PhD Comprehensive Examination Milestone

Comprehensive exams serve multiple purposes, specifically to ensure that:

  • PhD students have the appropriate academic background – a foundation and breadth of knowledge in the field of study – to be successful in their PhD program;
  • PhD students have the capacity to engage in scholarly communications – both oral and written – necessary to be successful in their PhD studies;
  • PhD students have developed a novel research topic to be evaluated during their PhD studies.

Comprehensive Examination timing

Students admitted to the PhD program from a completed Master’s degree must complete their Comprehensive Exams by the end of the seventh term of their PhD program. 

Students should consult their departmental websites for more specific information about the exams in their particular doctoral programs.

Students who have previously completed studies in a PhD program at another university are required to successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam in their University of Waterloo doctoral program.

Students who anticipate not meeting these requirements may seek an extension to the deadline to complete the Comprehensive Exam. The student is required to submit a petition providing evidence of extenuating circumstances to the student's Associate Dean, Graduate Studies.  

In extenuating circumstances, students may petition for an extension of the time limits for completing the Comprehensive Examination. Petitions are to include proper documentation and justification of the reason for the extension request. Students who wish to petition on the basis of medical grounds, must register with AccessAbility Services and provide them with all required medical documentation. Medical documentation should not to be provided to your Department. AccessAbility Services will determine if the medical condition justifies an accommodation. Petitions must include a plan and timeline for Comprehensive Exam completion and an account of the extenuating circumstances