Oral Exam Instructions

The following instructions are guidelines to the conduct of an examination and specify the consequences of the balloting at the end of the examination.


  • Each member is expected to attend the entire examination. Those who cannot do so should ask the adviser and the Dean of the Graduate School to appoint another graduate faculty member.
  • Under no circumstance should the examination be held without a full complement of committee members. If at the time of the examination a committee member is absent, the student’s adviser must notify the Graduate Dean and find a suitable replacement or cancel the examination.
    • To verify that the replacement is a member of the Graduate Faculty, the adviser should call the Graduate Records Coordinator, ext. 62737. If the absent member is the Graduate School representative, the adviser shall call the Graduate Records Coordinator to request the immediate appointment of another representative.


  • There is no time limit set by the Graduate School. However, at least two hours, but not more than three hours, should be scheduled for an examination. If questioning is not completed in a reasonable length of time, the examination may be adjourned until a later date, which is not to exceed three weeks  from the scheduled examination date.


  • If a thesis is presented, each committee member should be given a copy to read at least seven working days prior to the examination.
  • The oral examination is not to be held until the thesis is in final draft (except for minor points brought out during the examination) as described in Guidelines For Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation.
  • A vote to fail the candidate or adjourn the examination may be cast if the thesis is incomplete or requires substantial rewriting.
    • While the vote on the doctoral orals is primarily concerned with the dissertation, the vote on the Master’s oral is a vote on the adequacy of the candidate’s knowledge of the course work and defense of the thesis.


  • If written questions constitute a part of the examination the major adviser should extend an invitation to each committee member to review responses at least three days prior to the oral examination.


  • Committee members may discuss any topic concerning the candidate’s performance and qualification. A vote to pass, fail or adjourn the examination to a later date may be cast. However, committee members must cast their votes independently.
  • A candidate will pass the examination if all votes but one are to pass.
  • A candidate will fail if there are two or more votes to fail.
  • The examination will be adjourned if there are two or more votes to adjourn.
    • If the vote is to adjourn, the examination must reconvene within 3 weeks.
  • Two votes of fail override two votes to adjourn.
  • One vote to fail and one vote to adjourn are not acceptable and an additional ballot or ballots must  be cast.
  • A committee member may move to delete the designation of a minor with the concurrence of the committee.


  • The Dean’s Representative will call the oral examination to order.
  • If a thesis or dissertation is presented the dean’s representative shall determine that the thesis is in final draft form as required.
    • It is the responsibility of the student and the adviser to bring the thesis or dissertation into a final presentable form according to the provision of the Guidelines for Preparing a thesis or Dissertation.
    • In the event that the thesis or dissertation is found not to be in such form, the examination shall be adjourned and the Dean of the Graduate School notified immediately.
  • It is the responsibility of the Dean’s Representative to see that the ground rules are discussed and understood by all present for the examination.
  • Following this the major adviser assumes the chair and is responsible for presiding over the questioning of the candidate.
  • Each member of the committee shall be given sufficient time and opportunity to question the candidate.
  • After questioning of the candidate is complete, the Dean’s Representative will resume the chair.  General discussion of the examination and the candidate’s performance should be allowed and encouraged before balloting.
  • The Dean’s Representative will take the attached ballots and vote forms the examination.
  • At the conclusion of the exam, the Dean’s Representative is to distribute a ballot to each member of the committee, who will vote, sign the ballot, fold it and hand it to the Dean’s Representative.
  • The Dean’s Representative tallies the vote, announces the result, and executes the form titled Report of the Examination Committee And Dean’s Certificate.
  • The Dean’s Representative is responsible for delivery of the Dean’s Certificate and each ballot form to the Office of the Graduate School.

Under no circumstances shall the vote form and ballots be given to the student.



  • All doctoral comprehensive oral examinations are open to all graduate faculty members and the doctoral final examination is open to members of the graduate faculty and the scholarly community.
  • At the comprehensive examination, a member of the graduate faculty may ask questions of the candidate after examination by the committee members and at the final Doctoral examination, any visitor may question the candidate.
  • Visitors to other examinations must obtain the permission of the candidate and the chair of the committee before attending.
  • Questions from visitors should be restricted to the thesis or the clarification of prior answers and should not introduce new topics.
  • Visitors’ questions should be addressed to the chair, who may use discretion in addressing them to the candidate.  The length of time devoted to questioning of the candidate by visitors is at the discretion of the major adviser.
  • Visitors should arrive before the examination begins and will be excused when the questioning of the candidate is completed.