Dean of Engineering Office
Carl A. Pollock Hall (CPH) 4301
519-888-4567 ext. 32718
Comprehensive exam milestone
As a PhD student at the University of Waterloo, you are required to successfully complete the PhD Comprehensive Exam milestone.
The PhD Comprehensive Examination consists of an oral examination conducted at the University of Waterloo with the candidate and members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee present. The examination consists of the following two parts*:
- an examination of the research proposal that the candidate intends to develop into a successful PhD research thesis,
- an examination of the breadth of the candidate's knowledge of the academic field of the thesis and the adequacy of the candidate's background preparation to pursue the proposed research.
*Beginning in Fall 2015, Electrical and Computer Engineering will be implementing a 2-part Comprehensive Exam format:
- PhD Comprehensive Background Examination (set up by ECE)
- PhD Comprehensive Proposal Examination (set up by EGSO)
Comprehensive Examination Research Proposal Document:
A research proposal will consist of a double-spaced report of no more than fifty (50) pages including tables, diagrams, and references. The proposal will identify:
- The research problem
- Review the relevant literature
- Describe the tasks planned to solve the problem, and
- Propose a timetable for the completion of the project and defence of the PhD thesis.
For more information on the Comprehensive Examination milestone, please refer to the Faculty of Engineering Graduate Calendar
How do I set up my comprehensive exam?
Work with your supervisor to establish your PhD Examining Committee and determine your thesis title.
Once you have date and time set, submit the PhD Comprehensive Examination Form to your department coordinator at least four weeks ahead of the proposed date of the exam.
When should I complete my exam?
Students with a Master's degree (PhD2)
The Faculty of Engineering requires that students complete the Comprehensive Exam by the end of term four of their PhD program.
Students without a Master's degree (PhD3/PhD3-tr)
This refers to students who joined the PhD program by direct entry from a bachelor's or transferred into the PhD program without a master’s degree completed.
Your Comprehensive Exam must be complete at the minimum of either four terms from the first term registered in the PhD program or in term eight from the beginning of your master’s – whichever occurs first.
- If you transferred to PhD in term 2 of your MASc, your exam would be required by term 6.
- If you transferred to PhD in term 6 of your MASc, your exam would be required by term 8.
- If you began your PHD directly from your Bachelor's degree, your exam would be required in term 4.
Blackout dates and holidays
Please note: there is a "blackout period" for Comprehensive Exams.
Fall 2017: Monday, December 11 - Friday, December 22
Winter 2018: Monday, April 16 - Friday, April 27
Spring 2018: Monday, August 20 - Friday August 31
Examinations are not to be scheduled during the blackout period, unless you are required to complete your comprehensive examination by the end of the term and your committee has limited availability. In this case, permission must be granted from the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies. Your supervisor will be required to find a Chair for the exam. The Chair must be from outside your department, but within the Faculty of Engineering.
Comprehensive examination evaluation
There are four possible examination outcomes, as detailed below.
Category 1: Passed
Category 2: Passed subject to completion of conditions
Students who receive a category 2 will be given an amount of time, up to a year after the date of their examination, to complete the conditions of their pass. Conditions may include taking additional graduate courses, preparing a report on specific aspects of the proposal, and/or presenting a seminar on the revised proposal.
Category 3: Re-examination required
Students who receive a category 3 will have to schedule a re-examination, no earlier than six weeks after, but within one calendar year of their unsuccessful attempt. Students who fail to meet this condition will be required to withdraw.
Category 4: Failed
Students who receive a category 4 will be required to withdraw from the PhD program.