Comprehensive Examinations (SOC9910)

The information provided here applies only to students who began the PhD program after May 1,  2012.  For the older rules and regulations, please contact the Program Coordinator.

  • The Comprehensive Examination (SOC9910) is comprised of two separate questions, each requiring a written answer, and one oral defence of both answers.  The two questions must be grounded in two distinct sub-disciplines of sociology.
  • The exam committee is comprised of: Supervisor + Co-supervisor (if applicable) + 2 other professors of  the school (+ 1 member external of the school (optional))
  • Students have the right to choose between two options (see next).  The choice must be made at the beginning of the process in consultation with the committee.  There is no form to complete at this point, but the student’s choice will be noted by the supervisor and is considered final.
  • Option 1: The student receives the two reading lists and the two questions at the same time, on May 31 at the latest.  The reading lists are considered to be suggestive, and students are free to go beyond them in answering the questions.  Each answer is expected to be between 12,000-15,000 words long, double-spaced.
  • Option 2: The student receives the two reading lists on May 31 at the latest. Students are expected to prepare for the exam without advance knowledge of the questions. The reading lists are considered fixed, and students are not expected to read beyond them.  The questions are communicated at the beginning of the exam period (see below), and the answers must be submitted within 96 hours (4 days). Each answer is expected to be between 6,000 and 8,000 words, double-spaced.
  • The exam is graded S/NS (satisfactory or unsatisfactory); and the grade is determined after the oral defence.
  • Students are required to complete the exam before the end of their sixth session of enrollment.  At the end of the sixth session, a grade of NS will be assigned. Students who began the program on a January date, or who were required to take extra courses as a condition of their admittance, must complete the exam before the end of their eighth session.
  • For Option 1: Answers may only be handed in on one of two submission dates each year: November 15 and May 1. In cases where these dates fall on a weekend, the submission date will be the following Monday.
  • For Option 2: There are only two windows each year for taking the exam, during the week of November 15 and the week of May 1.
  • Barring exceptional circumstances, the oral defence must take place at most one month following submission of answers.
  • The exam committee is chaired by the supervisor, who identifies the relevant sub-disciplines in consultation with the student.  The supervisor is responsible for organizing the communication of the reading lists and questions to the student, and for scheduling the oral defence.
  • The exam committee collaborates in compiling the reading lists and determining the questions posed to the student.  It is recommended that the student participate in compiling the reading lists but not the questions.  Final authority rests with the committee.
  • In contrast with the thesis proposal, the supervisor does not read or approve the student’s answers prior to submission.  The answers are accepted as is and forwarded to oral defence.  The exam committee does not formally meet between submission and defence.  However, students are free to discuss the evolution of their thinking with members of the committee prior to submission.  Students who have chosen Option 2 are barred from communicating with their supervisor or members of the committee during the 96 hours of the exam.
  • A typical oral defence is approximately 2 hours in length.
  • Each member of the committee may vote on the final grade (including the supervisor).
  • In case of failure of the comprehensive examination, there is a possibility of one re-take if the student does not have another failure in the program. Two failures in the program, either for course, comprehensive examination or the thesis proposal, lead to the withdrawal of the program.
  • Normally, both answers are handed in to the committee at the same time, with one oral defence.  For students who have chosen Option 1, the Program Coordinator will consider requests to submit and orally defend one answer at a time.  This is only to be done in exceptional circumstances (medical leave, parental leave, or other temporary disruption of studies).  This possibility is not open to students electing Option 2.
  • The student is responsible for sending the answers to his/her supervisor, committee members and the School Secretariat by email. A member who wishes to obtain a paper copy must inform the student at the time of the submission.

** For more information about the comprehensive examination, contact the Program Coordinator.

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