Doctoral Comprehensive Exam Procedures School of Planning

COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION

A comprehensive examination consisting of a written paper and an oral examination must be taken, normally between the 13th and 16th month of residence. The purpose of the comprehensive examination in Planning is to evaluate a candidate’s ability to correlate and integrate concepts of a general and a specific nature and to determine if the candidate demonstrates a solid and broad comprehensive basis of knowledge and shows adequate preparation to undertake thesis research. The content of the examination will vary with the candidate’s area(s) of specialization. However, the School strongly believes in the principle that all candidates possess the intellect, maturity and perspective to clearly relate their areas of specialization and research to the context of their field of candidacy. The supervisor should develop a reading list appropriate to the student’s area of interest in conjunction with the student.

Regulations for the Comprehensive Examination

a) Date of Examination:

PhD candidates shall normally be given the comprehensive paper question during or after the 13th month from the date of first registration in the PhD program, and at any time up to and including the 16th month. In scheduling the oral exam, they should allow at least seven (7) weeks from picking up the question until the exam. (For students first registering in September, this means that the question is picked up between September and the end of December in the second year and the oral takes place between November and May). The timing of the examination will be established by the candidate in consultation with the supervisor. Exceptions to this timing are permitted at the discretion of the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer). (e.g. illness or severe personal problems, exceptional preparation time required by some interdisciplinary or non-Canadian students).

It is the candidate’s responsibility to inform the supervisor that he/she is ready to begin the exam. It is the supervisor’s duty to initiate exam arrangements as described below.

b) Composition of the Examining Committee:

The Examining Committee will be constituted as a result of discussion between the candidate’s supervisor and the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer). The Committee will consist of the candidate’s Comprehensive Advisory Committee and a person external to the School of Planning.  The external person cannot be an adjunct, joint- or cross-appointed to the School.
The supervisor shall provide to the Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer), names (plus addresses, email, phone, FAX, etc.) of two or three possible external examiners ranked in order of preference. The School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) shall select an examiner from the names provided. The supervisor shall contact the other examining committee members regarding their availability for the oral exam, giving the necessary information to the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer). A form for this purpose should be picked up from the School of Planning Graduate Program Administrator, EV3 room 3211.

c) Questions: 

The supervisor will meet with the committee as described below and suggest two or three questions which are then presented to the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies  (Graduate Officer) for consideration. A question will be selected and given to the candidate on the day he/she wishes to start the examination (see Stage One below).

Exam Arrangements

The School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies  (Graduate Officer) shall make all subsequent arrangements, once the advisor has confirmed the availability of the examining committee members, setting and publishing the date for the exam in the School and in the Faculty. Normally, at least four (4) weeks will elapse between the receipt of the completed paper by the School of Planning Graduate Program Administrator and the date of the oral examination. If a shorter time is desired, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to obtain a written agreement from all the examiners and to submit this to the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies(Graduate Officer). In any case, notice of the oral exam must be published at least two (2) weeks in advance.

The Chairperson

The Chairperson for the Defence is selected by the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer). Neither the Associate Dean nor the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) shall serve as the Chairperson of the Defence. The role and qualifications of the Chairperson are described in a leaflet obtained from the School Graduate Office, titled: Guide For Ph.D. Oral Comprehensive Examination 10/02.

The Comprehensive Advisory Committee

The School of Planning requires that the PhD Advisory Committee normally meets once per year with the candidate.
Formation of a Comprehensive Advisory Committee will be initiated by the Supervisor, in consultation with the student. The Committee will be comprised of the Supervisor, who will normally be a member of the School, and a minimum of two other members, at least one of whom should be from outside the School of Planning. At least one of the two (or two of three) members must be from the School of Planning.  All Committee members are not required to be approved PhD Supervisors, although it is recommended that a majority be.
At the discretion of the advisory committee, other persons may be added to the Examination Committee.
A minimum of two Committee Members are needed with co-advisors.

Note:  When setting up the Comprehensive Advisory Committee, the Supervisor and the student should keep in mind that most of its members will also compose the Thesis Advisory Committee and the Examining Board.  It would thus be helpful at this stage that the Committee conforms to the university regulations pertaining to the Thesis Advisory Committee and the Examining Board (see University Graduate Studies Calendar for current requirements).

Procedure of the Examination

The Comprehensive Examination is completed in two stages with Stage One being written and Stage Two an oral defence.

Stage One:

The candidate writes a major paper on the approved topic. Twenty-one days is allowed for this part. During the first three (3) calendar days after the candidate has received the comprehensive exam question, he or she may ask the supervisor questions of clarification regarding the scope of the question. The paper will not exceed 40 typed, double-spaced or space-and-a-half, pages including the bibliography and the abstract (see attached page). Papers that exceed this number of pages will not be scheduled for examination. A minimum of 6* copies of the paper, spirally bound or placed in a binder, will be given to the School of Planning Graduate Program Administrator who will distribute them to the Examination Committee. If these copies of the paper are not submitted within the specified time period then the student will be deemed to have failed the comprehensive exam.

*  1  for each advisor
    1 for each committee member
    1 for chair
    1 for external examiner
    1 for display in the department

An electronic copy of the paper also needs to be submitted to the School of Planning Graduate Program Administrator.

Stage Two:

Stage Two is the oral component of the Comprehensive Examination and is based upon:

a) Questions related to the paper prepared in Stage One.
b) The candidate’s general competency in the broad field of Planning.
The oral examination is open to all members of the University community.

Allowable Decisions:

The examining committee must make one of the following three decisions.  However, if this is a repeated comprehensive examination, see below.

Examination Passed -- The student may continue with the regular course of study and research.  All examiners shall sign the examination report.

Decision Deferred until Conditions Fulfilled -- The student must fulfill clearly specified conditions within a designated time period.  It shall be specified which examiner(s) will determine when the conditions have been met.  Unless the conditions are minor, this would normally be all members of the student's Comprehensive Advisory Committee, or a minimum of the advisor(s) plus one committee member.  These conditions will be written in the examination report.  All examiners shall sign the examination report.

When the time period for meeting conditions has expired, the supervisor together with the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) must establish a way to ensure those responsible for reviewing the work can do so expeditiously.  If the conditions are fully met, the student shall be considered to have passed the exam.  The committee will advise the student and the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) in writing.  If the conditions have been met only marginally, the student will be required to repeat the comprehensive examination.  If the conditions are not met, it will be deemed to have been unsuccessful and the student will be required to withdraw from the program.  In either of the latter cases, the reasons why the student has not met the conditions will be conveyed in writing by the Comprehensive Advisory Committee to the student and the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer).

Repeat the Comprehensive Exam -- The committee shall clearly state why the candidate must repeat the exam, shall recommend steps which should be taken by the student to strengthen his or her case, and specify a time period within which the repeat examination must take place.  All examiners shall sign the examination report.

A new question will be set for a repeated comprehensive examination.  The examining committee on a repeat examination may be, but will not necessarily be, the same as the initial examining committee.  Only one repetition of the comprehensive exam is permitted.

Repeated Comprehensive

Decisions in the case of a repeated comprehensive examination -- The examining committee must make one of two decisions in the case of a repeated comprehensive: either, Examination Passed, or Exam Unsuccessful. 

Reaching the Decision -- Often the examining committee will reach its decision by consensus.  In the event that consensus is difficult, the chair shall call for a formal vote. A simple majority of the examiners shall be sufficient to select a specific decision.

If the external-to-the-school examiner opposes the decision thus selected, and if the chair determines that further consensus is unlikely, the examination shall be suspended.  The majority view of the examining committee and the minority report of the external examiner shall be presented, in writing, to the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) who shall determine a course of action for resolving the situation.  The examination report will remain unsigned until resolution has been reached.  It will then be the responsibility of the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer) to secure the necessary signatures.

If a member of the examining committee other than the external disagrees with the committee's decision, he or she may also submit a written minority report to the School of Planning Associate Director, Graduate Studies (Graduate Officer), but this would not result in suspending the examination.  The dissenter must make those reasons for disagreement known to the examining committee while it is deliberating and before it makes its decision.  The chair shall write in the examination report that a minority report will be submitted.  The examining committee member who will be submitting a minority report shall nonetheless sign the examination report along with other members.

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