Doctoral Examinations

Final Exams

The Final Examination (Final Exam) consists of the defense of the written and completed dissertation. The Reading Committee is responsible for reading and evaluating the dissertation prior to the Final Exam. The Final Exam is an oral exam conducted by the complete Supervisory Committee. All students must be enrolled for a minimum of two credits during the quarter they take their Final Exam and during the quarter they intend to graduate (if these quarters differ).


At least four members of the committee, including the Chair and GSR, must be present at the General Exam. Students are advised that it is their responsibility to ensure that the designated members of their committees, particularly the Chair and GSR, are available physically for the general exam. If they cannot be present, students should substitute or rotate in other members well in advance, including the Chair and GSR. The GSR must be physically present for the exam, while other members are allowed to video conference in. For complete rules about video conferencing, please see The Graduate School’s policies. You should inform the GPA if anyone needs to video conference so they can arrange any necessary logistics.


Your Final Exam must be completed no later than the Friday of the 10th week of the quarter in which the student intends to graduate. During the quarters before and the quarter of the student’s intended graduation, they should be in regular contact with their committee and provide them with drafts of the dissertation. The Supervisory Committee is responsible for determining the student’s readiness to take the Final Exam.

Once the student and the committee agree to schedule the exam, the student must agree upon a date and time with the committee. The student should email that information to the GPA and cc the Committee Chair. The GPA will arrange a room for the exam and convey that information to the student. The student should then go to the MyGrad Portal Student View to request a doctoral exam, at least two weeks before your Final Exam. The student must also email their final dissertation to their committee (and cc the GPA) at least three weeks before the Final Exam. The GPA will ensure that the warrant is in the Chair’s box before the exam.


The conduct of the final exam meeting differs and will be determined by the Committee Chair and communicated clearly to the student. In most cases, the student will be asked to leave the room while the committee confers as to whether the student is ready to defend the dissertation and the defense can proceed. If the committee decides to proceed, the student delivers a short presentation of their dissertation. The committee will then question the student on their research and findings. The student will be asked to leave the room a second time while the committee confers, and will then be brought back into the room to hear the committee’s determination.

The Chair will bring the warrant to the exam and, providing the committee approves the dissertation, will ask all committee members to sign the warrant. The Chair will then return the warrant to the GPA so they can record the results in MyGrad. The Chair will also bring the Doctoral Thesis Supervisory Form for the committee to sign and return the signed copy to the GPA for processing before they send a digital copy to the student.

For the purposes of the Ph.D. Program only, the Reading Committee should assign its evaluation of the grade for the dissertation as Distinction, Pass, or Fail. The Reading Committee should also indicate whether the work should be nominated for the Graduate School Distinguished Dissertation Award. Reading Committee members should make these notes directly on the warrant before returning it to the GPA.


A Supervisory Committee may formally pass a student but require revisions to the dissertation before it is deposited. In this case, the student and the Supervisory Committee should create a schedule for the student to submit revisions to the committee and the committee to approve the student’s dissertation for official deposit. It is possible for a student to pass a Final Exam in one quarter and complete their revisions and submit their thesis during the following quarter. No more than one quarter should pass between the Final Exam and depositing the dissertation. If students need to submit revisions during the following quarter, they are responsible for registering and paying for at least two dissertation credits during that quarter.

A Supervisory Committee may require a student to complete further study and be reexamined at a later date. In this case, the student should discuss next research steps with their committee and work out a feasible timeline for reexamination. The student must formally reschedule their Final Exam as described under Scheduling Process.

A Supervisory Committee may also determine that a candidate is not recommended for further work towards the doctoral degree. The effect of this recommendation is the termination of the student’s enrollment in the doctoral program. This is extremely rare and the student can mitigate this with regular communication and direction from the Supervisory Committee Chair.


Once the student has passed the Final Exam, they must upload their dissertation into the ProQuest ETD Administrator website. Before uploading your document, students must make sure it is formatted to the Graduate School’s specifications. For complete information on this process, students can download this cheat sheet. The dissertation must be uploaded no later than 11:59 p.m. on the last Friday of your graduating quarter.


Once the Supervisory Committee approves a student’s dissertation and informs the GPA that the student has passed their Final Exam, assuming all other requirements have been met, the GPA will recommend the student for graduation. Students are not responsible for applying for graduation. If you have any questions about this process, please email the GPA.