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Purpose

To define the requirements for the final summative assessment of doctoral student progress, the Final Oral Examination.

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Academic Goal

To assess the general scholarly attainments of the candidate. The final oral examination is the culminating summative assessment in a Ph.D. program, and determines if the candidate should be awarded the Ph.D.

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Scope

All students enrolled in programs of study leading to the Ph.D.

Professional Doctoral Degree Program
An integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.
Research Doctoral Degree Program
An integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. The doctoral candidate who has satisfied all other requirements for the degree will be scheduled by the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services, on the recommendation of the head of the graduate program, to take a final oral examination. Typically, the final oral examination may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed since the comprehensive examination was passed, although the director of Graduate Enrollment Services may grant a waiver in appropriate cases.
  2. The graduate student must be in good academic standing and must be registered as a full-time or part-time graduate degree student for the semester in which the final oral examination is taken.
  3. All candidates are required to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University at the time the final oral examination is given, and may not have deferred or missing grades.
  4. Final oral examinations are scheduled and announced officially by the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services upon recommendation of the program head, and must not be held without official notification from the Graduate School.
  5. It is expected that doctoral examinations will take place at the campus location of the graduate center offering the program, and the graduate student must be physically present at any doctoral examination.
  6. The final examination of the doctoral candidate is an oral examination administered and evaluated by the entire Ph.D. committee. It consists of an oral presentation of the dissertation by the candidate and a period of questions and responses. These will relate in large part to the dissertation, but may cover the candidate's entire program of study, because a major purpose of the examination is also to assess the general scholarly attainments of the candidate. The portion of the examination in which the dissertation is presented is open to the University community and the public; therefore, it is expected that the examination will take place at the campus location of the academic unit offering the program.
  7. The final oral examination is administered/overseen and evaluated by the entire Ph.D. committee. (See GCAC-603 Ph.D. Committee Responsibilities)
  8. If a committee member is unable to participate in any of the doctoral examinations and this results in not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty), another Penn State graduate faculty member will need to be appointed officially to the Ph.D. committee to replace the absent member in order to constitute a legitimate Ph.D. committee. A revised committee appointment form must be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services, removing the individual as a regular committee member and requesting the replacement committee member. These changes and approvals must occur before the actual examination takes place (ad hoc substitutes are not permitted).
  9. At least three members of the Ph.D. committee (including the thesis adviser or chair) must be physically present at the comprehensive and at the final oral examination. The graduate student must also be physically present at these examinations. (Thus for a five-person committee, two could participate via distance.) No more than one member may participate via telephone; a second member could participate via interactive videoconferencing. The examination request and a request for exceptions must be submitted to the dean of the Graduate School for approval at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. Special arrangements, i.e., requirements for meeting participation via distance, should be communicated to the student and to the Ph.D. committee members well in advance of the examination. // The dissertation adviser, as well as the chair of the Ph.D. committee (if not the same individual as the dissertation adviser), along with additional members of the committee to total a minimum of three, also must be physically present at the comprehensive/final examinations. (Thus, for a five-person committee, two members could participate via distance.) Requests for exceptions to allow participation of any committee member via distance must accompany the Examination Request Form, and must be submitted to the director of Graduate Enrollment Services for approval at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. Of those approved to participate via distance, no more than one member may participate via telephone; any or all of those approved to participate via distance may participate via interactive videoconferencing. Special arrangements, i.e., requirements for meeting participation via distance, must be communicated to the student and all Ph.D. committee members well in advance of the examination.
  10. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing a comprehensive or a final oral examination. If a candidate fails an examination, it is the responsibility of the Ph.D. committee to determine whether another examination may be taken. // A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing a comprehensive or final oral examination. If a candidate fails an examination, it is the responsibility of the Ph.D. committee to determine whether the student will be granted a second opportunity to take the examination. Regardless of the outcome and of the committee’s decision about whether to grant a second opportunity, the program head must report the results of each scheduled examination immediately to Graduate Enrollment Services.
  11. Both the dissertation adviser/committee chair and the student are responsible for ensuring the completion of a draft of the dissertation and for adequate consultation with members of the Ph.D. committee well in advance of the final oral examination. Major revisions of the dissertation should be completed before this examination.
  12. It is the responsibility of the doctoral candidate and committee chair/dissertation adviser to provide a copy of the dissertation to each member of the Ph.D. committee at least two weeks before the date of the scheduled examination. The dissertation should be complete and in its final draft, with correct and polished content and style, appropriate notes, bibliography, tables, etc., at the time it is distributed to the committee members. If a committee member finds that the final draft is not correct and polished with respect to content and style, it is their responsibility to notify the committee chair/dissertation adviser at least one week in advance of the final oral examination date. The committee member should indicate their concerns regarding the draft and may recommend consideration of postponement of the examination to the committee chair/dissertation adviser. The chair/adviser, in consultation with committee members, is responsible for notifying the student and assessing whether the student can make the necessary revisions to the final draft before the examination date. If it is determined that revisions cannot be made in time, the final oral examination must be postponed.
  13. If a committee member is unable to participate in the final oral examination, the member may sign as a special signatory. A revised committee appointment form will need to be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services, removing the individual as a regular committee member and if it is desired to designate that individual as a special signatory, a memo from the program head must accompany the revised committee form, requesting that the committee member be moved to a special signatory. As noted above, if there are then not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty), another Penn State graduate faculty member will need to be appointed officially to the Ph.D. committee to replace the absent member in order to constitute a legitimate Ph.D. committee. These changes and approvals must occur before the actual examination takes place (ad hoc substitutes are not permitted). // If a committee member is unable to attend the final oral examination, he or she will sign as a special signatory after notifying Graduate Enrollment Services (114 Kern) that a committee change must be approved and be made a part of the student's record. (Substitutes are not permitted, but changes in the committee can be made, if needed, through the usual procedures.) These changes and approvals shall occur before the actual examination takes place. The department or program head will notify Graduate Enrollment Services when the candidate is ready to have the comprehensive and the final oral examinations scheduled and will report the results of these examinations to that office.
  14. The committee examines the dissertation, administers the final oral examination, and signs the signatory page of the dissertation. At least two-thirds of the committee must approve the dissertation. // The committee examines the dissertation and administers the final oral examination, and once any final revisions have been made and the dissertation is deemed acceptable, committee members sign the doctoral signatory page.

Process

The program head will notify Graduate Enrollment Services, providing two weeks' notice, when the candidate is ready to schedule the final oral examination.

Revision History

Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018