Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

Each Ph.D. student will take the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The purpose of the Ph.D. qualifying examination is to confirm that the student has sufficient depth of knowledge in the major field, and sufficient research ability, to successfully complete the Ph.D. program. Successful completion of the Ph.D. qualifying examination is a condition of continued registration in the Ph.D. program. Students who do not successfully complete the Ph.D. qualifying examination will have their registration terminated.

Deadlines

Please note the relevant deadlines for completion of the Ph.D. qualifying examination:

  • September starters must complete the Ph.D. qualifying examination by the following May/June.
  • January starters must complete the Ph.D. qualifying examination by the following September/October.

Material Covered

Each group will set its own Ph.D. qualifying examinations to focus on areas relevant to the field and relevant to assessing the student’s depth of preparation and research ability. The examinations will be at a third-year undergraduate to introductory graduate level.

Pre-Examination Procedures

The ECE Graduate Office will prepare a file for each student who is due to complete the Ph.D. qualifying examination. The file will include the following documents:

  • undergraduate and graduate transcripts;
  • Ph.D. background statement;
  • curriculum vitae;
  • supervisor’s confidential report including, where applicable, an appraisal of the student’s M.A.Sc. thesis and any other relevant work such as published papers;
  • examination report form, to be completed by the committee.

The files will be forwarded to the group chair. The chair and graduate coordinator of each group will select professors to serve on the Ph.D. qualifying examination committees and schedule the examinations.

Typically, the chair or graduate coordinator of each group, or the research supervisor, will inform students of the examination schedule. Students should be proactive, however, and request this information from the supervisor.

Examination Format

The following format will be used by all of the groups:

  • One committee of four professors examines the student in an oral examination that typically lasts two hours; or two committees of two professors examine the student in two oral examinations that typically last one hour each.
  • The research supervisor(s) will not participate in the oral examinations, but may be present as an observer.
  • In order to ensure uniform Department-wide standards, at least one of the four examining professors will be from outside the student’s group.

Decision

After the oral examinations, the research supervisor and the four professors will meet to decide whether the student passes or fails the Ph.D. qualifying examination. Discussion and decision will be based on the student’s performance in the oral examinations, their background statement, any published papers, and the supervisor’s confidential report. Following the discussion, the committee will vote on the outcome. If there is more than one supervisor, only the principal supervisor will vote. There are three possible outcomes:

  • The student passes the examination and continues in the Ph.D. program if there is not more than one negative vote or abstention. Passing may be conditional on requirements specified by the examination committee.
  • The student is rejected if there are more than two negative votes or abstentions. In such an event, the student will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D. program by the end of the term.
  • If there are exactly two negative votes or abstentions, the student will go to an augmented examination. The Associate Chair, Graduate Studies, will select two additional professors who will examine the student in a one-hour oral examination to take place within one month of the initial Ph.D. qualifying examination. One of the two new examining professors will be from outside the student’s group. After the second examination, the candidate passes if there are not more than two negative votes or abstentions among the augmented committee.

The chair and graduate coordinator of each group will notify the ECE Graduate Office of the outcome of the Ph.D. qualifying examination within one week of its completion. The ECE Graduate Office will notify students of the outcome of the Ph.D. qualifying examination in writing.

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