Final MSc Exam

Typically, the final oral exam for MSc students is scheduled at the end of the second year or approximately one year after the thesis proposal meeting. MSc students have four years from their first term of registration to complete all degree requirements.

Examination Committee Composition 

  • The chair is a member of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute graduate committee who is not the supervisor and is appointed by the NMHI administrator.
  • The student’s supervisory committee.
  • One arm’s length examiner. The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) defines “arm’s length” as someone who must not be (or have been) a member of the supervisory committee, or have been connected with the thesis research in a significant way. The examiner should not have been associated with the student, outside of usual contact in courses or other non-thesis activities within the university, nor be related to the student or supervisor(s). Except in special circumstances (fully justified in writing to the vice-dean, FGSR), an arm’s length examiner should not be a close collaborator of the supervisor(s) within the last six years.

Purpose of the Examination

The purpose of the final MSc examination is to assess the student’s:

  1. Knowledge of the literature relevant to their research area,
  2. Understanding of the procedures used to collect and analyze their data
  3. Understanding of the significance of their research in the context of their research area and
  4. Knowledge of the limitations and pitfalls of their chosen methodology.

Role of the Examination Committee

The committee will review the thesis document and conduct an oral examination to test the student's knowledge of the thesis subject and of related fields. The final decision of the examination committee will be based both on the quality of the thesis document and on the student’s performance in defence of that document.

MSc Thesis Document  

All regulations regarding the preparation of the thesis are governed by FGSR. Please visit FGSR thesis requirements and preparation for current requirements.

Preparing for the Examination 

  1. Students must submit a completed thesis to the supervisory committee with sufficient time so that each member can submit a form indicating their decision on its suitability for defense at least seven weeks prior to the examination. The exam date cannot be set before members of the supervisory committee recommend that the thesis is acceptable for examination on the Preliminary Acceptance of Thesis form.
  2. Because the exam must be set with FGSR three weeks prior to the date of the exam and a chair for the exam must be arranged, the Preliminary Acceptance of Thesis form(s) must be submitted by the student to the NMHI office at least five weeks before the date of the exam. The members can each sign a different form; all signatures do not have to be on the same form.
  3. Once the NMHI administrator receives all of the signatures as supplied by the student, the administrator will inform the supervisor. It is then the responsibility of the supervisor to arrange the date, time and place of the exam at least five weeks prior to the exam.
  4. Once the administrator has been informed of the date, time and place of the exam, the administrator will arrange for the chair from among the members of the Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute graduate committee. The administrator will then inform the supervisor and student of the chair. It is then the student’s responsibility to provide a hard and/or electronic copy of the thesis to the chair.
  5. Once the meeting has been set and the chair arranged, the administrator will email the supervisor the FGSR form Notice and Approval of a Master's Final Oral Examining Committee & Examination Date. The supervisor must print this form, sign it and return it with the original signature to the Institute office.
  6. The student must provide the NMHI administrator with the exact name of the thesis as soon as it is known and at least a few days prior to the exam.
  7. The administrator will provide FGSR with the Notice and Approval of a Master's Final Oral Examining Committee & Examination Date at least three weeks prior to the exam.

Format of the Examination

A formal public seminar is not required for an MSc degree but can be scheduled if the student or supervisor wish to hold one prior to the exam. It would be attended by the supervisory committee and other interested individuals. If a seminar is scheduled, please ensure that the venue is appropriate and provide the NMHI office with a seminar title and abstract at least two weeks in advance so the seminar notice may be circulated. If the student does not present a public seminar the final examination will be preceded by a 30 minute presentation attended by the supervisory committee.

Possible Outcomes of the Examination

If all but one member of the committee agrees on a decision, the decision shall be that of the majority. If two or more dissenting votes are recorded, the department will refer the matter to the vice-dean (FGSR), who will determine an appropriate course of action.

  • Pass: If the student passes the examination, the committee shall sign the Thesis Approval/Program Completion form and submit it immediately to the NMHI office. The administrator will arrange for the final signature and submit the form to FGSR.
  • Pass subject to revisions: The student has satisfactorily defended the thesis but the revisions to the thesis are sufficiently minor that it will not require a reconvening of the examining committee. Members wishing to do so may sign immediately. The committee chair or supervisor withholds signature until the thesis is amended satisfactorily and all other committee members have signed. Sign the Program Completion form and submit it to the Institute office indicating "pass subject to revisions." It is expected that the student will make the changes in time to submit the thesis to the FGSR on or before the deadline for the next convocation. These changes should be checked and approved by the supervisor, who does not sign until the required changes are satisfactorily completed. Other committee members may also wish to withhold their signature until they can verify that their required revisions have been made to their satisfaction. Once the revisions have been satisfactorily completed, the supervisor will visit the NMHI office, sign the form and the administrator will submit the form to FGSR.
  • Adjourned: The final oral examination should be adjourned in the following situations:

    The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial (if further research or experimentation or major reworking of sections are required, or if the committee is not satisfied with the general presentation of the thesis) that it will require a reconvening of the examining committee. The committee should not propose that the student has passed, rather the committee shall adjourn the examination.

    • The committee is dissatisfied with the student's oral presentation and defence of the thesis, even if the thesis itself is acceptable with or without minor revisions.
    • Compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency during the examination.
    • If the examination is adjourned, the committee should: 
      • Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions to the thesis, the extent of the revisions required. Where the oral defence is unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to arrange some discussion periods with the Student prior to reconvening the examination.
      • Decide upon a date to reconvene. If the date of the reconvened oral examination depends upon the completion of a research task or a series of discussions, it should be made clear which committee members will decide on the appropriate date to reconvene. The final date set for reconvening shall be no later than six months from the date of the examination. A final decision of the examining committee must be made within six months of the initial examination.
      • Make it clear to the student what will be required by way of approval before the examination is reconvened (i.e., approval of the committee chair or supervisor, approval of the entire committee or of select members of the committee).
      • Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in meeting the necessary revisions.
      • Advise the vice-dean (FGSR), and the NMHI office in writing of the adjournment and the conditions.
      • When the date is set for the adjourned final oral examination, the supervisor will notify the NMHI office and the NMHI will notify the FGSR. Normally the dean, vice-dean, associate dean or pro dean attends the examination.
  • Fail: If the final examination committee agrees that the student has failed, the committee chair shall provide the reasons for this recommendation and the department's recommendation for the student's program in writing to the vice-dean (FGSR), to the student and to the NMHI office. The vice-dean (FGSR) will arrange to meet with the student and with department representatives before acting upon any department recommendation. A decision of the FGSR which affects a student's academic standing (e.g., required to withdraw) is appealable.

Time Limit for Submission of Theses to FGSR

Following completion of the final oral examination at which the thesis is passed or passed subject to revisions, the student shall make the appropriate revisions where necessary and submit the approved thesis to FGSR within six months of the date of the final oral examination. The Neuroscience and Mental Health Institute may impose earlier deadlines for submitting revisions.

If the thesis is not submitted to FGSR within the six month time limit, the student will be considered to have withdrawn from the program. After this time, the student must apply and be readmitted to FGSR and register again before the thesis can be accepted.

If the final oral examination is adjourned, the six month time limit will take effect from the date of completion of the examination where the thesis was passed with or without revisions.

In order to convocate, students must submit their thesis to the FGSR for approval before the deadline dates set out in the Academic Schedule of the Calendar. Students must also ensure that they are registered in the appropriate thesis course in their last registration prior to convocation.