Ph.D. Oral Examination


When all course requirements have been met and the supervisory committee has read and approved the thesis, students may proceed to the Ph.D. oral exam.

The Department expects that the typical Ph.D. student will take about 5.5 years after first registration to complete the Ph.D.-related research, course work and thesis writing (see “Time Limit for Writing the Ph.D. Thesis” below). It is the Department’s expectation that a Ph.D. thesis will contain at least two complete data chapters. The Ph.D. thesis exam is a formal defence of a thesis based on original scientific research as well as a test of the student's general scientific knowledge and abilities.


Permission to write a Ph.D. thesis is given at a terminal supervisory committee meeting upon completion of the Ph.D. Terminal Committee Meeting Report form (available on the Departmental website). A detailed outline of the proposed thesis (generally in point form and typically longer than a page) is presented at this meeting. The detailed outline should be included in the student’s committee meeting progress report that is distributed to supervisory committee members at least seven business days before the terminal committee meeting. After the Ph.D. Terminal Committee Meeting Report has been signed by all relevant parties, the student should be devoted full-time to thesis writing and should not conduct additional experiments until the Ph.D. Oral Exam Request form has been submitted online. Exceptions to this guideline can arise over the course of the writing period.  For example, reviews from a submitted manuscript might compel the student to perform additional experiments, or holes in the thesis may become apparent during the writing process that necessitates additional experimentation.  The student’s discretion should be applied here.   Under no circumstances, however, should new experimental avenues be explored at this point in the program.  The Graduate Program Administrator will record the date that the supervisory committee gave the student permission to begin writing the thesis.


Students have 4.5 months from the time the "Ph.D. Terminal Committee Meeting Report" form is signed until the "Request to set up a Ph.D., Oral Examination" form has been signed. Within that 4.5-month period, students must allow enough time for the Supervisor and Supervisory Committee Members to critique the thesis, which should take no more than 6 weeks. Students must also allow for enough time to make the required changes after the supervisor and the supervisory committee members have critiqued thesis.