Comprehensive Examination

All philosophy PhD students will have to pass the Comprehensive Examination.

The PhD Comprehensive Examination shall be administered and evaluated in accordance with General Regulations, Comprehensive Examinations

University Regulations

1. The candidate shall submit to a comprehensive examination, which may be written or oral or both as determined by the academic unit. Candidates shall normally take the examination no later than the end of the seventh semester in the doctoral program. Unless an extension is approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies, failure to take the examination at this time will result in the termination of the candidate’s program.

2. This examination, whether written or oral, shall be conducted by a Committee appointed by the Dean of Graduate Studies on the recommendation of the academic unit. It shall consist of the Head of the academic unit (or delegate) who shall be the Chairperson, the candidate’s Supervisor [or, where a Supervisor has not yet been appointed, the Graduate Officer or Chair of the Graduate Studies (or equivalent) Committee], the Dean of Graduate Studies (or delegate), and at least three other members, the total voting members to be an odd number. All members of the Committee including the Chairperson, but excluding the Dean of Graduate Studies, shall be voting members.

3. In this examination, the candidate must demonstrate a mastery of those sub-disciplines appropriate to the candidate’s research area, as defined by the academic unit in which the candidate is a student. Therefore, in order to be eligible to sit the examination, all course requirements must normally be completed. The sub-disciplines upon which the candidate will be examined should be made known to the candidate no later than three months prior to the examination. The candidate must further be able to relate the specialization of the candidate's research to the larger context of these sub-disciplines.

4. In cases where there are multiple parts to a comprehensive exam, including written and oral parts, a candidate must satisfy all parts of the examination to obtain a pass. The requirements to advance to a later part of the examination are specified in the Degree and Departmental regulations or by the appropriate academic unit.

5. Members of the Comprehensive Examination Committee shall decide the results of the comprehensive examination as indicated in a.-d. below:
a) The category of ‘pass with distinction’ will be awarded to candidates who demonstrate superior knowledge of their chosen field. This category requires unanimous support of the Comprehensive Examination Committee.
b) The category of ‘pass’ will be awarded to candidates who demonstrate an acceptable knowledge of their chosen area and requires a simple majority vote.
c) The category of ‘re-examination’ selects those candidates with an understanding of their research area that lacks sufficient depth and scope as indicated by a simple majority of the Comprehensive Examination Committee. Only one such re-examination is possible and students in this category are not eligible for the award of ‘pass with distinction'. If a re-examination is to be held, it must be conducted not less than one month and not more than six months after the first examination. The decision of the voting members of the Committee following this re-examination can only be ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ decided by simple majority. Failure will lead to immediate termination of the candidate's program. There is no option for further re-examination.
d) Students awarded a ‘fail’ are deemed, by unanimous vote of the Comprehensive Examination Committee, to be unable to demonstrate an adequate understanding of their research area. The candidate’s program is terminated. A simple majority vote will default to the award of ‘re-examination’.

6. The Chairperson of the Comprehensive Examination Committee shall report to the Head of the academic unit who shall report to the Dean. The result of the comprehensive examination(s) shall be reported to the candidate by the Dean.

Details of Departmental Procedures

1. By the beginning of the student’s second year, the student will produce a 2-3 page written Statement of Research, which will outline the area of specialization the student wishes to pursue, the research topic the student wishes to undertake, and a brief bibliography of the works the student intends to use. This will be given to the supervisor.

2. A Supervisory Committee will be formed in conjunction with the Supervisor and Head, with final approval by the Dean.

3. The Supervisory Committee, in conjunction with the student, will draft a reading list of no more than 12 texts.

4. The Supervisory Committee and the student will negotiate a set of questions. One set will concentrate on Area; the other on Breadth. A total of 5 questions will be drafted.

5. The Student will read the texts on the list and consider the questions over a period of approximately 4 months.

6. The Supervisory Committee will meet and decide upon 1 Area and 1 Breadth question.

7. The Student will write an in-house essay on each of the Area and Breadth Questions in two four-hour blocks over a two-day period. The exam is normally hand-written. No books, cue cards, or computers will be allowed in the examination room. Cellular phones should be put away.

8. The Committee will read the essays within a 2-week period. Based upon the essays, the Committee will decide whether it will proceed to the oral examination. An oral examination will be scheduled no later than 3 weeks after the submission of the written examination. If the committee decides not to proceed to the oral examination, the student will be given the opportunity to re-write the essays. This opportunity will be given only once. Then the committee will proceed to the oral examination.

9. The student will defend his or her essays in a 2-hour examination by the end of Term 7 that includes the Supervisory Committee, the Head or Delegate, an examination Chair, and an SGS representative.