PhD Doctoral Exam

This page provides only a brief overview of the process and department specific procedures.

All PALM Examinations are strongly recommended to not be scheduled during the months of July and August.


The Faculty of Graduate Studies has changed the guidelines for formatting Doctoral Theses to include a lay abstract, maximum 150 words. This change will go into effect for those submitting their theses AFTER MAY 1st, 2017. Please see for more information.

Please use the Faculty of Graduate Studies final doctoral examination guide for complete information.

For further details on the PhD completion process please refer to the Pathology Checklist for the completion of the PhD degree.

Selection and appointment of the External Examiner

At least TWO months before the completion of the thesis, the Research Supervisor (and not the student) selects an External Examiner (and alternates) who meets the requirements specified by the University. The form for the “A Request for Appointment of External Examiner for Doctoral thesis” must be completed by the Supervisor and must be signed by the Graduate Advisor before it is submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Remember, when completing this form the Chair is not normally considered a committee member.

It is important that you feel confident you will be able to complete your thesis and have it approved within two months, as external examiners will be expecting your thesis after that point.

Permission to defend the thesis from Supervisory Committee

The student’s Supervisory Committee must confirm that sufficient work has been done for inclusion in the thesis.

The last committee meeting before the student may proceed with the university defence may be run in either of the following ways:

  • It may be held as a committee meeting at which a quorum agree that the thesis has been adequately revised and is ready for the final university defence. A quorum will be the chair, the supervisor and two other members.
  • Or it may be run in a defence format if the student and supervisor would like to have it serve as a practice for the university defence. No new examiners are required and the thesis committee chairman will chair this more informal defence.

In either case, the thesis must have been deemed to be suitable for the university defence to the satisfaction of all of the thesis committee members, and EACH of them must sign and complete the Supervisory Committee-Thesis Report form. The committee members should not sign off on the form until they are satisfied that the thesis is ready for the university defence and the student should not proceed until they have the signed form from each committee member. The student should offer the thesis to the chair as a courtesy (and as a ‘thank you’, as this is the last active role the chair will play in the committee), but the chair is not required to sign off on the thesis.

This form must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator, who will then generate a memo signed by the Graduate Advisor granting departmental approval that must be submitted with the dissertation.

Thesis format approval by the Faculty of Graduate Studies

It is a good practice to have the formatting checked on your thesis early in the writing process to ensure no major revisions are required later. The Faculty of Graduate Studies can check your formatting at any point in your writing process.

The formatting of your thesis has to have final approval from the Faculty of Graduate Studies before it can be submitted. It can be approved once the formatting is in place and changes to content can still be done. As soon as your formatting is set, contact the Faculty of Graduate Studies. They will provide you with an email approving your formatting that you must provide with your dissertation.

For more information visit

Thesis for forwarding to External Examiner

The student is required to submit to the Faculty of Graduate Studies:

  • two copies of bound dissertation to the Faculty of Graduate Studies
  • a PDF copy of the dissertation
  • a memo from the Graduate Advisor confirming student is ready for submission to the External Examiner. Once the Program Assistant receives the PhD thesis report from the supervisory committee approving the dissertation for external review this memo will be generated.
  • an email from the Faculty of Graduate Studies approving formatting.

If the External Examiner is in North America, a period of 8 weeks is required between delivery of the thesis and the date of the final examination. If the External Examiner is overseas, a minimum period of 10 weeks is required.

Final Examination Guide

Selection of two University Examiners

The Supervisor (and not the student) is responsible for recommending and confirming availability of two University Examiners 2 to 3 weeks before the exam is scheduled. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to identify and recruit examiners; the student is not to contact those faculty members. These nominees need to be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies by using this form signed by the Graduate Advisor.

It is the responsibility of the Supervisor/student to distribute copies of the dissertation to the University Examiners.

Confirmation of Examiners from Supervisory Committee

The Supervisor is also responsible for confirming availability with the student’s Supervisory Committee when scheduling the exam date. Typically at least 2 or 3 members of the committee are expected to attend.

It is the responsibility of the Supervisor/student to distribute copies of the dissertation to the Supervisory Committee attending the oral exam.

Oral Exam Chairperson

The chair will be appointed by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The final oral examination is conducted according to the procedures specified by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Please refer to the final doctoral examination guide here: