Conduct of the Oral Examination

4.1 Rules for Guest Attending Oral Examinations

FGS will inform the guests of the attendance regulations when they have been approved. At the beginning of the oral exam the neutral chair will inform all in attendance of the regulations:

  • Must sign into the examination between 5 – 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the session;
  • Must mute their microphones;
  • Cannot write in the chat box during the oral examination;
  • Must not enter and withdraw during the session;
  • Cannot participate in the questioning;
  • Must withdraw from the session after the examiner’s questions are over;

4.2 Chairing an Oral Examination

FGS will inform the guests of the attendance regulations when they have been approved. At the beginning of the oral exam the neutral chair will inform all in attendance of the regulations:

4.3 Procedures for Chairing the Oral Examination

In the master’s thesis route, the supervisor chairs the oral examinations for the proposal and the final thesis. The entire oral examination, including the presentation by the student and the period of questioning should normally not be longer than 1.5 hours.

The chair for the master’s proposal and thesis oral examinations is there to ensure that policies and procedures are correctly followed during and after the oral examination, guard against perceived conflict of interest or undue influence, uphold the integrity and fairness of the process and maintain the timing of the meeting.

In the doctoral program, a neutral chair is selected by the FGS for both the candidacy and final dissertation oral examinations. The entire oral examination, including the presentation by the student and the period of questioning should not normally be longer than two hours. The neutral chair is not a member of the examination committee. The nature of their background, being from outside the academic unit of the student who is undergoing the oral examination, allows an objective observation of the proceedings. They do not read the dissertation, participate in the discussion about the dissertation, or vote.

The role of the neutral chair is to:

  • ensure that policies and procedures are correctly followed during and after the oral examination,
  • guard against perceived conflict of interest or undue influence,
  • uphold the integrity and fairness of the process,
  • maintain the timing of the presentation and questioning period.
  • The neutral chair presides over the oral examination and the subsequent confidential discussion. They complete a report on the proceedings Report of the Neutral Chair, which is submitted to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies after the oral examination.
  • The Report of the Neutral Chair should provide details regarding:
    • all procedural anomalies, e.g. if an examiner fails to participate, any technical problems that may have occurred, if there appears to be bias against the student, or a lack of agreement on the adjudication outcome;
    • the time the examination started, the time of finishing, the names of the people present in the room and those at the distance site during the examination;
    • whether revisions were needed and name of individual responsible for ensuring the revisions are completed with the timeframe agreed upon by the student and committee;
    • technical problems.
  • See this url for the appointment of the neutral chair for the candidacy oral examination
    http://fgs.athabascau.ca/guidelines/doctoral/candidacy.php#oral-exam
  • See this url for the appointment of the neutral chair for the final doctoral oral examination
    http://fgs.athabascau.ca/guidelines/doctoral/oral_exam.php#appointment

4.4 The Order of the Proceedings for the Oral Examinations for the Chair or Neutral Chair

The Order of the Proceedings for the Oral Examinations for the Chair or Neutral Chair. (In this section the title ‘chair’ will denote the individual chairing the examination for the master’s or doctoral programs.)

A script is provided by FGS for the chair to follow to ensure all oral exams follow consistent procedures. Below is an outline of the process. Before the oral examination officially begins, the chair verifies that:

  • The technology is working for the examination committee members and the student;
  • All examination committee members are present;
  • The student is who they claim to be (this may be done by various means – a proctor being present with the student and indicating their identity; the examination being done by videoconference, or other means deemed appropriate by the academic unit and FGS);
  • The student is alone in the room and will be alone for the duration of the examination, unless a proctor who has been approved in advance is present;
  • Only preapproved observers are present during the presentation and question period (only applicable for the final oral examination which is open). Roll call will take place at the outset and anyone without pre-approval will be asked to leave the oral;
  • Observers will be informed of the rules regarding their attendance (Section 4.1)
  • All examination committee members are required to be present for the entire examination and deliberations;
  • In the event that the examination is interrupted for up to 30 minutes (for one length of time or several periods of time during the examination) or if connections cannot be reestablished within that time, the examination will be rescheduled. The rescheduled examination will be considered the student’s first examination;
  • The student’s presentation and the questioning period will not be recorded.

The chair welcomes all of those in attendance and may congratulate the student on arriving at this milestone in their program.

The chair impresses upon the student and the examiners that this is a formal examination. The chair then proceeds to provide information on the order of the proceedings as outlined below:

  • The student will conduct a short presentation of their proposed or completed research study that is approximately 20 minutes in duration;
  • After the presentation, the committee members will take turns asking questions. Each examiner will be given a maximum of 15 minutes for questioning. Starting with the most external person and working toward the supervisor. There is normally two rounds of questions for the doctoral oral examinations;
  • Round 1: One round of questions (15 minutes each) for each committee member. Starting with the most external person and working toward the supervisor;
  • Round 2: A second round of questions (15 minutes each) for each committee member
  • After completion of the rounds of questions the chair will ask the student if they wish to add anything to the material present
  • Then the chair will ensure the student and the observers are not present while the committee deliberates; The supervisor, or someone of authority who is familiar with the technology, will ensure the student is not able to hear the deliberations;
  • The chair will ask each committee member in sequence their adjudication proposal/dissertation and oral examination, based on the regulations;
  • After the deliberations and decision, the student is reconnected with the committee;
  • The chair informs the student of the adjudication outcome;
  • Any revisions and their completion deadline should be verbally discussed with the student and also provided to the student in writing by the supervisor. The supervisor or the committee members must decide who will assume the responsibility to ensure the revisions are completed by the agreed upon date.

For the master’s oral examinations, the supervisor and the committee completes the Master’s Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report for the proposal or the Master’s Thesis Oral Examination Final Report for the final thesis oral examination.

For the candidacy oral examination, the supervisor is responsible for ensuring the committee members indicate their adjudication decision and comments on the form Final Report of Candidacy Oral Examination and Proposal and that the form is submitted to the FGS as soon after the oral examination as possible.

For the final dissertation oral examination, the supervisor and the examination committee complete the Dissertation and Oral Examination Final Report. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that all committee members indicate their decision on the form and that the form is submitted to the FGS as soon as possible. The Neutral Chair must complete the Report of the Neutral Chair and submit it to FGS as soon after the oral examination as possible.