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Final Program Examination, Master's and Specialist Students

POLICY SOURCE: Graduate Policies - 01 Masters Policies POLICY NO: 8136
SUPERCEDES: 6174
TITLE: Final Program Examination, Master's and Specialist Students SUBMITTED BY: Rosemary Layne
DATE: Oct 19, 2017 APPROVED BY: Liz Fox

Effective Date Oct 19, 2017

(Graduate Policy 1.6)

A final program examination is required of all thesis students (in this case called a “defense”) and all master’s non-thesis students with the exception of the programs in which individual student mastery has been documented within an approved capstone course as defined in graduate policy "Graduate Capstone Course." Examinations are administered by a committee as described in the graduate policy “Examination Committees” and are normally scheduled in two-hour blocks to allow adequate time for the committee to examine each student individually. A decision that a student has passed any examination requires the unanimous consent of the committee.

Types of Examinations

(Graduate Policy 1.6.1)

Final program examinations are required of all thesis and most non-thesis students.

Non-Thesis 

(Graduate Policy 1.6.1.1)

The examination may be either written or oral or both, at the discretion of the academic unit, and except for graduate policy “Non-Thesis Exception” number one, must be taken no earlier than the next-to-last full semester (not including summer terms) in which the student is registered for classes.

  1. The student must have completed at least 50 percent of the credits required for graduation before the start of the semester in which the examination is taken.
  2. The student must be within nine credits of graduation by the end of the semester in which the examination is taken.
  3. If the examination is not taken in the last full term in which the student is registered, then approval to take the examination must be granted by the committee.
Non-Thesis Exception

(Graduate Policy 1.6.1.1.1)

In certain instances, a student may petition the academic unit to take the examination in the next-to-last full semester (not including summer terms) in which the student is registered for courses, subject to the following constraints:

  1. The student must have completed prior to, or is currently completing in the semester in which the examination is taken, all core/required courses as specified in the student's program plan.
  2. The student must be within nine credits of graduation by the end of the semester in which the examination is taken.
  3. Approval to take the examination must be granted by the academic unit head.
  4. The student must have completed at least two academic terms (excluding summer).
  5. The examination must be taken no earlier than the 10th week of the semester.

Graduate Capstone Course

(Graduate Policy 1.6.1.1.2)

A graduate capstone course is defined as a formal course in which a student performs independent work under the guidance of a faculty member and/or committee and demonstrates synthesis and integration across the courses in the program. The student has the opportunity to apply knowledge and skills that they have gained by completing a product that demonstrates what they have learned in the academic program. It is expected that the course evaluates depth of knowledge in the specific discipline and validates what the student has learned in the academic program. [Formal course: A classroom-based course or the equivalent in which grades of A, B, C, D or F are given].

Thesis

(Graduate Policy 1.6.1.2)

Copies of the thesis must be submitted to the Thesis Committee at least two calendar weeks prior to the proposed date of the thesis defense.

The examination consists primarily of an oral defense of the thesis and takes place during the last term of registration for M.S. Thesis. Questions may be asked that pertain to related subject matter as well as directly to the thesis itself. Questions requiring a written response may be directed to the candidate in advance of the scheduled oral defense.

Registration requirements for thesis students are stated in graduate policies “Registration” and “Thesis/Design Project/Dissertation Registration in the Semester of Graduation.”

Scheduling Final Program Examinations

(Graduate Policy 1.6.2)

An examination candidate must have grade point averages (both program and overall, if different) of 3.0 or higher at the time of the exam in order to be permitted to schedule any final program examination.

Oral examinations, whether thesis related or not, must normally be scheduled for at least two hours each. Even if two or more students have performed similar research, each student will be examined independently.

Oral Examinations (Rev. 9/18/15)

(Graduate Policy 1.6.3)

It is expected that the entire committee will be present for the full duration of the examination.

All oral examinations must be included in the weekly schedule of oral examinations published by the Office of Graduate Programs. Notification to the Office of Graduate Programs too late for inclusion in the weekly schedule will normally result in postponement of the exam.

Non-thesis oral examinations are open only to members of the graduate faculty. The thesis defense may be partitioned into two components: an optional "open" component open to anyone and a mandatory "closed" component open only to members of the graduate faculty. If an academic unit requires a candidate's defense to include an open component, this must be stated as a degree requirement in the university catlog entry for that master's degree program.

The decision to pass the student resides entirely with the committee, although visiting graduate faculty members may be invited to take part in the closed deliberations of the committee, in a non-voting capacity, at the discretion of the committee chair.

Written Examinations 

(Graduate Policy 1.6.4)

For written examinations, application must be made by the student to the academic unit at least one month in advance of the desired examination date. Final program examination dates will normally be announced each term by academic units requiring written exams.

A candidate must be enrolled during the term the exam is taken or retaken in the case of a failed exam (graduate policy “Failed Final Program Examinations”). An exception is made for a non-thesis student if a separate examination fee is paid. Student accounting or the Office of Graduate Programs can provide information about this fee.

The examination is prepared under the direction of the committee and the results evaluated by the committee, although it is not necessary that the committee be present when the written examination is administered.

Failed Final Program Examinations

(Graduate Policy 1.6.5)

A properly signed examination form marked “FAILED” must be forwarded to the Office of Graduate Programs any and every time a student fails to pass. Students who fail a first attempt to pass any final program examination will be allowed to take a second examination, administered by the identical committee, but the committee should specify a minimum time interval between the two exams. Under no circumstances will a student be permitted to continue to register in the same major, or to attempt again to pass the final program examination in the same major, after the exam has been failed three times.

If the failed exam was written, the committee chair will inform the student in writing of the following:

  1. Which areas were failed
  2. Whether the second exam will cover just the failed areas or all areas specified in the first exam
  3. Whether the subsequent exam will be oral or written
  4. As a minimum, the second exam must cover all areas failed in the first attempt

If the failed exam was oral, the second exam should be similar in content and format, although with different subject matter emphases based on weaknesses identified in the first examination.

If a student fails a second time, a third examination, administered by the identical committee as the previous two examinations, is possible on written petition by the student and approval by the committee. If the committee approves the request, it is advisable that they suggest additional coursework to be taken by the student before the third examination is scheduled, and that a time interval of at least one term be specified regardless of whether the student takes more courses or not. In requesting a third examination, any student may choose to take an oral exam regardless of the format of the first two exams.

Thesis grades shall be as explained in graduate policy “Thesis Grades.” In the case of exams failed for the third time, the Office of Graduate Programs will request the registrar to annotate the transcript:

“M.S. THESIS DEFENSE FAILED [date of third failure]”
or
“M.S. FINAL PROGRAM EXAMINATION FAILED [date of third failure]”

Reporting Final Program Examinations

(Graduate Policy 1.6.6)

On completion of any final program examination, regardless of outcome, it is the responsibility of the committee chair to complete an examination form, signed by all committee members who are present at the examination, as well as by the academic unit head, and to submit it to the Office of Graduate Programs.

For a written exam, the form should be submitted as soon as the exam is graded, and should represent a final result based on all sections of the exam: if all sections have been passed, the result is a pass, and if any sections have not been passed, the result is a failure.

For oral exams, including thesis defenses, the examination form should be signed immediately after the end of the examination by the committee members present, and then by the academic unit head whether or not present, and then forwarded to the Office of Graduate Programs. It is noted that under unusual circumstances, an oral exam, including a thesis defense, may be recessed and completed at a later date due to problems identified during the initial questioning that preclude passing but do not call for failure, and that can be resolved in a reasonably short period of time.