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Athabasca University

5. The Oral Thesis Final Examination

5.1 Focus of the Master’s Oral Thesis Examination

The examination committee will review the thesis and conduct an oral examination designed to test the candidate's knowledge of the thesis subject and of related fields.

The supervisor shall chair the thesis oral examination. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the examination proceeds according to the FGS guidelines & procedures for “Oral Examinations for Theses and Dissertations”.

5.2 Attendance of Examination Committee Members at the Oral Thesis Examination

It is essential that all members of the examination committee participate in the examination for which the committee is charged. If the FGS has advance warning that the supervisor or an examiner cannot attend the examination, the following can occur:

  • the examination may be postponed and re-scheduled;
  • the missing committee member may submit questions to the supervisor, who will read the questions at the examination; or,
  • the committee member may be replaced.

In cases of emergency, where there is little or no notice of the absence of a committee member (i.e., sudden illness), the situation will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the supervisor and/or FGS.

5.3 Attendance of Visitors at Examination

Normally, the oral thesis examination will be considered an “open” session, at which faculty members and students from the student's academic unit may attend. The student completes the “Announcement of Final Oral Examination” which includes their thesis title, abstract, and lists of awards and publications received and submits this to FGS. The FGS will utilize this information in advertising the oral examination on the FGS website.  It is the responsibility of the supervisor, who is also the chair, to notify the students and faculty of the student’s academic unit of the oral examination and the necessary teleconferencing arrangements. This is normally done approximately two weeks in advance of the oral examination.

The oral examination may be closed, for example, when the results of the thesis must be kept confidential for a period of time. In such cases, the examination committee and academic unit graduate program designate shall recommend such action to the FGS, who shall then approve that the final examination be closed to all but the examination committee, the chair, and the Dean of FGS.

Individuals interested in attending the oral examination must register with FGS at least 72 hours prior to the oral examination and must be approved by FGS and the supervisor. At the oral examination, the guests, (a) may participate in the questioning only by permission of the chair; (b) are not permitted to participate in the discussion of the student’s performance, (c) must enter the session early and cannot exit and re-enter during the oral examination, and (d) must withdraw before the committee deliberates on the outcome of the student’s thesis and oral examination. At the completion of the questioning period, the committee will deliberate in private. The supervisor, with all the committee members present, will inform the student of the adjudication results immediately after the deliberations. Refer to the guidelines and procedures for “Oral Examinations for Master’s Theses and Dissertations” for the roles of the guests, the proctor, and the supervisor/chair.

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5.4 Adjudication of Final Thesis by Examination Committee

The decision of the examination committee will be based both on the a) written thesis and b) candidate's ability to defend it. The examiners will consider the merits of the oral examination and the written thesis. They will also determine the nature of and procedures for approval of any revisions that will be required prior to submission to FGS. All examination committee members must sign the “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report, indicating their decision.

The decision shall be that of the majority, with the external committee member having decision-making authority equal to the rest of the examination committee. Each of the committee members will hold one vote, including each of the co-supervisors.  If a decision cannot be reached, the supervisor shall record the recommendation of each committee member on the “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report”. This is submitted to the FGS who will determine an appropriate course of action.

Depending upon the reason for the Fail in the oral examination or the thesis, the committee may recommend to FGS that the student be allowed a second attempt on the oral examination or the final written thesis. If the FGS agrees with this recommendation, at the second attempt the examination committee must select one of two adjudication categories, Pass or Fail. Students will not be allowed to resubmit their thesis at the second attempt. Any student who is granted permission for a second attempt and receives a Fail on either the final thesis or the oral examination will receive a Fail on their transcript. Under extraordinary circumstances, the student may obtain an Adjourned, Repeat Oral on the second attempt.

The supervisor, who is the chair, is responsible for making arrangements to procure signatures from all examination committee members at the time of the examination, or as soon as possible after the examination.  All committee members must sign the “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Reportor indicate by an email, their decision regarding the thesis and oral examination.

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5.5 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for Thesis

It is the duty of all the examiners to read the thesis and report on its merits according to the following categories at the oral examination:

Pass

Examination committee members approve the thesis. It may or may not require minor revisions.

Procedure:

Since these are minor revisions/modifications, the supervisor may decide to withhold only their signature until the revisions/modifications have been made. The nature of the changes and the withholding of the signature to ensure that the changes have been made should be indicated in the report.

Resubmit with major revisions

The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial (e.g., further research or experimentation, or major reworking of sections, are required, or the committee is not satisfied with the general presentation of the thesis), requiring a reconvening of the full examination committee.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor (chair) must specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions, the extent of the revisions required. It must be made clear to the student what will be required to obtain 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.
  • It is expected that the student will make the changes in time to submit the thesis to the FGS on or before a deadline set by the examination committee during the oral examination deliberations.
  • It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure the necessary revisions/changes have occurred before the student receives a Pass.
  • The “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report” should be submitted to the FGS, indicating the Resubmit with major revisions, reasons for this adjudication, and recommendations regarding further action.

Fail

The thesis is unacceptable.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor provides the student with the reasons for the Fail immediately after deliberations.
  • The supervisor shall provide written reasons for the Fail to the student within two business days. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much as precision as possible in the written report. The “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report form is to be completed by the supervisor and submitted to the FGS as soon as possible, containing the signatures of the members, the distribution of the votes, the reasons for the Fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the student and the examination committee before acting upon the committee's recommendation.
  • A Fail will appear on the transcript if FGS agrees with the decision of the committee.

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5.6 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for Oral Examination

Students must pass an oral examination on the subject of the thesis and matters relating thereto.

Pass

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

Procedure:

The student can proceed to graduate if they received a Pass on their thesis.

Fail

The presentation of the research was poor with inadequate description of the study; the student 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 student of this recommendation, with reasons, immediately after their deliberations.
  • The supervisor must provide the student with the reasons for the Fail in writing within two business days. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • Depending upon the reason for the Fail, the supervisor and committee may recommend to FGS that the student be allowed a second attempt on the oral presentation and examination. It must be made clear to the student what will be required to achieve a Pass before the oral examination is reconvened. Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in performing the required revisions. The “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Reportmust be submitted to the FGS as soon as possible, containing the signatures of the members, the distribution of the votes, the reasons for the Fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the student and the examining committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.
  • A Fail will appear on the transcript, if FGS agrees with the committee’s decision regarding the Fail.

Adjourned, repeat Oral

The final oral examination should be adjourned in compelling, extraordinary circumstances.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor will confer with the student, the examination committee members, and FGS to determine an appropriate course of action. The “Master’s Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report form should be submitted to the FGS, outlining the reasons for the outcome of the oral examination and tentative plans for a second attempt.

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Updated November 09 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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