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Final Oral Examination - Research Doctorate



To establish the requirements for the Final Oral Examination.


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.



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

Having completed original research and prepared a scholarly exposition of their accomplishments in the form of a doctoral dissertation, the final oral examination allows the student to i) demonstrate an advanced level of mastery of their research and an understanding of their field of study, ii) describe their research results to disciplinary experts, and iii) demonstrate that they are capable of independent scholarly work.

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. The policy must include:
        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 education 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 final oral examination must take place at the campus location of the graduate center offering the program to ensure the technological reliability, confidentiality, and safety of all participants.
  5. Final Oral Examination Attendance
    1. The Ph.D. candidate must be physically present at the final oral examination.
    2. 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 Ph.D. committee to total a minimum of three, must be physically present at the Final Oral Examination.
    3. Requests for participation of any Ph.D. committee member via distance must accompany the Examination Request Form at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination.
      1. Of those approved to participate via distance, no more than one member may participate via telephone.
      2. Any or all of those approved to participate via distance may participate via interactive videoconferencing.
      3. Special arrangements, i.e., requirements for participation via distance, must be communicated to the student and all Ph.D. committee members at the time of the request to Graduate Enrollment Services.
      4. In the case of emergencies, programs should contact Graduate Enrollment Services.
  6. The results of all Final Oral Examinations, regardless of the outcome, must be reported to the Graduate Enrollment Services within five business days following the examination.


insert_drive_file Examination Request Form (PDF)|(DOC)

insert_drive_file Doctor of Philosophy Graduation Check Sheet (PDF)|(DOC)

Revision History

  • 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.
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