Qualifying Exams (Ph.D. candidates)


General information & regulations can be found in this page of the Graduate Calendar.

For our department's governing principles, recommended prep time, and , Examiners' Major and Minor topic score sheets please click here.  the Examiner’s score sheets were formulated based on the  OCAV Graduate Learning Expectations.  Before the QE, the Advisor should complete the Advisor’s assessment sheet to give the Student feedback on their research and scholarship progress, level of application of knowledge, and professional capacity/autonomy; this Advisor’s assessment sheet may also be used by the QE committee in their deliberations.

Proceedings of day of the QE

For the oral exam, the QE committee meets in the exam room at the designated start time (there is no pre-meeting). The flow of the exam is explained to everyone. Then, the Student is excused from the room for a short committee discussion about the Student prep time and/or written component of the QE if it was a selected option. If a written component was completed, each Examiner can review their respective Major or Minor topic score sheets, and discussion will follow. Then, the Advisor is invited to comment on the Student’s progress by reviewing the completed Advisor’s assessment sheet. The Student is then invited back for the oral QE. Each examiner has 20 minutes in the first round and up to 15 minutes in the second round. Unlike a defence, the order of examination can be decided by the Student, and there is no audience or graduate Student representative. The Advisor is welcome to attend the QE even if they are not actively involved.


a) First round of questions

i. The Chair keeps track of time for each examiner. The Chair has the discretion to adjust the time of questioning for an examiner who is exploring a thread that merits finishing.

ii. The Chair takes notes regarding the areas of questions raised by each examiner. In case of an appeal, there is then a record of the type of questions.

iii. Between examiners, the Student is asked if they are ready for next Examiner and allowed a chance to catch their breath, or have a sip of water.

b) Break – 10 minutes.

c) Second round of questions

i. Same format as the first round, less time each, more casual and you can allow for interaction between Examiners if the Student appears relaxed enough to handle it.


a) The Chair may ask the Student if they have any questions for the exam committee. They do not have to ask any questions, but occasionally they may have a question they want to know the answer to.

b) The Chair excuses the Student and instructs them to wait in the main office, or somewhere nearby.

c) Exam committee members are given time to complete their respective Major or Minor topic score sheets for the oral exam, and the exam committee takes a non-binding vote using paper ballots, but how each person voted, is not revealed.

d) Review results (one unsatisfactory OK, two is a failure)

i. Have a round of discussion about satisfactory/unsatisfactory. If the vote is unanimously satisfactory then, unless 2 people want to change their vote, the committee goes straight to a discussion of recommendations for the Advisory committee.

ii. If there is one unsatisfactory vote, especially for a Major topic Examiner, and there are serious concerns, the Student’s outcome should be discussed further to determine if a second unsatisfactory is warranted. If a Minor topic Examiner votes unsatisfactory, it could be appropriate to leave that as it stands to reflect the lower quality of the performance – the Student still passes but not in a stellar manner.

iii. The exam committee decides on recommendations for the student advisory committee (the Advisor is still present to hear the recommendations) and provides the advisory committee with the Major or Minor topic score sheets.

iv. Sign forms, recall candidate and wrap up (package, forms etc).