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 and the final committee may participate in the exam in person, or via teleconference or other electronic communication media.   Synchronous remote participation of the student or committee member(s) is permitted on the final examination committees under the guidelines approved by the Graduate College.  Please see the Graduate College Handbook for current guidelines on synchronous remote participation.
  • 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 proposed committee and exam date must be submitted to the Graduate College at least 3 weeks prior to the exam through the Graduate College Student Portal.  (Note: The process to submit the .Ph.D Preliminary and Final Examination committee requests has been revised effective Spring 2022.) The Graduate College requires this time to approve the committee and officially appoint it.  Upon approval of the committee, CS Academic Advisers will communicate with the Exam Committee Chair to ensure the necessary documentation is sent to the Committee Chair, to receive the Final Examination results from the Committee, and to report the final results to the Graduate College.
  • 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.
  • All students must be registered for the term in which the Final Examination occurs. Students who have completed all required coursework and the credit hours can register for zero hours of CS599 if there do not hold a graduate assistantship for the term.  Students who are on a graduate assistantship must register for nine credit hours in Fall and Spring terms. Please keep in mind that all of the fees including McKinley, transportation, campus rec facilities, clean air technology and Krannert will not be automatically assessed if a student registers below six hours for Spring or Fall terms. Student health insurance fees will be assessed. Students who require the additional services 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 Jennifer Comstock (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.


Graduate Advising

The Graduate Academic Office, a guiding hand for graduate students, offers assistance every weekday.