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Final Oral Examination

The Graduate College requires a final oral examination (also called a defense) for a master’s student only if the student is completing a thesis as a culminating activity. The examination must consist of three sequential parts in which the student presents and defends the thesis research:

  1. A public presentation
  2. A public question and answer session
  3. A private question and answer session with the defense committee

The final oral examination should occur no later than the date specified in the academic calendar. This date is set to allow time for final revision and processing of the thesis so that a student who passes the final oral examination has a reasonable chance for graduation in the same semester or session. Announcement of the public presentation to the university community is required and should precede the presentation by at least two (2) weeks.

The defense committee for a master’s student is identical to the student’s supervisory committee, and the chair of the supervisory committee is responsible for conducting all three parts of the final oral examination according to procedures established by the Graduate College. However, at the request of the student or academic unit, a graduate faculty representative (GFR) may be appointed as a nonvoting member to the defense committee by the Graduate Dean. The GFR must be a member of the Graduate Faculty and a member of an academic unit not represented on the supervisory committee. The GFR conducts all three parts of the final oral examination according to procedures established by the Graduate College.

The result of a final oral examination for a master’s student can only be reported as pass or fail. The determination of pass or fail is by a vote of the voting members of the defense committee with a simple majority determining the outcome unless the graduate program requires a unanimous vote for pass. If a tie vote occurs, then the student is considered to have failed the final oral examination. A result of pass is immediately documented by the signatures of the voting members of the defense committee on the Defense Committee Approval form that is to be bound with the paper copies of the thesis. A result of fail is immediately documented on a Report of Failure of a Final Oral Examination form that is submitted to the Graduate College by either the chair of the supervisory committee or the GFR.