Exam Tips

Before the exam:  

  • Ensure that all members have set aside about 3 hours for your exam.
  • Check all audio/visual presentation equipment or test your screen sharing
  • Briefly review your thesis and get familiar with your figures 
  • Get familiar with several key references, including authors’ names, research groups and major points that may support your defense 

On the day of the exam: 

  • There is no dress code, but it is recommended to dress in a professional manner 
  • Come approximately 30 minutes early to check the equipment if holding the exam in person
  • It is optional and by no means necessary to bring water and/or refreshments for your exam committee. If you or your supervisor choose to do so, these should be modest 
  • Bring a hard copy of your thesis if holding the exam in person


  • 20 minutes maximum 
  • Remember: everyone has read your thesis; you don’t need to teach your examiners 
  • Background: provide the rationale and significance of your research 
  • Hypothesis: this is the most important part of your research 
  • Methods: concentrate on the experimental design 
  • Results: only present the main results 
  • Conclusion: be clear and accurate 

Examination Questions: 

  • There are several types of examination questions, which fall into four categories: 
  • Related to your research: background, significance 
  • Questions from your thesis: statement, presentation of figures, additional information, your mistakes 
  • Background knowledge: statistics, etc. 
  • Unpredictable questions
    • If the Globe and Mail wants to release your research, what would the title of the article be? 
    • What are the top 3 secrets of your success? 
    • If you could re-do your project, what kind of new approaches would you like to use? 

How to answer your questions:

  • Make sure you understand the question properly. Repeating the question back can allow you time to think it over 
  • Provide a clear, brief answer 
  • Use references to demonstrate your knowledge and support your point 
  • Don’t be defensive 
  • Be honest. Sometimes, “I don’t know” could be the best answer 
  • If the question is not related to your research directly, point it out first, then speculate 
  • After the first round, if you feel it is necessary, you may ask for a short break

The Examiner/Chair has the obligation to protect you. If you feel harassed, you may bring this to the attention of the Examiner/Chair and/or the other Examiners.