Final Exam (Thesis Defense)


The Final Exam represents the last significant opportunity for the Ph.D. committee to ask questions and provide comments on the thesis work. It also serves to disseminate the work to the public (including faculty, students, colleagues, friends, and family). In many ways it represents a celebration of the completion of the work. Unlike the Preliminary Exam, which is closed, the Final Exam is open to the public and announced along with other public seminars.

Exam Policies

  • The Thesis Defense must be taken at least four months after passing the Preliminary Exam. It is recommended that there be at least a 12 month gap between the Preliminary Exam and the Final Exam.
  • The Student, "Chair" and at least one additional voting member must be physically present for the exam. If the student designates a Chair and Co-Chair, both must be physically present at the exam. If the student knows that their Chair person may not physically be at the exam, they can designate another Chair person prior to scheduling the exam. Please keep in mind that that person will no longer hold the title as "Chair" person on all forms. The remaining committee may participate in the exam via teleconference or other electronic communication media. The Ph.D. committee guidelines in the Ph.D. Committees section must be followed. The committee for the Final Exam does not have to be the same as for the Preliminary Exam, although it often is. Any changes due to circumstances that may occur must meet all Department and Graduate College requirements.
  • A full thesis draft must be submitted to the Ph.D. committee at least three weeks prior to the scheduled defense to allow committee members a reasonable amount of time to review the thesis.
  • The Prelim-Final form must be submitted to the Academic Office to make the official arrangements no later than 30 days prior to the scheduled defense and prior to submitting the thesis draft to the committee. Effective Fall 2012, the Graduate College requires original "wet" signatures of the "Chair", "Co-Chair" and "Department Head" on the Final Exam Result form.
  • The student's presentation is publicly advertised so that all who are interested in the research may attend.
  • After the presentation and questions are concluded, the public is asked to leave to so that the committee can privately pass judgment on the work.
  • You must be registered in the term in which you take your final defense. If you are done with your coursework, you can register for zero hours of CS599. Please keep in mind that registration below six hours for Spring or Fall terms, will not automatically assess all of the fees including McKinley, transportation, campus rec facilities, clean air technology and Krannert. You will be covered for your basic health care. If you want these services, you will need to pay for them separately when registering for less than six hours in Spring or Fall and less than three hours for Summer term.

The defense itself usually proceeds as follows:

  • a few minutes of private discussion by the committee;
  • a public presentation presented by the Ph.D. candidate, typically lasting for 45 minutes;
  • questions from the committee, in front of the public;
  • questions from the public;
  • questions from the committee without the public present;
  • private discussion by the committee; and
  • outcome decided and announced to the candidate.

Contact Maggie Metzger Chappell (or at 333-3527) in the Academic Office with any questions.

Guidance on How to Prepare

  • You should not rush to schedule a Final Exam if the work is not completely finished or the thesis is not completely written.
  • It is common for the committee to suggest some minor improvements or corrections to the manuscript; however, it is usually not the case that substantial new work is expected. If there is any risk of the committee requesting further work, be prepared to allot the time necessary to make the recommended changes or enhancements to the thesis. Consult your advisor on this point.
  • It is important to attend other defenses to understand the whole Ph.D. process and to learn valuable skills from other students' defenses.

Photo of students collaborating

Graduate Advising

A Guiding Hand for Grads - Our Academic Office is available to assist Illinois CS graduate students every weekday.