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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 a PhD comprehensive examination. 

The committee consists of a minimum of 3 members:

a) The supervisor or co-supervisor(s) count as one.

  • The supervisor will normally act as the examination chair.

b) A minimum of two other faculty members (Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor).

  • for KIN students, one must be from the Kinesiology Department.
  • for AHWB or WH students, one must be from a home Department within the collaborative program.
  • a non-Waterloo member must hold an adjunct appointment with the University.

Scheduling of the PhD comprehensive exams

This examination will be written upon completion of all required coursework, 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.  The content of this examination will come from a reading list made available to the student 60-90 days prior to the exams.

The oral exam will normally be held one to two weeks following the completion of 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 upon the subject area, and should be confirmed in consultation with the supervisor.

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 area on which the student was examined in the written exam. The exact questions posed need not (and more often are not) be the same as in the written exam. The duration of the oral exam will vary, and is dependent on the student's written and oral performance. 

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 students have been 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 of the examination committee.

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 of completion of the original comprehensive exam.

PhD comprehensive examination procedures

Departmental policy recommends that the comprehensive examination begins within four terms of the student's initial enrolment in a Doctoral program (or eight terms for part-time students).  At that point, required coursework will normally be completed.    

To do:

  1. The student in consultation with their supervisor, identifies each area of examination, the committee members, and general dates of their examination.
  2. The student contact all members of the committee to set up specific dates and times of the examination.
  3. Once the areas of examination, committee members, and specific dates and times are established for both the written and oral components of the examination students are to complete the PhD Comprehensive Examination Form and submit it to the KIN Graduate Office.  At that time the KIN Graduate Office can help book the rooms.
  4. Any materials (i.e., articles, text books etc.) that the student is permitted access to during the written exam are to be submitted by the supervisor to the KIN Graduate Office 1 week prior to the exam.
  5. Exam questions for the written exam are to be submitted by the supervisor to the KIN Graduate Office 1 week prior to the exam.
  6. Exam material will be provided to the student on the day of the written exam by the supervisor.
  7. Students will generally have access to a department-provided computer without Internet access to write the exam.  However, in some cases student will be asked to hand-write answers in the exam booklets provided.
  8. The supervisor is to submit electronic copies of the written portion of the exam (i.e. answer to questions, grant proposal, paper) to the KIN Graduate Office by the end of the day scheduled for the written exam.  The KIN Graduate Office will then distribute the material to the committee members.
  9. The supervisor will act as the chair for the Oral Examination.  The Comprehensive Exam Report will be sent to the Chair prior to the presentation date. (On campus mailbox)
  10. Following the oral exam, the chair will return the PhD Comprehensive Report to the KIN Graduate Office with the decision marked.