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To establish the requirements for the Final Oral Examination.

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Academic Goal

To assess the scholarly attainment of the candidate. The final oral examination is the culminating summative assessment for the research doctorate and, along with the dissertation, determines if the candidate should be awarded the Ph.D.

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

Policy Statement

  1. Each Ph.D. candidate is required to pass a final oral examination prior to being awarded the Ph.D.
  2. The final oral examination of the Ph.D. candidate is administered, overseen, and evaluated by the entire Ph.D. Committee (see GCAC-602 and GCAC-603).
  3. Taking both the dissertation and the final oral examination into consideration, the Ph.D. Committee shall evaluate the accomplishments of the student relative to the program’s defined Learning Objectives, particularly with respect to the student’s mastery of the major, and if appropriate, dual-title and minor fields of study.
  4. The final oral examination shall consist of a public oral presentation of the dissertation followed by a closed discussion between the student and the student's Ph.D. Committee.
  5. Content
    1. The student’s major program, or program area in programs with distinct subdisciplines, must establish guidelines for the Final Oral Examination that are uniformly applied to all students in that program or within each subdiscipline. These guidelines and evaluation criteria must be presented in the graduate program’s handbook, which must be provided to the student upon matriculation. These guidelines must include:
      1. The timing and the format of the examination
      2. Clear criteria for evaluation.
      3. The program’s policy describing the student’s options in case of failure on the Final Oral Examination. The policy must include provisions addressing the following issues:
        1. If retaking the examination after failure is allowed with the approval of the Ph.D. committee, and if so under what conditions.
        2. If retaking the examination after failure is permitted, whether there is a limit to the number of attempts and a timeline under which the retakes must be completed.
        3. If students who have failed the final attempt will be dismissed from the program or may be allowed to change to the master’s degree.
    2. Ph.D. candidates enrolled in a dual-title degree program must orally defend a dissertation on a topic that reflects their original research and training in both their graduate program and their dual-title program.
    3. Questions from the oral examination will relate in large part to the dissertation but may cover the candidate’s entire program of study. The specific approach is left to the committee members’ discretion.
  6. If a candidate fails the examination, it is the responsibility of the Ph.D. Committee, in consultation with the program head regarding program guidelines, to determine whether the student will be granted an opportunity to retake the examination, provided re-examinations are allowed by the program guidelines.
  7. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing the final oral examination.


  1. The responsibility for scheduling the Final Oral Examination rests with the student in consultation with their Ph.D. committee chair.
  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.
    1. The graduate student must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University as a graduate student at the time the final oral examination is given.
    2. The graduate student must not have deferred or missing grades.
  3. The final oral examination may not be scheduled until at least three months have elapsed since the comprehensive examination was passed.
  4. The examination must be scheduled at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination.
  5. Final Oral Examination Mode
    1. Because all Ph.D. programs are offered as resident instruction, graduate programs are strongly encouraged to conduct the Final Oral Examination in-person.
    2. Graduate programs must define standard modes for conducting the Final Oral Examination in their program in their graduate program handbook. This can include one or more of the following three modes:
      1. Fully in-person: the entire committee and the student are physically in the same room.
      2. Fully remote: the entire committee and the student participate via University-licensed interactive audio-video technology.
      3. Hybrid: individual members of the committee and/or student may participate in person or via University-licensed interactive audio-visual technology.
      4. Individuals taking part in the Final Oral Examination in-person must participate at the campus location of the graduate center offering the program to ensure the technological reliability, confidentiality, and safety of all participants.
      5. Those participating via distance must use University-licensed interactive audio-visual technology. If unable to connect with video, audio-only participation is allowed.
    3. The student and adviser must agree on the mode of the examination from the approved modes in the handbook. With the agreement of their adviser, students may request from the Graduate Program Head an alternative mode for their examination.
      1. When the student and their adviser cannot agree on the mode of the Final Oral Examination, the graduate program head will make the final decision. Either the student or adviser can appeal the Graduate Program Head’s decision to the college or school administrator for graduate education (associate dean or equivalent).
      2. If the Graduate Program Head does not approve the choice of mode, either the student or adviser can appeal the Graduate Program Head’s decision to the college or school administrator of graduate education (associate dean or equivalent).
    4. Participation mode must be communicated by the student and their adviser to all Ph.D. committee members at the time of scheduling.
  6. In the case of emergencies that occur after the examination scheduling has been recorded with Graduate Enrollment Services and which impact the examination or the composition of the committee, programs should contact Graduate Enrollment Services before holding the examination.
  7. The results of all Final Oral Examinations, regardless of the outcome, must be reported within five business days following the examination.

Revision History

  • Approved by Graduate Council, January 18, 2023. Effective date: Summer 2023 (5/8/2023)
    • Process Statement 5: Revised so that allowable delivery modes for the exam are determined by the graduate program with appeal process through the college/school. Minor editorial changes throughout.
  • Approved by Graduate Council, May 4, 2022. Effective date: Fall 2022 (8/15/2022)
    • Process Statement 5: Revised requirements for in-person and remote participation.
  • Approved by Graduate Council, December 16, 2020. Effective immediately.
    • Added a requirement for a timeline under which retakes must be completed to Policy Statement 5.a.iii.2.
  • Approved by Graduate Council, May 6, 2020. Effective date: Fall 2020 (08/17/2020).
    • Policy revised extensively.
  • Adapted from Graduate Bulletin: June 2018.