Final Oral Examination

Once the candidate’s studies have been completed and the dissertation accepted by the Reading Committee, a final oral examination may be scheduled and given by the Supervisory Committee

  • the supervisor of the dissertation must review and approve the completed dissertation before the examination will be scheduled;
  • the final oral examination for the PhD may not be scheduled unless a majority of the Supervisory Committee, including the Chair, are available for the examination. Exceptions may be made only by permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies.

An Application for Final Oral Exam should be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies no less than three weeks prior to the scheduled defense.  The submission of the application form indicates that the committee chair and the readers (see Reading Committee) have read the dissertation, find it suitable for a defense and grant permission for the defense to be held. 

The final examination for the doctoral degree is oral and open to members of both the University community and the public.

  • The Supervisory Committee determines the defense’s character and length. The examination may be devoted to the special field of the dissertation or to the Candidate’s general knowledge, or it may be designed to test judgment and critical powers.
  • During the dissertation presentation and general questioning all persons may be present.
  • At the end of the public hearing there will be a closed questioning portion of the examination where all persons except the Candidate, Supervisory Committee, and invited faculty must be excused.
  • The final oral examination over the dissertation may be waived only with the consent of the Graduate Dean.

The Supervisory Committee reports the results of the final oral examination to the Office of Graduate Studies.

  • If the student has passed the oral exam, a Report of Completion is signed by all committee members present for the defense. This is included in the documents submitted by the student for depositing the dissertation.
  • In the event that members of an oral examining committee are not unanimous regarding passing a Candidate, the student is to be approved for the degree if only one examiner dissents. However, in each case, the dissenting member of the committee will be expected to file a letter of explanation in the Office of Graduate Studies.
  • If a student fails to pass the final oral examination for an advanced degree, his/her committee must file a report on the failure in the Office of Graduate Studies and indicate what the student must do before taking another examination. Another examination may not be held during the same semester or the same summer session in which the student failed.