Final Oral Examination


Countdown to the PhD Final Oral Examination

Final Program Advisory Meeting

When the supervisor and Supervisory Committee have approved the written thesis, a final committee meeting should be held to prepare the student for defense. Any further changes to the thesis should be clearly outlined to the student and the Final Supervisory Committee Meeting Form should be signed by all the committee members and sent to the RSI office.

At the final Supervisory Committee meeting, the committee, student and supervisor must do the following:

  1. clearly identify if any further changes are to be made to the thesis and a process for completing those changes and the final sign off on the written thesis
  2. identify potential dates for the Final Oral Examination and the Departmental Practice Oral Examination and agree on at least one RSI full member to be invited to the practice defense.
  3. recommend three potential External Examiners for the Final Oral Examination

SGS regulations require that the external examiner of a Doctoral thesis be at arm's length from both the candidate and the supervisor. While prior research collaboration does not necessarily make an arm's-length relationship impossible, the relationship that develops between a doctoral student and their supervisor is much more than a simple research collaboration.

SGS deems that a supervisory relationship is never subject to a time rule.

To clarify arms-length relationship, the proposed external appraiser must not be the Doctoral, Masters or Postdoc Supervisor/Supervisee of the Candidate or the Supervisor, or in the past six years, been a departmental colleague of the candidate or the supervisor, or in the past six years, collaborated on a research project, scholarly work or publication with the supervisor or the student.

Students may NOT contact the examiner under any circumstances. Supervisors may contact external examiners ONLY to ascertain willingness to provide a written appraisal and/or availability to attend the examination at the specified time. The supervisor and examiner DO NOT discuss thesis content, aside from providing the thesis title.

The Final Oral Examination – External Examiner Nomination Form must be attached to the final Supervisory Committee form.

The external examiner must:

  • Be a non-U of T expert in the candidate’s field of research
  • Be affiliated with another University and hold professorial rank equivalent to a Full Member of SGS
  • Be an objective reviewer – neither affiliated with the student’s research project nor have collaborated with the supervisor or student in the previous six years

The external examiner will be required to submit a written appraisal of the thesis at least two weeks before the Final Oral Examination date. The External Examiner may attend the defense in person or participate remotely. The RSI Office will ordinarily provide up to $1000.00 in traveling expenses.

Submitting Thesis to RSI

The RSI Office requires ALL of the following documentation AT LEAST 8 WEEKS PRIOR to the proposed date of a PhD Final Oral Examination. Additional notification time will be required over the winter holidays in December (2 extra weeks) and during the summer months (1 extra week):

  • An electronic copy of the entire final thesis with the changes recommended at the final Supervisory Committee meeting
  • The signed Final Supervisory Committee Meeting Form indicating that the written thesis is approved for examination and that the student is ready to proceed to oral defense.
  • 1-page thesis abstract, double-spaced – electronic
  • Student CV – electronic
  • Completed PhD Thesis Defense Nomination Form. All proposed committee members must have agreed to be available on the listed potential examination date(s)
  • The supervisor completes and submits a Final Oral Examination – External Examiner Nomination Form to the RSI office. It will prove useful in setting up the Final Oral Examination later if the supervisor has previously ascertained any proposed examiner’s willingness to participate by sending a written appraisal and possibility of attending the exam.

The student is responsible for distributing an electronic copy of the thesis (or a paper copy if requested) to all committee members, EXCEPT THE EXTERNAL EXAMINER, at least 6 weeks before the Final Oral Examination. The RSI office will deliver the thesis to the external examiner, review the proposed examiners, obtain a copy of the external examiners’ CV and forward it to the School of Graduate Studies for formal approval.

Upon receipt of all required documentation, the RSI office will organize the room if needed (preferably at SGS), book audiovisual equipment, and officially inform, in writing, all examiners of the date, time, location, and committee composition of the Final PhD Defense. The RSI office will also obtain SGS approval of the examination, committee composition, ensure that all other degree requirements are met, arrange for an Examination Chair and provide them with the examination file and, finally, remind all Final Oral Examination Committee members of the examination one working day prior to the examination.

Departmental Practice Oral Examination

Completion of the Departmental Practice Oral Exam is optional.

The Departmental Practice Oral Examination Committee will consist of the Supervisor, at least one Supervisory Committee Member and one other member of RSI in the same field of study (Movement Science, Occupational Science, Rehabilitation Health Services Studies, Rehabilitation Technology Sciences, Social and Cognitive Rehabilitation Science, Speech-Language Pathology).

The supervisor and student are responsible for arranging a time convenient to the Supervisory Committee members and at least one other full member of RSI for a Departmental Practice Oral Examination. The RSI office should be notified of the time and date and will organize the room (if inperson) and equipment. This Practice Defense is open to all RSI students and faculty.

If the student and the supervisory committee opt for a practice defense, they also should identify an external faculty member (an RSI member who is at arms-length from the thesis project) who participates as an examiner during the practice defense (no need to provide any kind of written review of the thesis)

It is the responsibility of the supervisor to recruit the RSI member for the Practice Defense. The RSI office will advertise the Practice Defense to all students and faculty.

The purpose of the Departmental Practice Oral Examination is to closely review the presentation, recommend revisions, if any, to be made prior to the Final PhD Oral Examination and test the student’s knowledge of their field of study. At the Departmental Practice Oral Examination, the committee can make recommendations for modifications to the presentation for the Final Oral Examination and suggest on areas for the student to consider in their preparation for the Final Oral Examination. The supervisor needs to notify the RSI office, in writing, that the practice defense has been completed.

Members of the Final Oral Examination Committee

The student and supervisor discuss and agree on who should be recommended for the examination committee. Refer to the SGS website for the Guidelines for the Doctoral Final Oral Examination (FOE).

The supervisor is ultimately responsible for contacting the examiners and confirming their willingness and availability to participate. The student is not to contact the examiners.

Final Oral Examination Rules of Procedure

The student must bring one additional paper copy of the thesis to the Final Oral Examination. Find the official SGS Guidelines for the Doctoral Final Oral Examination (FOE) on the SGS website.


Find information on Graduation Procedures on the SGS website. MAKE SURE TO UPDATE YOUR ADDRESS ON ROSI/ACORN, as it will be used for mailings about convocation.