Examination Committee for MSc Degree – Guidelines & Procedures

exam committee

This is a subpage under: MSc Thesis Defense Policy & Procedures (click link to view main page)

The Chair’s Mandate

Acting on behalf of the Director of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, the Chair of the Examination Committee is responsible for, and empowered to ensure, the proper conduct of the examination. The Chair is expected to exercise full control over the proceedings and does not participate directly in questioning the candidate during the examination. Their responsibilities include:

  1. to guarantee that the candidate is given reasonable opportunity to defend the thesis;
  2. to ensure that it is the candidate alone, and not the supervisor or any other member of the Committee, who defends the thesis; and
  3. to protect the candidate from harassment

Responsibilities of the Chair

The Office of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute will have made arrangements with the chair to obtain the candidate's academic file and thesis. Before the examination, the chair must:

  • review the candidate's file
  • review the procedures entailed in conducting an oral defense for the MSc degree (below)

For the candidate, the examination is the culmination of long-held hopes and much dedication, a memorable moment of academic accomplishment. For the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute it is a vital opportunity for assuring that standards of excellence and fairness are observed in carrying out the responsibilities set for the oral defense of the MSc degree.

Responsibilities of the Examination Committee

The Examination Committee exercises the full authority of the School of Graduate Studies with respect to the examination. Its responsibilities are:

  1. To ascertain that there is adequate documentation of the satisfactory completion of all requirements for the degree
  2. To receive and consider appraisals of the thesis prior to the oral defense
  3. To examine the candidate on the substance and implications of the thesis
  4. To assess whether the thesis meets the proper standards of scholarship
  5. Upon completion of the oral defense, to vote on whether the thesis and its defense are acceptable

Review of Documentation and Appraisals

The candidate, members of the Committee and observers (if applicable) are usually assembled prior to the time scheduled for the examination. Following introductions, the candidate and observers are asked to leave the room while the procedures for the examination are reviewed and the appraisals received.

At this time the procedures followed are:


The Chair confirms that there is a quorum of four appointed Members. If there is not a quorum, the Chair must decide either to delay the examination or to postpone it to another date.


The Chair confirms that each Member of the Committee has sufficient knowledge of the thesis to form a judgment as to its acceptability and hence that there will be no abstentions in voting on grounds of ignorance of the thesis' contents.


The Chair reminds the Committee that:

  1. the examination covers both the thesis and the oral defense;

  2. except for minor corrections (e.g., typographical errors), all other modifications that subsequently may be requested must be clearly raised in the questioning of the candidate, with these being subsequently specified in writing; and

  3. the study must be an independent piece of scholarship/research. 

Where the study is part of a larger investigation, or where someone other than the candidate is a principal investigator or co-investigator of the study or co-author of any portion of the thesis, then the Examination Committee must establish that the candidate's personal contribution is sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the MSc degree.


The Chair reports on the completion of all course requirements.


The Chair asks the External Examiner to read their assessments of the candidate's thesis. With the exception of a written report which may be made by a supervisor, no other written statements or letters of reference are permitted. Any of the other appointed examiners present may make an oral statement.


The Chair consults with the Committee concerning the order of questioning. The sequence generally followed is that of:

  • Examiner

  • Member(s) of Thesis Committee

  • Supervisor

Oral Summary and Defense


The Chair admits the candidate who is invited to summarize the research and conclusions within twenty minutes.


The Chair then invites each Member of the Committee to ask questions of the candidate. If necessary, the Chair should intervene to preclude the examination from becoming an inquisition or unduly dominated by a Committee Member.


As part of the dialogue of learning and as a collegial courtesy to the candidate, she/he should be given the opportunity to make final remarks or address questions for clarification to the Members of the Committee.


When there are no further questions, the Chair asks the candidate and all non-committee members to retire.

Voting Procedure Oral Summary and Defense

Basis of Evaluation – The Chair reminds Members of the Committee that:

  • they should discuss the thesis and options before the vote is taken
  • the examination covers both the thesis and its oral defense
  • the conclusion of their discussion will be followed by a vote to accept, or not to accept the thesis and its defense; contingent upon the vote on the examination being positive, then this is followed by a second vote concerning the terms of acceptance of the thesis

Pass/Failure Voting Ratio – The Chair reminds the Committee that more than one negative vote and/or abstention results in the thesis not being accepted and the examination is adjourned.

Level of Acceptance of Thesis – The Chair reviews the terms on which the thesis may be accepted:

  • Acceptable in its present form: no changes
  • Acceptable with editorial corrections: this involves typographical errors, errors in punctuation or problems in style. These alterations must be completed within one month (at least one week prior to the deadline for submitting a degree recommendation to the School of Graduate Studies). Changes are checked by the supervisor(s) and the supervisor will inform the Graduate Chair/Coordinator in writing
  • Acceptable with minor revisions: these are more than changes in style and less than major changes in the thesis. A typical example of a minor modification is clarification sought concerning textual material or the qualification of research findings or conclusions. Changes are checked by the supervisor(s) and must be capable of completion within three months, preferably much sooner. The supervisor will inform the Graduate Chair/Coordinator in writing

If the thesis and its defense are not accepted and major revisions are required, this decision results in an adjournment with a reconvened examination to be held within a year by the Examination Committee.

Voting – Following discussion of the examination, the Chair calls for votes on two motions regarding:

  • Acceptance of thesis and oral defense: This vote is on whether the thesis and its defense are acceptable. More than one negative votes (and/or abstention) results in an adjournment of the examination.
  • Level of acceptance of thesis: If the defense is accepted, then the Committee must also vote on whether the thesis is acceptable in its present form, or requires editorial corrections or minor revisions.

Record of Oral Defense – The Chair completes this form constituting an official record of the candidate's defense.

Notification of Candidate on the Vote

  • If the thesis and its defense are accepted, the Chair of the Examination Committee invites the Supervisor to inform the candidate.
  • If the thesis and/or defense are not accepted, the Chair of the Examination Committee and the Supervisor should jointly advise the candidate.

Editorial Corrections

Members of the Examination Committee will provide the candidate's Supervisor with a list of required corrections. When these have been made within the period specified, the Supervisor will so inform the Graduate Chair in a written note.

Minor Revisions

  1. When Minor Revisions are required, the Chair appoints a Subcommittee to be approved by the Examination Committee. Under exceptional circumstances, the Subcommittee may be limited to one member
  2. Written Instructions to Candidate. The candidate's Supervisor will specify in writing the nature of the revisions required
  3. Timeframe. The candidate must complete the revisions within the period specified, which must be within three months from the date of the examination
  4. Completion of revisions. The appointed supervising Member or Members of the Subcommittee must certify in writing to the Associate Director that the required revisions have been completed

Should one or more Members of the Subcommittee not be satisfied that the revisions have been properly completed, RSI must reconvene an oral examination within a year from the date of the original examination.

Reconvened Examination

At the reconvened examination, no new appointed Committee Members shall be added, except for necessary replacements. It is the obligation of the original examiners to attend this examination.

The procedures set out in this memorandum for conduct of the oral examination and voting are to be followed. The thesis, however, may only be accepted: in its present form or subject to minor revisions.

No further adjournment will be allowed. If unsuccessful, the candidate’s registration in the program will be terminated. On behalf of the Examination Committee, the candidate's Supervisor and Program Director will draft a statement which will be signed by Members of the reconvened Examination Committee and submitted to the Associate Director.

Return of Records to Graduate Department's Office

The Chair of the Examination Committee is responsible for seeing that the candidate's file and a copy of the thesis are immediately returned to the RSI Office.