9. Oral Examination Procedures

The FGS has established examination procedures for the dissertation oral examination (Regulations & Procedures for Oral Examinations for Masters’ 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 and Oral Exam Final Report form. 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 also 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.

9.1 Attendance of Visitors at Examinations

Normally the final oral examination will be considered an ‘open’ session, at which anyone may attend. All observers must notify the FGS in advance of their attendance. The program sets the maximum number of attendees present. Observers will be provided with the information to access the oral examination. FGS will inform the supervisor of the list of observers prior to the oral examination.

At the oral examination, persons who are not members of the examination committee:

  • may participate in the questioning only by permission of the chair
  • are not permitted to participate in the discussion of the candidate’s performance, and
  • must disconnect before the committee deliberates on the outcome of the candidate’s dissertation and oral examination.

At the completion of the questioning period, the audience and the candidate will disconnect in order for the committee to deliberate. The chair, candidate and the examiners will reconvene when the examiners have completed their adjudication.

Only in certain circumstances, the oral examination may be ‘closed’; for example, when the results of the dissertation must be kept confidential for a period of time. In such cases, the candidate’s supervisor and graduate program director shall recommend such action to the FGS, who shall then approve that the final examination be closed to all but the examination committee, the external examiner, the chair, and the FGS.

9.2 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. The external examiner shall have a vote equal to that of the other committee members.

The dissertation will be rated as a pass, pass with revisions (minor or major) 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 and Oral Exam 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.

9.3 Adjudication Categories and Procedures of Final Dissertation

(at the time of the final oral examination)

  • Pass
  • Pass with minor revisions
  • Pass with major revisions
  • Fail

General Procedures for all adjudication categories (see individual category for specifics):

  • The candidate must be informed of the recommendation and the reasons immediately after the deliberations
  • 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.
  • The supervisor will initiate the Dissertation and Oral Exam Final Report form immediately after the examination which will confirm the adjudications and recommendations of all examination committee members.

Pass

No revisions are required aside from minor grammatical errors or minor points of clarification.

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

Procedures:

  • 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.
  • Once the supervisor and the committee (if applicable) has approved the final dissertation with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Pass with Minor Revisions

Minor revisions are those that involve stylistic changes and/or minor additions or clarifications. Minor revisions are those that may be corrected within three months from the date of the examination, but the committee can determine the length of time required. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary corrections and time to complete them.

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.
  • Once the supervisor has approved the final dissertation with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Pass with Major Revisions

Major revisions are those that require more than changes in style, minor additions, or clarifications. Major revisions involve more qualification of materials and/or research findings or may involve additions to the content of the proposal. Major revisions may take longer than three months, but the committee can determine the length of time required. The supervisor will inform the student of the necessary revisions and time to complete them.

Procedure:

  • The candidate is provided with clear written instructions on the necessary revisions and is given a timeline within which to complete them. The supervisor must specify with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and the extent of the revisions required. It must be clear to the student what will be required to receive a pass.
  • The nature of the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in making the necessary revisions should be specified. A timeframe for completing the changes must be identified.
  • Once the supervisor has approved the final dissertation with the revisions, the supervisor must inform FGS.

Fail

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

Procedure:

  • 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 and Oral Exam Final Report shall indicate the reasons for the fail and recommendations for further action.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the candidate and the examination committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendations.

9.4 Adjudication Categories and Procedures of Oral Examination

  • Pass
  • Adjourned
  • Fail

General Procedures for all adjudication categories (see individual category for specifics):

  • The candidate must be informed of the recommendation and the reasons immediately after the deliberations
  • 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.
  • The supervisor will initiate the Dissertation and Oral Exam Final Report form immediately after the examination which will confirm the adjudications and recommendations of all examination committee members.

Pass

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

Adjourned

There may be unexpected or extenuating circumstances that cause the oral examination to be adjourned, such as severe anxiety, technology problems of 30 minutes or more, illness, or an absent committee member.

The supervisor confers with the student, the examination committee members, and the FGS, to determine an appropriate course of action and timeline.

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 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 FGS may arrange to meet with the candidate and/or the examination committee representatives, before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.