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Specialization Area Exam

  • The student completes the written exam (one essay out of three questions) on campus.
  • Within one week of the written exam, the student takes the oral exam (two hours), which is devoted to questions pertaining both to the written exam and to the reading list as a whole.
  • Evaluation: 40% for written exam; 60% for oral exam.
  • If a student fails either portion of the SAE, the student is allowed one opportunity to rewrite it within four months of receiving the failed grade.

SAE Written Examination

The student will write a three-hour exam concentrating on one question from a choice of three questions determined by the SAE committee. It is recommended that students write an essay of eight-12 double-spaced pages in the time allotted.

The student’s advisor is responsible for coordinating at least one meeting with the student and the SAE committee during the winter term that begins the student’s SAE study.

The student will sit the oral qualifying examination within seven days of completing the written portion of the SAE. 

SAE Oral Qualifying Candidacy Examination

The oral examination constitutes the student's qualifying candidacy examination.

The committee for the oral examination is constituted by the three members of the SAE committee. The examination committee determines the grades for the written portion of the SAE, and for the oral examination.

Procedures for the Oral Qualifying Examination

The examination is chaired by the graduate coordinator, or designate; if the coordinator is a member of the examining committee, then he or she will invite another member of the graduate faculty to chair the examination.

The examination is scheduled for a two-hour duration.

Before the examination begins, the chair of the examination reviews the procedures regulating the examination, as follows:

  • The examination begins with the student’s 10-minute summary of the specialized field of study, demonstrating the candidate’s understanding of the reading list and field, contextualized in relation to the dissertation topic. The student may bring in notes or a written statement for the summary, but these aids are not permitted for the oral defence;
  • The committee member who is most at arm's length from the candidate's project begins the questioning, to be followed by the second reader and, finally, the student's advisor;
  • Each examiner is allotted 15 minutes for questioning. Examiners may choose to conduct a second round of questioning in which they are allotted five minutes to question the student;
  • Examiners may ask questions pertaining to the student's SAE reading list, and its relation to the dissertation topic, as well as about the written portion of the exam;
  • Following the examination, the student will leave the room while the examination committee determines the grades for the written paper and the oral exam. The chair of the examination does not participate in the assignment of grades;
  • The student may be awarded one of two grades, pass or fail, and is asked to note that the oral portion of the exam is weighed more heavily than the written portion. Students who fail will be granted one more attempt to complete both portions of the SAE, within a four-month period, before the end of the next marking period.
  • Following the committee's deliberation, the chair of the examination informs the student as to whether she/he has passed or failed the examination.

Within one week of the oral qualifying examination, the SAE supervisor writes a two-page report, based upon the findings of the full examining committee, each member of which co-signs the report. The report will comment on the written and oral parts of the exam, and will include any suggestions the committee might have for the student’s final dissertation proposal.

The advisor submits the report to the graduate coordinator, with a copy to the student. Upon satisfactory completion of the oral qualifying examination, the student is deemed to have met the PhD program standards and becomes a candidate for the PhD degree, and proceeds to complete the dissertation proposal.