  However, only a Doctoral student (active PhD and Professional Doctorate (Research) candidates who have successfully passed their confirmation milestone will be able to represent VUW at the Asia-Pacific Competition in Australia. Students who submit their thesis for examination before the Asia-Pacific Final will remain eligible to compete.

Additional information is available at:  Finalists will be required to agree to media exposure for their presentation and research. During the course of the competition there will be video recording and photographs taken of participants for use in promotional material.


  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.

  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.

  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.

  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.

  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).

  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.

  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.

Judging Criteria

Entrants present a compelling three minute oration on their thesis topic and its significance in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience. Each of the judging criteria has equal weight & the judges’ decision is final.


Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance to the research question being addressed, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?

  • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?

  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?

  • Was the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?

  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation – or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

Engagement and communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?

  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialise or generalise their research?

  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?

  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience’s attention?

  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?

  • Did the slide enhance the presentation – was it clear, legible, and concise?