Guidelines for Ph. D. Comprehensive Examinations



Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography

Approved April 5, 2017

Ph. D. Comprehensive Examinations

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the calendar regulations for comprehensive examinations under the School of Graduate Studies, Sections 4.8.2 and

The examination will be an oral examination.

Before the examination

The student will submit a written research proposal that provides some background for the research project, a summary of what has been accomplished to date, and an outline of what is planned for the remainder of the thesis research. The proposal should be submitted to the Head at least two weeks before the examination date.

Oral examination procedure

  1. All members of the examination committee and the student must be present in person, except in exceptional circumstances, at the discretion of the Chair.

  2. An audience may be present for the first part of the exam (until the end of the student's presentation).

  3. The Chair will

        1. Introduce the Examination Committee.

        2. Outline the examination process: twenty minute presentation by student, followed by at least two rounds of questions, with a five minute break between rounds.

        3. Determine the order of questioning: the three examiners, then supervisor, then the Chair.

        4. Outline the possible outcomes from the Calendar Regulations:

          • 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.

          • The category of 'pass' will be awarded to candidates who demonstrate an acceptable knowledge of their chosen area and requires a simple majority vote.

          • 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.

          • 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.

        5. Remind the Committee of the sub-disciplines (topics) on which student will be examined.

  4. The student will give twenty minute presentation.

  5. Rounds of questions: the audience (except for members of the Supervisory Committee) will be asked to leave. There will be at least two rounds of questions, with a short break in between. The examiners should be prepared to ask questions relating to the sub-disciplines (topics) on which the student will be examined and questions based on the research proposal that relate the specialization of the student's research to the larger context of these sub-disciplines (topics).

  6. It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure that the student has been thoroughly examined.

  7. Committee decision: after all of the Examination Committee members are finished asking questions, the student will be asked to leave. The Committee will discuss and vote on the results of the examination. As per the University Calendar Regulations, the voting members are the members of the Examination Committee that have been approved by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies (the supervisor, the three examiners, and the Chair).

  8. The examination result will be reported to the Head, in writing, signed by all members of the Examination Committee.