Comprehensive / Candidacy

A comprehensive oral examination must be taken within 21 months of admission for students who begin their program in September and 21.5 months for students who begin their program in January. This also includes students who transfer to the PhD program from the MSc program. If a student has not been admitted to candidacy (i.e. successfully completed both the oral and written portions of the comprehensive exam) by the end of their 24th month, they may be required to withdraw from the program.

Pre-comps Meeting

Timeline: 2-3 months before comprehensive exam

Submit to Grad Coordinator: “Comprehensive Exam Planning Report” who will then assign a Chair for the exam.

The purposes of this meeting are to:

  • Assess research plan and progress
  • Grant permission to take the comprehensive exam
  • Set comprehensive exam topics.
  • Set comprehensive exam date (if possible)

Meeting outline: This is a regular thesis committee meeting that requires a written progress report “Progress Report Outline” as well as a 20-minute presentation of your research objectives and progress. Permission to take the comprehensive exam is conditional upon successful completion of courses and evidence of research progress. The committee will agree on the topics for which the student will be responsible at the comprehensive examination that will be recorded on the Comprehensive Exam Planning Report and submitted to the  Graduate Program Coordinator.

Submitting the Written Proposal

The written proposal for the comprehensive exam must be submitted to each of the examiners 2 weeks before the date of the exam. The examiners will have one week to look over the proposal and to determine if it is suitable for examination.

Additional information

Comprehensive Examination Proceedings

The comprehensive exam is expected to take place in the LSI and normally takes about 2 hours. The Graduate Program Coordinator will help book a room if necessary. 

View instructions

Comprehensive examination decision options:

(1) Awarding a pass (Advance to Candidacy).

(2) Awarding a conditional pass requiring re-writing of part or the entire proposal. The chair will provide a description of what actions must be taken (e.g. specifics of how the proposal should be rewritten). The student will distribute the re-written proposal to the entire examining committee, including the chair, and also provide the graduate program coordinator with a copy), the deadlines for completing all aspects of the comprehensive exam (written proposal and oral defense) will be 2 months after the exam with no exceptions.

(3) Asking for a re-examination of the student on part of the material covered in the comprehensive, or

(4) Asking for a repeat of the comprehensive examination. Only one re-examination will be allowed; it must be held within six weeks of the first examination.

If the student fails either of the two components upon re-examination, withdrawal from the program is mandatory.

The chair will submit a report on the decision of the committee at the end of the exam to the Graduate Program Coordinator who will distribute copies of the report to the student, thesis supervisory committee and Faculty of Graduate Studies.