PhD Preliminary Oral Exam

PhD Preliminary Oral Exam Requirements

The following requirements must be met with GSSP before the PhD Preliminary Oral Examination can be authorized:

1. You must hold active status at the time of the examination.

2. Your Graduate Degree Plan form or GPAS Planner must be approved and on file with GSSP.

  • Note: minors must be declared and approved prior to the PhD Preliminary Oral Exam.

3. You must have an approved PhD Oral Examination Committee on file with GSSP. Committee assignments and updates are initiated by the student.

4. The results of your PhD written exam (reported by your program to GSSP) must be on file with GSSP.

Committee assignments and updates are initiated by the student.

For information on who can serve on the PhD preliminary oral exam committee, including external committee member information, please review the Committee Membership Information.

Scheduling the PhD Preliminary Oral Exam

You must schedule the preliminary and final oral exam (final defense) with Graduate Student Services and Progress (GSSP) online as soon as the dates are set, but no later than one week prior to the examinations. Once you schedule online, a confirmation email will be sent to your UMN email account.

At least one week prior to the exam, you will receive an email from GSSP with information regarding outstanding oral exam requirements, how to fulfill the requirements, and or the status of the form. GSSP verifies that all examination requirements have been completed before releasing a doctoral oral exam form.

Choose the following link below to schedule:

Please note that you are responsible for scheduling and confirming the times and places of the examinations with all committee members and for following your program’s internal scheduling procedures.

For changes to your exam committees, view the examination committees page for more information. If you have questions or want to cancel or reschedule your exam, contact GSSP.

PhD oral examinations should not be scheduled during the summer unless the members of the assigned committee can be assembled without substitution.

  1. Every doctoral student must pass a PhD oral examination in the major field. The preliminary oral examination is conducted as a closed examination, attended by only the student and the examining committee.
    1. The oral examination may not take place before the program has certified that the candidate has passed all written examination requirement(s).
    2. The PhD oral examination will be graded either pass, pass with reservations, or fail.
    3. If a student fails the exam, the student may retake the examination once, if all committee members, or all committee members save one, approve this option on the PhD Oral Examination form.
    4. The second attempt to pass the PhD preliminary oral examination must use the same committee members unless an extraordinary or emergency situation necessitates a substitution.
    5. If the committee does not approve a retake, or if the student fails the second attempt, the student will be terminated from the doctoral program.
  2. The PhD preliminary oral committee must consist of at least four members, including the student’s advisor's. All members appointed to the committee must meet the minimum standards established by the program and college. All members of the committee and the candidate must participate in the preliminary oral examination. Committee members and/or the student may participate remotely as long as all conditions for remote participation in the examination are met.
    1. At least three members (including the advisor) must be from the student's major field (Faculty holding graduate faculty status in Electrical Engineering from other programs cannot be major field committee members. The exception to this is faculty member who serves as an advisor who holds graduate faculty status in Electrical Engineering).
    2. At least one member must represent a field outside the major. If the student has declared a minor, the outside member, or one of the outside members, must represent the minor field. (Electrical Engineering faculty with graduate faculty status in another department may not represent the outside major.)
    3. Members cannot satisfy the requirement with respect to more than one field.
  3. Collegiate deans or their designated representatives at the collegiate level must verify eligibility and approve the members of the PhD oral examination committee.
  4. Voting Requirements for the PhD preliminary oral examination:
    1. At the end of the closed examination, the candidate is excused from the room and an independent, non-binding vote is taken before discussion of the examination begins. This initial non-binding vote is intended to represent the independent assessment of each committee member of the student’s performance free from undue influence of other committee members. Following discussion, a final vote is taken and is recorded on the examination form.
    2. The outcome of the PhD preliminary oral examination is recorded in one of three ways: pass, pass with reservations, or fail. The voting proportions necessary to pass the exam are shown in the table below:
  5. The PhD preliminary Oral exam committee must consist of at least four members, including the student’s advisor's. All members appointed to the committee must meet the minimum standards established by the program and college. All members of the committee and the candidate must participate in the preliminary oral examination. Committee members and/or the student may participate remotely as long as all conditions for remote participation in the examination are met.
    1. At least three members (including the advisor) must be from the student's major field.
    2. At least one member must represent a field outside the major. If the student has declared a minor, the outside member, or one of the outside members, must represent the minor field.
    3. Members cannot satisfy the requirement with respect to more than one field.
  6. Collegiate deans or their designated representatives at the collegiate level must verify eligibility and approve the members of the preliminary oral examination committee.
  7. Voting Requirements for the PhD preliminary oral examination:
    1. At the end of the closed examination, the candidate is excused from the room and an independent, non-binding vote is taken before discussion of the examination begins. This initial non-binding vote is intended to represent the independent assessment of each committee member of the student’s performance free from undue influence of other committee members. Following discussion, a final vote is taken and is recorded on the examination form.
    2. The outcome of the preliminary oral examination is recorded in one of three ways: pass, pass with reservations, or fail.

*The outcome is recorded as “pass with reservations” in situations where to achieve the minimum number of votes to reach a verdict of pass, any vote of pass with reservations is included. For example, on a four-person committee, if there is one “pass with reservations” vote and three pass votes, the result is pass. If there is one “pass with reservations” vote, one fail, and two pass votes, the result is pass with reservations.

3. Students who do not earn the minimum number of passing votes fail the examination. A vote to pass the student with reservations still constitutes a passing vote.