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Oral Examination Information

Final

Candidates for master’s degrees, except those in Option B programs, must pass a comprehensive oral examination to demonstrate to the advisory committee that he/she possesses a reasonable mastery of the subject matter of the major and minor fields and that this knowledge can be used with promptness and accuracy. 

This exam takes the form of a traditional defense of the thesis in those programs requiring theses. This examination may not be held until all other requirements, except completion of the course work taken during the final semester, are satisfied. After obtaining DGP approval, a student must file a Request for a Permit to Schedule the Master’s Oral Examination with the Dean of the Graduate School only after the above conditions are met (the request form can be found on the Graduate School Forms webpage). 

Outcomes 

Unconditional Pass. A unanimous vote of approval of the advisory committee is required for passing the final oral examination. An unconditional pass signifies that the student successfully defended and that the thesis/dissertation is complete, except for minor editing. 

Conditional Pass. The student may be passed on condition of the student meeting specific requirements defined by the committee. The conditions may be based on the defense itself, or they may be connected directly to the thesis/dissertation. The examination is not complete until all conditions have been satisfied and that fact has been reported to the Graduate School. 

Failure. Failure of a student to pass the examination terminates his or her work at this institution unless the advisory committee recommends a re-examination. No re-examination may be given until one full semester has elapsed and only one re-examination is permitted. 

Students may appeal all committee actions according to the provisions in Grievance Procedure for Students (REG 11.40.1)

Electronic Thesis Dissertation (ETD) Reminders

All theses and dissertations are submitted electronically to the Graduate School via the ETD Submission System for the ETD Review and final acceptance. 

In order to graduate in a thesis program, the student must unconditionally pass the final oral exam, or clear all conditions associated with a conditional pass, AND submit a draft PDF file into the ETD Submission System for the ETD Review prior to the 5:00 p.m. ETD Review deadline for the semester in which s/he intends to graduate. 

We encourage students to submit their ETD for review as soon as possible following the unconditional passing of the defense. This usually happens within 48 hours of receiving an unconditional pass or satisfying the conditions of a conditional pass. 

The ETD submitted for initial review must contain all required components as specified in the ETD Guide (etd.ncsu.edu). 

Once the conditions of a conditional pass of the defense are met, the committee chair must inform the Graduate School of the date the conditions were met. 

Once a student submits their final error free file and it is accepted by the Graduate School, no edits may be made, unless the ETD is denied by a committee member. 

Preliminary

 The preliminary oral examination is conducted by the student’s advisory committee, with the chair (or co-chairs) in charge, and a Graduate School Representative (if required). The exam is open to all graduate faculty members and is designed to test the student’s ability: 1) to relate factual knowledge to specific circumstances, 2) to use this knowledge with accuracy and promptness, and 3) to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the field of specialization and related areas. 

Final

 As with the preliminary oral examination, the chair (co-chairs) of the student’s advisory committee is (are) in charge of conducting the final oral examination. Though the format of the doctoral examination may vary according to the culture of individual graduate programs, all examinations must include three elements. 

  • Presentation. The candidate typically presents the methodology used, the data collected, and the conclusions reached as reported in the dissertation. For the purpose of dissemination of research, it is required that the presentation of the dissertation be open to the university community.
  • Questioning. Any member of the university community is allowed to ask questions of the candidate. If the need arises, graduate faculty members not on the advisory committee may meet in a restricted session after the presentation to ask additional questions of the student and express any concerns they have to the committee and student. The questioning phase may continue with a closed session in which the advisory committee questions the candidate. 
  • Deliberation and decision. Only the advisory committee and the Graduate School representative, if one has been appointed, are present. 

 The chair (co-chairs) of the candidate‚Äôs advisory committee has (have) the obligation to maintain a scholarly atmosphere and to keep academic integrity and the student’s best interest foremost. 

Outcomes

Unconditional Pass. A unanimous vote of approval of the advisory committee is required for passing the final oral examination. An unconditional pass signifies that the student successfully defended and that the thesis/dissertation is complete, except for minor editing.

Conditional Pass. The student may be passed on condition of the student meeting specific requirements defined by the committee. The conditions may be based on the defense itself, or they may be connected directly to the thesis/dissertation. The examination is not complete until all conditions have been satisfied and that fact has been reported to the Graduate School. 

Failure. Failure of a student to pass the examination terminates his or her work at this institution unless the advisory committee recommends a re-examination. No re-examination may be given until one full semester has elapsed and only one re-examination is permitted.

Students may appeal all committee actions according to the provisions in Grievance Procedure for Students (REG 11.40.1)

Electronic Thesis Dissertation (ETD) Reminders

All theses and dissertations are submitted electronically to the Graduate School via the ETD Submission System for the ETD Review and final acceptance. 

In order to graduate in a thesis program, the student must unconditionally pass the final oral exam, or clear all conditions associated with a conditional pass, AND submit a draft PDF file into the ETD Submission System for the ETD Review prior to the 5:00 p.m. ETD Review deadline for the semester in which s/he intends to graduate. 

We encourage students to submit their ETD for review as soon as possible following the unconditional passing of the defense. This usually happens within 48 hours of receiving an unconditional pass or satisfying the conditions of a conditional pass. 

The ETD submitted for initial review must contain all required components as specified in the ETD Guide (etd.ncsu.edu). 

Once the conditions of a conditional pass of the defense are met, the committee chair must inform the Graduate School of the date the conditions were met. 

Once a student submits their final error free file and the Graduate School accepts it, no edits can be made, unless a committee member denies the ETD. 

To fulfill graduation requirements, each doctoral student must submit all the required forms and fee to the ETD Reviewer before the final thesis/dissertation will be accepted. All of the required forms are found under the Doctoral Required Forms link on the Electronic Thesis & Dissertation (ETD) Website, etd.ncsu.edu. 

The Graduate School cannot authorize the release of the diploma or the inclusion of the statement of the awarded degree on the permanent record from which transcripts are made until the forms and fees have been received. 

Exam Form Example