A Comprehensive Exam consists of a Written Exam in three different areas followed by an Oral Exam. These examinations are conducted by a PhD Comprehensive Advisory Committee. This committee must be established by the Thesis Supervisor and approved by the Graduate Director before the student is permitted to register for COMP 6907. This committee is typically comprised of three faculty members and must include at a minimum:

  • Thesis Supervisor(s)
  • An OCICS member from EECS
  • An additional OCICS member from SCS.

The committee must be established before the end of the third term of the initial registration. Both Written and Oral Exams must take place within the first 4 terms from the initial registration.

Guidelines for the Student, Thesis Supervisor(s) and the Comprehensive Advisory Committee

  • Role of PhD Comprehensive Advisory Committee includes filling out the Comprehensive Advisory Committee form. In particular, the committee must establish the topics and readings assigned to the candidate for the Comprehensive Exam. Typically, the Exam will address a major and two minor areas. The form must be submitted for approval at least three months prior to the Comprehensive Exam and well before the last date for registration for that term. Breadth and depth MUST be addressed by this Exam. More precisely:
    • The major must address breadth and depth in some sufficiently ‘wide’ field.
    • No significant overlap must exist between the major and the two minors (e.g., in the reading lists).
    • It is the role of the Doctoral Thesis Proposal, not the Comprehensive Exam, to have the student demonstrate in-depth knowledge of their specific area of research. It is suggested that the major of the Comprehensive Exam be used to verify basic comprehension in the proposed field of research.
    • For the major and minors, reading lists and exams are to test senior undergraduate level or junior graduate level knowledge.
  • Registration: Upon approval of this form, the Graduate Administrator will allow the student to register in COMP 6907. The student must maintain a continuous registration in COMP 6907 until it is completed. Failure to do so may result in a loss of status as a graduate student.
  • Scheduling: It is the responsibility of the Thesis Supervisor to provide the Graduate Administrator with the date and time of the Written and Oral Comprehensive Examination. The Oral Exam is typically held one week after the Written Examinations.
    • A Comprehensive Examination Specification form should be submitted by the Thesis Supervisor(s) at least 3 weeks prior to the planned dates for the Written and Oral Examinations. Once this form is submitted, the Graduate Administrator will prepare a formal notice for the Oral Exam. The committee for the Oral Exam consists of all the members of the Comprehensive Advisory Committee and a Chair. The Chair is an SCS-OCICS member who is familiar with the rules and regulations of FGPA and SCS. The Thesis Supervisor must find an appropriate Chair for the Oral Exam before a formal notice for the Comprehensive Exam can be released.
    • The Grad Administrator will request the concerned faculty members of the Comprehensive Advisory Committee to submit their questions/exam papers for the Written Exam. The questions are due at least one week before the Written Exam to the Graduate Administrator.
    • The Written Exam will be between five and nine hours in length, typically three hours for the major and two hours for each minor.
    • Written Exam typically takes place on three consecutive working days. They are planned in such a way that the examination takes place during the SCS office hours so that the office staff can manage all the logistics for the Exam.
  • Marking of the Written Exam: Members of the Advisory Committee review the answers of the candidate for the portion of their exam before the Oral Exam and report by email to the Graduate Administrator and the Chair of the Oral Defence whether the Oral Exam is to proceed or not.
  • Oral Exam: In the Oral Exam, a thorough investigation of the knowledge and understanding of the candidate, both in terms of breadth and depth, concerning the major and minor topics of the examination, is undertaken. At a minimum, familiarity with the designated material at the senior undergraduate level or junior graduate level will be expected. The ability of the candidate to articulate clear answers in English is expected.
  • Grading of COMP 6907: The Comprehensive Exam may be failed, passed conditionally (i.e., with extra requirements) or passed unconditionally. If failed (due to an unsatisfactory Written or an unsatisfactory Oral Exam), this course may be retaken, at most, one more time.
    • A student who does not pass the Exam will be provided with a summary of deficiencies identified by the Comprehensive Advisory Committee along with a plan of action for rectifying these deficiencies; for example, courses, special projects, preparation of survey-type papers, reading requirements. In order to continue in the program, the student must demonstrate that they have has rectified the identified deficiencies by a date set by the Comprehensive Advisory Committee. This remedial work must be completed within one year of the Comprehensive Exam. The method used to provide this demonstration is at the discretion of the Comprehensive Advisory Committee.
    • It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Oral Exam to document the results of the examination using the official grade sheets provided by the Graduate Administrator. The same forms are used to specify any deficiencies and deadlines, as well as how the candidate will demonstrate they have rectified identified deficiencies, if any.
    • The Comprehensive Exam questions and the student’s original answer booklet(s) must be filed with the Graduate Administrator.
  • Substitution of committee members or reading lists are allowed only under truly exceptional circumstances, and require sufficient notice from the Thesis Supervisor(s) as well as i) a new set of signed forms and ii) approval by the Graduate Director.