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Final Oral Examination

Section 7.9 of the Graduate School Handbook

The final oral examination tests originality, independence of thought, the ability to synthesize and interpret, and the quality of research presented. The final oral examination concerns principles and historic perspective as well as data. The final oral examination includes, but is not limited to, discussion of the dissertation. The examiners often pursue lines of thought and argument from the data and concepts that have contributed to the research and to its critical evaluation by the doctoral candidate. 

Final Oral Examination CommitteeThe final oral examination committee is composed of members of the doctoral candidate’s dissertation committee, plus the Graduate Faculty Representative. Other graduate faculty members may be added to the committee, subject to the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee. The advisor serves as chair of the final oral examination committee. Responsibility for conducting and evaluating the final oral examination rests with the doctoral candidate’s final oral examination committee. 

Dissertation ApprovalBefore a defense can be held, the doctoral candidate must submit a complete dissertation or DMA document to the dissertation committee for review and approval or disapproval. Doctoral candidates must ensure that they meet the completion timeline set forth by the Graduate Studies Committee.

SchedulingA dissertation committee member’s approval of the complete and defensible dissertation draft means that the committee member judges it to be of sufficient merit to warrant holding the final oral examination. To schedule the final exam the doctoral candidate must submit an Application for Final Examination on GRADFORMS and have this approved by each dissertation committee member at least two weeks before the proposed defense date. After the final oral examination committee has been approved by the Graduate School and the Graduate Faculty Representative has been assigned, the Report on Final Examination and Report on Final Document are made available to the examination committee. The final oral examination must take place during announced university business hours, Monday through Friday. Exams may be held on the Ohio State University campus or via video conference, dependent upon unanimous agreement by the student and committee. 

Graduate Faculty RepresentativeOnce the final oral examination is scheduled, the Graduate School appoints the Graduate Faculty Representative (GFR). The GFR is a Category P graduate faculty member who is neither a graduate faculty member in the doctoral candidate’s graduate program nor a member of the dissertation committee. No less than one week before the final oral examination, a complete and defensible dissertation or DMA document draft must be presented to the GFR for reference. 

The presence of the GFR is required at the oral examination for its entire duration. The GFR is a full voting member of the final oral examination committee and is invited by the advisor to ask questions. The GFR has the right to ask at least one question and renders an opinion by observation of the student’s answers to all questions. The purpose of the GFR on the final oral examination committee is: 

  1. To assess the rigor of the examination process. 
  2. To assess the fairness, professionalism and integrity of the examination process. 
  3. To assess conformity to rules of the Graduate School (e.g., duration of the exam, adequate time for questions by the committee members). 

The GFR reports a judgment of the above to the Graduate School once the final oral examination is completed through an evaluation form on GRADFORMS, preferably within 48 hours after the examination. 

Attendance and FormatAll members of the final oral examination committee are expected to be present during the entire examination. All committee members are expected to participate fully in questioning during the course of the examination and in the discussion of and decision on the result. The final oral examination lasts no longer than two hours.  

The Graduate School recommends that a public presentation of the dissertation research by the doctoral candidate be held at some point before the end of their graduate program. The public presentation may be attended by other faculty members (who are not members of the final oral examination committee) and graduate students, subject to the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee. A public presentation of the dissertation research, including questions from the public, is allowed within the two-hour period of the final oral examination, but is recommended to last about one-half hour.  

At least one hour of the two-hour examination period, however, must be allotted to discussion of the research and to questions by the final oral examination committee members and answers by the doctoral candidate. The Graduate School recommends a closed questioning session (limited to the committee members) in which the committee members pose substantial questions for the oral examination. Local programs may develop additional local protocols and procedures. 

Video ConferencingThe use of video conferencing during the final oral examination is permitted for committee members not present during the oral examination to enable them to remain connected for the duration of the examination. If a connection is lost for more than five minutes, the oral examination will be halted and resumed upon reestablishment of the connection. All doctoral final oral examinations involving video conferencing must adhere to the Graduate School’s guidelines for video conferencing   (see Appendix B).

PostponementThe final oral examination is expected to be held as scheduled; however, circumstances may prompt the advisor to postpone it. Before taking such action, the advisor must consult the doctoral candidate and the other members of the dissertation or DMA document committee, which does not include the GFR. Prior to the examination, the advisor must notify the Graduate School of the postponement. 

Halting an Oral Examination in ProgressIf for reasons of illness, fire, or other emergency, the committee members, including the Graduate Faculty Representative, agree that it is necessary to halt the final oral examination, then the examination shall be rescheduled without prejudice to the doctoral candidate. If, however, the committee members unanimously decide that the examination has been sufficient to reach a decision to pass the doctoral candidate, then they shall consider the examination concluded and shall report the result to the Graduate School.