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PhD comprehensive requirements

In order to determine whether a student has a broad knowledge of his/her field, the Department requires that all PhD students pass two examinations: a PhD comprehensive examination and a PhD proposal examination. These revisions serve as guidelines pending approval by the Graduate Committee.

The PhD comprehensive examination

The examination will test the student's breadth of knowledge within his/her chosen area. The content of this examination will come from a reading list made available to the student 60-90 days prior to the exams.

This examination will be written upon completion of all required course work, normally no later than 16 months (four terms) after registration in the PhD program. The examination will be evaluated by no less than three faculty members in the relevant area.

Following the evaluation of the written examination, an oral examination will be held, which will provide the student and faculty with an opportunity to clarify or expand on issues directly related to the written examinations.

Scheduling of the PhD comprehensive exams

The oral exam will normally be held one to two weeks following the completion of the written exam. This time period will allow the faculty involved to evaluate the exam, and the student an opportunity to prepare for an area which he/she feels were not satisfactorily addressed by them in the written exam.

Format of the written and oral comprehensive exam

The format of the written exam may include open and/or closed book questions. The nature and form of the questions will depend of course upon the subject area.

The oral exam allows the faculty to probe students in areas they feel the student has not demonstrated adequate fluency. Normally, the faculty will probe till they find any deficiencies and move on to other topics.

The questions posed during the oral exam will relate to the issues on which the student was examined in the written part. The exact questions posed need not (and more often are not) be the same as in the written part. The duration of the oral exam will vary from student to student and is dependent on the student's written performance and how well they are able to answer questions posed.

Communication of student performance on the comprehensive exam

Students will be briefed on their overall performance following the completion of oral exam. (In cases where more than one student are examined at the same time, this may be left till all of them are examined).

If the student has not passed but requires makeup and/or reexamination, the exact nature of the makeup/reexamination may be conveyed at a later time following the deliberations by the faculty involved.

If a student fails the exams, he/she will be required to withdraw from the program.

Makeup/re-examination format 

The student may be required to write a new exam, and/or submit position papers on selected topics, and/or may be required to do lectures to undergraduates or graduate students, and/or another oral exam. Normally, these makeup examinations should be completed within a term.