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Athabasca University

8. Oral Examination Procedures

The FGS has established examination procedures for the dissertation oral examination “Guidelines and Procedures for “Oral Examinations for Master’s Thesis Route and Doctoral Programs. The neutral chair is responsible for moderating the discussion and directing questions. As the neutral chair is not a member of the committee, they do not vote or sign the “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report”.

It is the chair's responsibility to ensure that FGS procedures relating to the dissertation oral examination are followed. If the external examiner is unable to attend the oral examination, the questions from the external examiner will be given to the chair to ask at the oral examination. At the completion of the discussion with the candidate about the adjudication results, the chair must complete the “Report of the Neutral Chair for submission to the FGS. The proctor must submit the “Report of the Proctor directly to the FGS after the oral examination.

8.1 Adjudication of the Doctoral Dissertation Examination

The decision of the examination committee will be based both on the quality of the dissertation and on the candidate’s ability to defend it. The decision shall be that of the majority. Each of the committee members will hold one vote, including each of the co-supervisors. The external examiner shall have a vote equal to that of the other committee members.

The dissertation will be rated as a pass or fail. In the case of a pass where revisions are required, the supervisor and/or the committee can withhold their signature(s) until the revisions are made. The withholding of a signature may result in a delay of graduation if the student does not complete the revisions in a timely manner. This will result in a delay in obtaining final approval from the supervisor and the FGS. Such a delay may result in a fail. It is in the best interests of the candidate that they complete the required revisions in a timely manner. If the candidate receives a fail on their final dissertation they will receive a fail on their transcript.

In the case, where the examination committee recommends ‘Adjourned, Repeat Oral’ to the FGS, the student will be given a second opportunity to conduct another oral examination.  At the second attempt, the examination committee must select one of two adjudication categories – pass or fail. If the committee recommends a fail, the student will receive a fail on their transcript. Under extraordinary circumstances, the student may obtain an adjournment on the second attempt.

If a decision cannot be reached, the supervisor’s report should record the recommendation of each committee member on the “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report form. The chair shall also include in their report the recommendations, the distribution of the votes, a summary of the committee’s comments, and any remarks that the chair may wish to make, that may help the Dean, FGS, in reaching a decision.

8.2 Adjudication Categories and Procedures of Final Dissertation

(at the time of the final oral examination)

Pass

The dissertation is deemed to be of sufficient quality to represent doctoral research; there may be some required revisions. After the revisions are approved, the candidate can proceed to graduate if they received a pass on their oral examination.

Procedure:

  • The candidate is provided with clear written instructions on the necessary revisions, and is given a timeline within which to complete them.
  • It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure the candidate has completed the required revisions. The supervisor or committee members may withhold their signature(s) until the revisions are complete. This must be indicated on the form.
  • Once the supervisor has approved the final dissertation with the revisions, the “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report” form may be submitted to the FGS.
  • The chair completes the “Report of the Neutral Chair form indicating the results of the deliberations, and submits the form to the FGS immediately after the oral examination.

Fail

The concerns with the dissertation must be serious enough to warrant a fail. A fail will appear on the transcript.

Procedure:

  • The candidate must be informed of the recommendation and the reasons immediately after the deliberations.
  • The supervisor shall provide the reasons for the fail to the student immediately after deliberations and within (2) two business days in writing. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • The “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report” form is completed by the supervisor, and submitted to the FGS, as soon as possible after the deliberations, containing the signatures of the members, the reasons for the fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The chair indicates the fail grade in their “Report of the Neutral Chair form and submits this to the FGS after the deliberations. The report should include the recommendations, the distribution of the votes, a summary of the committee’s comments, and any remarks that the chair may wish that may help the Dean, FGS, in reaching a decision.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the candidate and the examination committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendations.

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8.3 Adjudication Categories and Procedures of Oral Examination

Pass

The presentation accurately described the research, and the candidate was able to accurately and articulately answer the questions.

Procedure:

  • The candidate can proceed to graduate if they received a pass on their dissertation.
  • The “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report is completed by the supervisor and submitted to the FGS as soon as possible after the deliberations, containing the signatures of the members or accompanied by an email indicating their decision.
  • The “Report of the Neutral Chair” must be submitted to the FGS as soon as possible after the examination.
  • The proctor completes the “Report of the Proctor” form confirming compliance with FGS regulations and noting any unusual circumstances.

Adjourned, Repeat Oral

The examination should be adjourned in compelling, extraordinary circumstances.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor confers with the student, the examination committee members, and the FGS, to determine an appropriate course of action and timeline.
  • The FGS is advised in writing of the adjournment and the conditions, using the “Report of the Neutral Chair” form.
  • The proctor completes the “Report of the Proctor” form confirming compliance with FGS regulations and noting any unusual circumstances.
  • The supervisor submits the “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report” to the FGS, containing the signatures of the members, the reasons for the adjournment, and recommendations for further action.

Fail

The presentation of the research was poor, with inadequate description of the study; the candidate answered the questions poorly, indicating a lack of knowledge in the research they conducted.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor, in the presence of the examination committee, must inform the candidate of this recommendation, with the reasons, immediately after their deliberations.
  • The supervisor shall provide the candidate with the reasons for the fail in writing within two business days of the oral examination. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • The proctor completes the “Report of the Proctor” form confirming compliance with FGS regulations and noting any unusual circumstances. The form is submitted to the FGS as soon as possible after the oral examination.
  • The “Dissertation & Oral Examination Final Report” form is completed by the supervisor and submitted to the FGS as soon as possible after the deliberations, containing the signatures of the members, the reasons for the fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The chair shall submit their “Report of the Neutral Chair” form to the FGS immediately after the deliberations. The report should include the recommendations, the distribution of the votes, a summary of the committee’s comments, and any remarks that the chair may wish that may help the Dean, FGS,  in determining his/her actions as a result of the committee recommendations.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the candidate and/or the examination committee representatives, before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.

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Updated October 29 2014 by Student & Academic Services

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