PhD Departmental Oral Examination (IMS)

The purpose of the Departmental Oral Examination is to closely review the thesis, recommend revisions to be made prior to the PhD Final Oral Exam, and test your knowledge of the field of study.  

The exam provides an objective analysis of your thesis and background knowledge by faculty members of good standing, who are familiar with the standards of scholarship required by the School of Graduate Studies.

For your reference:

PhD Exam Guidelines

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 PhD Departmental Examination Rules of Procedure for Remote Examinations

IMS PhD Departmental Examination Rules of Procedure for In-Person Examinations

For more information, see Exam Tips.

Eligibility

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

  • Registered as a student
  • Completion of all PhD Program Requirements (including PhD Candidacy) minus the defense 
  • Produced a thesis that is roughly the equivalent of three full research manuscripts in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Prior publication is encouraged. 
  • Held a Final PAC Meeting

The successful PhD candidate is expected to be an expert in the specific area of knowledge and well-versed in general knowledge of the field. 

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).
  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.

  • In addition to your regularly scheduled PAC meetings, a Final PAC Meeting must be held **within** 8 weeks from the date you submit your examination package to IMS (i.e. the  final PAC meeting cannot 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
  • A final draft of your thesis should be circulated to the committee at least 4 weeks prior to the final PAC
  • All PAC members must attend

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 members have signed off. If the committee 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 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.

Composition: 

phd_defence_committee

The committee consists of 4-5 voting members plus a non-voting Examination Chair. 

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.

Examiner Responsibilities:

ALL examination committee members must:

  1. Review the thesisl (the committee should expect to receive the document minimum of 4 weeks prior to the exam), prepare questions/feedback, and attend the oral exam
  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)

Refer to the PhD Exam Guidelines for detailed information on choosing your examiners.

Exam Scheduling

Your PhD Departmental Oral Examination package must be submitted for approval to IMS a minimum of six working weeks prior to the examination date. 

Allow yourself sufficient time after your departmental exam to complete all prescribed changes to your thesis in order to proceed to the Final Oral Examination process.

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.

See SGS sessional dates calendar for holidays and University closures

Key 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 (NB: 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.

IMS Approval and Required Documentation

IMS requires a PhD Departmental Oral Examination package submitted electronically for approval a minimum of six working weeks prior to your proposed defense date. This 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.

The examination package consists of the following components sent electronically to the IMS Thesis and Examinations Officer (incomplete packages will not be accepted):

  1. PhD Departmental Oral Examination Nomination Form
  2. Copy of the Thesis
  3. Thesis Submission Checklist
  4. Updated Student CV (including detailed list of publications)
  5. Final PAC Meeting Report
  6. Examiner/Appraiser CV only if the examiner is external to the University of Toronto

The information entered in the PhD Departmental Oral Examination Nomination Form is used to create the official examination record; please ensure they are completed accurately (no typos, appropriate use of upper and lower case letters, etc.)

Additional Tips and Reminders

  • 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. 

Remember to allow enough time after the examination for any required thesis corrections that must be completed in order to proceed to the Final Oral Examination process.