MSc Final Oral Examination

Writing and defending your MSc thesis takes an average of 5.5 months (three months for writing, one month for thesis proofing and review, and a minimum of six weeks for processing your defense package).

Student should also be mindful of the Guidance on the Appropriate Use of Generative Artificial Intelligence in Graduate Theses from SGS.

To ensure timely completion, we recommend that you:

  • Review the MSc Thesis and Examination Guidelines (below) thoroughly by the second PAC meeting or by the end of your first year in the program
  • Discuss the process with your supervisor and PAC members by the second PAC meeting
  • Send a draft of your thesis to your supervisor and PAC members to review and set deadlines for return of comments. Allow one month for review of the final thesis draft
  • Schedule all PAC meetings well in advance
  • Use the MSc Thesis Defence and Program Completion Checklist (below)

MSc Timeline Checklist        MSc Thesis and Examination Guidelines


MSc Exam Timeline

Exam Rules of Procedure

IMS examinations are normally held in-person. Due to COVID-19 protocols all examinations are now conducted remotely (effective March 18, 2020 - present).

IMS MSc Final Oral Examination Rules of Procedure for Remote Examinations

IMS MSc Final Oral Examination Rules of Procedure for In-Person Examinations

For more information, see Exam Tips.


You must meet all of the requirements below (no exceptions) to proceed with the MSc Final Oral Exam process:

  1. Completion of all MSc Program Requirements, excluding the defense
  2. Produced a thesis that is roughly the equivalent of one full research manuscript in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and that meets IMS thesis standards as set-out in the guidelines
  3. Held a Final PAC Meeting
  4. Registered as a student

You must meet all of the above requirements (no exceptions) to proceed with the MSc Final Oral Examination process.

Supervisor Responsibilities

  1. Provide appropriate guidance and timely feedback to student to enable completion of the thesis within the program length and to the standards of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS).
  2. Formally approve the student’s written thesis or research proposal, and readiness to proceed to the exam, during a Final PAC meeting that includes a full practice examination to prepare the student for the exam (see Final PAC Meeting below).
  3. Responsible for striking the examination committee by contacting eligible examiners and confirming their willingness and availability to participate in the prescribed roles (see Examination Committee below).
    • Student may subsequently contact examiners for availability once they have agreed to participate.
  4. Assist student with finalizing an exam date (in accordance with SGS and departmental scheduling conditions) that is subject to IMS approval.
  5. Assist student with exam logistics for off-site in-person examinations and/or remote examinations when the IMS Zoom account is unavailable.
  6. Ensure student is able to submit a complete examination package for IMS approval a minimum of six working weeks prior to the intended exam date

Final PAC Meeting

Your Supervisor and PAC must formally approve your written thesis and readiness to defend during a Final PAC Meeting that includes a full practice examination to prepare you for the exam. 

  • The Final PAC meeting should not be held too far in advance of the exam
  • This meeting must include a 20-minute slide presentation, and a question and answer period where PAC members pose questions typical of those asked during a final defense
  • All PAC members must attend

A final draft of your thesis should be circulated to the committee at least four weeks prior to the Final PAC Meeting.

REQUIRED: Final PAC Approval

The PAC must vote on your readiness to proceed to the defense by attesting to each of the three check list items from the PAC Meeting Form (see below):

Ensure the PAC report is completed accurately, in its entirety, and that all PAC members have signed off. If the PAC is unable to attest to the above three questions the meeting will not be considered the Final PAC Meeting, and an additional PAC meeting must be held until you are able to meet these requirements.

Exam Scheduling

Your MSc exam package must be submitted for IMS approval a minimum of six working weeks prior to the proposed examination date - remember to build in this time when settling on the exam date.

Additionally, please note these important scheduling conditions:

  • Exams are not permitted one full week prior to the official University closure date for the winter holidays nor in the first 3 business days after the University officially opens in January
  • Takes place Monday-Friday; 9am at earliest and 3pm at latest
  • Exams held remotely due to COVID-19 protocol are booked through the IMS Zoom account (where available) or other arrangements are coordinated through the Supervisor
  • Normally conducted in-person (on-site exams arranged through IMS are subject to MSB room availability); off-campus exams must include logistical details with the examination package
  • Scheduled on days the University is open
  • The University is closed for approximately 2 weeks during the winter holidays. These 2 weeks do not count toward the minimum 6 working weeks notice needed to schedule the defense.
  • To be eligible for the next round of convocation, defenses must be scheduled a minimum of one week prior to the final date for receipt of degree recommendations for the desired convocation cycle listed in the SGS sessional dates

See SGS sessional dates calendar for holidays and University closures.

Remember to allow enough time after the examination for any required thesis corrections and for submission of the final corrected thesis to SGS. You are advised to hold your defense at least one month prior to the degree recommendation date for your desired convocation in November, June or March (in abstentia, if requested).

Scheduling Tips: 

  • Approach potential examiners well in advance
  • Include all Administrative Assistants (for all exam committee members) in your correspondences
  • Not all PAC members need to be present at your defence
  • For in-person examinations, up to two members of the examination committee can participate and vote via video/teleconference, if necessary, provided they are on the line for the duration of the defense
  • Doodle is a free online scheduling tool that can facilitate scheduling. Offering too many options can be counterproductive. Schedule times with your supervisor and one PAC member first, before scheduling via doodle with the rest of your exam committee.

Your supervisor is responsible for contacting examiners and confirming their willingness to participate. You may contact them for availability once they have agreed to participate.

Exam Committee

Your supervisor is responsible for contacting examiners and confirming their willingness to participate in the prescribed roles below. You may contact them for availability once they have agreed to participate.

Only the approved examination committee members may participate in your exam; any subsequent changes to the examination committee must be approved in advance by IMS.


MSc Defence Committee IMS UofT

Quorum is four voting members = 2 internal to the PAC (including Supervisor) + 2 external to the PAC.
We recommend including 5 voting members to ensure the exam proceeds as scheduled.

*Normally one of the non-PAC examiners serves dually as the Examiner and  Chair of  the examination committeee. In cases where these roles should be kept autonomous, an additional faculty member may be included to serve as a non-voting  Chair (this individual must hold an active IMS appointment and be vetted by IMS). 

Examiner Responsibilities:

ALL examination committee members must:

  1. Review the thesis (the committee should expect to receive the thesis a minimum of 4 weeks prior to the exam), prepare questions/feedback, and attend the oral defense 
  2. Review, and comply with, the most updated IMS Examination Rules of Procedure
  3. Maintain an active graduate appointment (Supervisor's should ask UofT examiners to verify their SGS status when confirming their willingess to participate in the exam)

Please refer to the guidelines below for detailed information on choosing examiners: 

MSc Exam Guidelines

IMS Approval and Required Documentation

IMS requires an MSc Final Oral Examination package submitted for approval through the online examination portal  a minimum of six working weeks prior to your proposed defense date. The timeline allows for screening the thesis, vetting the examination committee, and provides sufficient time for your examiners to read your thesis and prepare for the examination (especially the appraiser who submits their appraisal one week prior to the exam). Exceptions to the timeline are not possible due to the large number of examinations that we process.

SUBMIT EXAM PACKAGE (UTORONTO email and UTOR login required)

Submit your exam package online using the link above. The exam package comprises of: 

  1. An  online MSc Thesis Defense Nomination Form 
  2. Copy of the thesis
  3. Thesis submission checklist
  4. Updated Student CV
  5. Examiner/Appraiser CV only if the examiner is external to the University of Toronto
  6. Final PAC Meeting Report

The online nomination form captures information about the student, exam logistics, and the proposed examination committee. The information entered into this form creates the official examination record, therefore it must be completed entirely and accurately. By submitting the form, the student agrees to have received approval/consent from your supervisor(s) to do so.

Helpful Tips and Reminders

  • You will need your UTORID and PASSWORD to access the online examination portal - click HERE if you cannot access it
  • Ensure all examiner contact information is correct (especially important when IMS needs to contact examiners for follow-up and/or in case of exam emergency)
  • Include all administrative contact information (for additional peace of mind)
  • The submitted examination date/time is final, subject to IMS approval, and has been agreed upon by all parties in advance
  • The responsibilities of potential examiners must be communicated to them at the time of their recruitment by the supervisor, and agreed upon by the examiner in advance

NB: Collaborations, conflicts of interest (including shared academic departments) and/or issues with faculty appointments can cause significant delays to the examination approval process and may result in the need to replace the examiner and/or submit a new examination date.

General Thesis and Degree Completion FAQs

Are there any resources to help with thesis writing?

Yes, the School of Graduate Studies does offer help and support to students writing a thesis.

Here are some of the writing resources offered through SGS:

I am planning on starting Medical School immediately following my MSc, what should I keep in mind?

Book your MSc Final Oral Exam early.

Most medical schools require confirmation of degree completion. It is important to find out their final for degree completion deadline.

If the medical school has a deadline of June 30th of a given year to receive confirmation of degree completion this means that before June 30th you must have:

  • successfully completed a MSc Final Oral Exam
  • completed any necessary corrections prescribed by your Exam Committee
  • had those corrections confirmed by your supervisor to the IMS Office
  • upload, and receive confirmation of upload of your thesis to ProQuest
  • submitted a request for Confirmation of Degree Requirements to SGS

It is important to note that SGS typically takes at least one working week (or longer during peak periods) to process and upload a finalized thesis to ProQuest.

You should also be mindful of the SGS timeline to receive a letter confirming degree requirements.

When is the latest I can defend my thesis to avoid paying Fall/Winter fees?

If you are nearing the end of your second year and will no longer be receiving guaranteed funding, it is important to be mindful of the SGS Registration deadlines found on the SGS Sessional Dates.

In order to avoid paying fees for an upcoming Fall/Winter semester by the SGS Registration deadline you must have:

  • held a successful Final Oral Exam
  • completed any corrections/modifications prescribed by your examination committee
  • had those corrections/modifications confirmed by your supervisor
  • upload the finalized version of your thesis to ProQuest
  • received receipt confirmation from ProQuest that your thesis has been accepted

I successfully defended my thesis. What happens now?

The IMS Office will send you a ‘Post Defense, Next Steps’ email once we receive the results of your Final Oral Exam from the Examiner/Chair.

This email will contain information on:

  • the results of your Final Oral Exam
  • if applicable, the deadline to have thesis corrections completed
  • information on electronic thesis submission

Where can I get a confirmation of degree completion letter?

An official confirmation of degree completion letter can be issued once your supervisor or modifications subcommittee chair has confirmed your thesis corrections, you have uploaded your thesis and SGS has received your degree recommendation from the IMS office. This letter needs to come from SGS and can be requested using the Confirmation of Degree Requirements Form found on their website.