All graduate examinations are open to the faculty and faculty members are encouraged to attend and participate in such meetings. The student must be registered during the semester in which any examination required by Graduate School Policies is taken.
Examinations required by Graduate Policies and Procedures (Preliminary and Final Examinations), are scheduled through the Graduate School.
Requests to schedule examinations must include the time, date, building and room number, title of dissertation or thesis, and the names and signatures of the Examining Committee. These requests are due in the Graduate School at least two weeks before the examination date requested. Notification of the approval of the examination scheduling and the examination form/card will be sent electronically to the student and all members of the Examining Committee. The examination should not be conducted if the Advisor has not received notification that the examination has been scheduled and the examination form/card has been received. The signed examination form should be returned to the Graduate School within 1-2 days after the examination with each committee member signifying whether the exam performance was Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.
Preliminary examinations and non-thesis final examinations can be scheduled through the last day of exams for the term. Final examinations for master's thesis and doctoral students must be scheduled early enough in the term to meet the final ETD submission date.
Before filing the request for scheduling an examination, the student's record should be reviewed by the department to make sure that the Plan of Study has been filed and approved and that there are no problems. The Graduate Program Director's signature on the form is the departmental verification that the Plan of Study has been examined and that it is appropriate for the student to schedule the examination.
For Preliminary Examinations, which commonly are comprehensive examinations of the doctoral coursework, typically students complete the formal coursework on the Plan of Study prior to taking the exam. If a student has coursework remaining to be taken, the department should determine whether or not it is appropriate for the student to take the examination before all the graded coursework on the Plan of Study is completed. Students may take the Preliminary Examination despite having some grade problems on the Plan of Study (e.g., Incompletes, grades <C- that require retaking a course) but the student's Advisory Committee should address whether this will put the student at a disadvantage on the exam. If the decision is to schedule the exam in a case like this, a note addressing the committee's decision to move forward with the exam should accompanying the exam request. By the end of the degree, all grades on the Plan of Study must be a C- or higher and the Plan of Study and overall GPA must be 3.0 or higher.
For scheduling of the Final Examination, Thesis Master's and Ph.D. students must have the thesis/dissertation ready for defense (as judged by Advisory Committee members having read the document and signed the examination scheduling request) and the student must be able to complete all other degree requirements within the semester when the examination is held: all coursework on the Plan of Study will need to be completed with grades of C- or higher and both the Plan of Study GPA and the overall GPA must be a 3.0 or higher by the end of the semester. Because some of the problem situations with deficient grades or credits require retaking courses or adding credits, the Plan of Study should be examined at the beginning of the semester in which a student plans to take the Final Examination.
For Non-thesis Master's students, scheduling of the Final Examination requires that the student will be able to complete any Project and Report or Independent Study requirements, complete all coursework on the Plan of Study with grades of C- or higher and attain a Plan of Study and overall GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the semester.
Students wishing to schedule the Final Examination, who have not been enrolled at Virginia Tech for more than a year, need to file for Readmission and allow enough time for any problems to be resolved so they can be Readmitted prior to the 2 week period needed for Exam scheduling. The minimum enrollment is 3 cr.
For enrollment requirements when taking a Final Examination, see below.
Required examinations are administered during regular academic semesters or sessions, i.e., between the first day of classes for a given semester or session and ending with the last official day for examinations. Permission to schedule an examination in the time between sessions may be granted if an explanation of special circumstances requiring that scheduling is made to the Dean's office of the Graduate School by the student's Advisor. Scheduling of examinations between semesters/terms does not alter ETD submission or approval deadlines.
At least four scholars eligible to serve are required to participate on every doctoral Advisory Committee, and at least three are required for every master's Advisory Committee. All members of a student's Advisory Committee are required to participate in that student's doctoral (preliminary and final) or master's (final) examinations. If one of the Advisory Committee members cannot participate, the committee member should recommend to the Chair of the Advisory Committee, when possible, the name of a scholar eligible for advisory committee membership to serve as a proxy on the Examining Committee. After consultation with the student, the Chair of the Advisory Committee makes such a proxy appointment in writing. Those conducting the examination must all sign the examination card indicating whether they consider the student's performance to be Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. If an examination participant is at a remote location, that person may send an email message giving permission for the Chair of the Advisory Committee to sign on her or his behalf. The examination card should be returned to the Graduate School within 1-2 days after the exam. Note that a proxy member who serves on a final examination committee does not sign the Thesis or Dissertation Approval Form. It remains the responsibility of the student's Advisory Committee to evaluate the thesis or dissertation and sign this form.
Successful Completion of Required Examinations
To pass any of the required examinations, a graduate student is allowed at most one Unsatisfactory vote. If a student fails an examination, one full semester (a minimum of 15 weeks) must elapse before the second examination is scheduled. Not more than two opportunities to pass any one examination are allowed. A student failing any of the examinations required by Graduate Policies two times will be dismissed from graduate studies by the Graduate School.
Final Examination (Master's)
An oral and/or written final examination is required of all master's programs (see departmental policy for specific format). For some non-thesis master's programs, final exams are structured in special ways and in some non-thesis master's degrees the evaluation of a project is used in lieu of a final examination. For more information about master's final examinations, consult the departmental policies and procedures document. https://gradexam.stl.vt.edu/
Qualifying Examination (Doctoral)
Certain departments require doctoral students to take a qualifying examination (see departmental policies). The results typically are used to evaluate subject mastery, to determine deficiencies, and to determine whether the student should continue into dissertation research. The results of qualifying examinations are made part of the student’s departmental record. Qualifying examinations are not scheduled through the Graduate School.
Preliminary Examination (Doctoral)
The Preliminary Examination is a requirement for all doctoral students. This examination must be taken at least 6 months before the Final Examination. The Preliminary Examination may be oral or written, or both http://graduateschool.vt.edu/forms/academics/Request_to_Admit_Candidate_to_Prelim_Exam.pdf.
Individual departments may choose to administer the Preliminary Examination as a written departmental examination for a group of doctoral students. In this case the examination is typically administered by a committee with all members certifying the results to the department. If an Advisory Committee member cannot participate, the committee member should recommend to the Chair of the Advisory Committee, when possible, the name of a scholar eligible for advisory committee membership to serve as a proxy during the examination. After consultation with the student, the Chair of the Advisory Committee makes such a proxy appointment in writing. Regardless of the size of the size of the Committee, only one official proxy will be approved. The examination date requested should coincide with the date when the decision about the student's performance is made. The results should be reported to the Graduate School within 1-2 days of the decision about the examination. If a department conducts the Preliminary Examination as a departmental examination, the members of the individual student's Advisory Committee, including a proxy, must sign the examination card. If the Preliminary Examination consists of a written section followed by an oral examination, the examination date requested should be the date of the oral.
Final Examination (Doctoral)
All doctoral candidates must take a final oral and/or written examination, which is at minimum a defense of the dissertation. See Advisory Committee Approval of Thesis or Dissertation for a full explanation. This examination must be scheduled no earlier than six months after successful completion of the preliminary examination.
To be eligible for hooding at Commencement, the Final Examination must be completed and the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) must be approved by the Graduate School by the published deadline for the semesterhttp://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/dates_deadlines/commencement_deadlines.html
Registration/enrollment at the Time of Examinations
Graduate students must be enrolled for the minimum number of credits in the semester or summer session when they take an examination required by Graduate School Policies and in the semester when a degree is completed.
Students Working on the Thesis/Dissertation during a Semester or Summer
The minimum enrollment for students working on writing their thesis/dissertation and consulting with their Advisor and/or committee during a semester or summer is 3 credit hours. The exception is those students who may qualify for Defending Student Status (see below).
Defending Student Status
Qualification for DSS: A student who is
• on active status (i.e., does not require Readmission) and
• has a thesis/dissertation ready for defense at the beginning of the semester
may qualify for Defending Student status (DSS, 1 credit).
To be ready to defend, the student’s Advisory Committee members must have read the thesis/dissertation and agreed that it is in a form ready for defense (i.e., the thesis/dissertation is finished) and that it appears that the student will be able to make corrections and file the thesis/dissertation as an ETD by the deadline of two weeks after the defense.
If a student is not on active status, i.e., has not been enrolled for more than a calendar year, the Readmission process must be completed before the student can file to take the Final Examination or qualify for DSS.
The “DSS scheduling period” is
• the first three weeks of an academic semester and
• the Request for Final Exam must be received by the Graduate School within this scheduling period.
To allow for time to process the exam request (two weeks), students should make every effort to submit the DSS form and the Request to Schedule Examination form to the Graduate School by the end of the second week of the semester.
Final Exam/defense Date: If the student qualifies for DSS:
• the exam date should be set for as early as possible in the semester
• if the exam needs to be delayed, the student’s Advisor should explain the circumstances for the delay (e.g. employment at a distance that does not allow travel at certain times, committee members who are away on international travel, etc), in a letter/email to the Dean’s office.
• students are urged to pay careful attention to timing deadlines relative to Commencement. See http://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/dates_deadlines/commencement_deadlines.html for the deadlines for each semester of the current year.
DSS Enrollment: If DSS is approved, the Graduate School will register the student for 1 credit of GRAD 6864 (Master’s Defense) or GRAD 7864 (Doctoral Defense). Students cannot enroll themselves in DSS. If the student does not qualify for DSS, the minimum enrollment of 3 credits is required.
Students enrolled in DSS will be classified as less than half-time for certification purposes.
• This status may not meet the minimum requirement for most student financial aid or loan deferments.
• Students may wish to take into consideration their student loans when applying for DSS status.
• International students should consult the Graduate School concerning the visa implications of this status.
• Students on DSS are not eligible to hold assistantships or fellowships (see Eligibility for Graduate Assistantships).