PhD Final Oral Examination

Final Oral Examination

Candidates may proceed to the FOE upon either:

  1. the recommendation of the supervisory committee (suggested); OR
  2. the successful completion of the departmental oral exam.

Public Seminar (Optional)

  • 25 minutes
  • Given prior to the PhD Oral Examination

Oral Examination

  • Takes place immediately after the public seminar if the candidate has chosen this option.
  • If no seminar given, candidate will summarize the research and conclusions of the thesis. (No more than 20 minutes)
  • The Chair of the Exam Committee will invite the Committee to ask questions of the candidate.


When there are no further questions, the Chair will ask the candidate to leave the room. The Exam Committee will conduct a closed-door discussion of the thesis and its defence and deliberate regarding the outcome.

Possible Outcomes

At the conclusion of the Ph.D. thesis defence, the Exam Committee decides whether or not the written thesis and oral defence are acceptable.

  • If the thesis defence is deemed unacceptable, then the examination is adjourned. The Ph.D. candidate will fail and be ineligible to receive the Ph.D. degree if the thesis remains unacceptable at a reconvened examination.
  • If the thesis defence is deemed acceptable, the committee decides whether:
    • As it Stands: The thesis is acceptable in it’s present form.
    • Editorial Corrections: Involves typographical errors, errors in punctuation, or problems in style; they must be correctable within one month.
    • Minor Revisions:  These are more than changes in style and less than major changes in the thesis. A typical example of a minor revision is clarification of textual material or the qualification of research findings or conclusions. Revisions must be feasibly completed within three months.
      The Chair of the Examination Committee must appoint a supervising Subcommittee to be approved by the Examination Committee and a Convenor is thus designated. The Convenor of the Subcommittee shall report with a brief written statement the necessary minor revisions preferably before the Examination Committee disperses, but as soon after the examination as possible and ensure that the Candidate, Supervisor, and Graduate Program Completion Office receives a copy of the statement. The Convenor of the Subcommittee shall also, within three months, of the date of the examination report in writing to the Graduate Program Completion Office and the Departmental Chair the state of completion of the require revisions.

Scheduling Your Exam

8 weeks before the FOE

  • The student should have their abstract and thesis ready for the oral defense. Students should request approval from their supervisor.
  • The student’s supervisor will have a proposed external examiner/appraiser who has agreed to serve on the exam. SGS will require a CV from the external appraiser in order to approve their appointment.
  • The completes the PhD Final Oral Exam Request, and notifies once submitted. The student (with the help of their supervisor) will provide the following on the form:
    1. Name and Email addresses of Reading (Supervisory) Committee members attending the exam. Up to 3 can be voting members. Any additional reading committee members attending the exam will be non-voting members.
    2. Name and Email of at least one Internal (arms-length) Examiner. If the External Examiner/Appraiser will not be attending the oral exam, a second Internal (arms-length) Examiner must be secured and indicated on the form.
    3. External Examiner/Appraiser Nominee details (needs to be approved by SGS) including:
      1. Name
      2. Email
      3. Institutional affiliation
      4. Area of specialty
      5. Website
      6. CV

                        Note: if SGS requests additional information on the External Examiner/Appraiser, the Grad Admin will notify the supervisor.

    1. Tentative date, if known.
    2. Thesis abstract
  • If/when the External Examiner/Appraiser is approved, the Grad Admin notifies the supervisor and candidate.

Note: Candidate cannot contact External Examiner/Appraiser prior to the exam

6+ weeks before the exam

  • If not already done, the student along with their supervisor identifies a timeline for the FOE and provides this to the Grad Admin. The Graduate Office will assist in scheduling the exam.
  • Upon approval of the external examiner, the graduate office will distribute the student’s thesis to the external appraiser and exam committee members.

Two weeks before the exam

  • The external examiner will submit a written appraisal of the thesis to the graduate office. This appraisal will be distributed to the student, the exam committee and SGS.
  • The student is encouraged to prepare responses to critiques raised by the external examiner.

Chair’s Discovery Award

The Chair’s Discovery Award (CDA) was established in 2013 to encourage publications by graduate students, to set clear expectations in graduate programs and to help reduce time to completion. See details.