CCEE PhD Oral Exam Information & Process

Exam Schedule:

All doctoral students must attain candidacy for the degree within four years of starting their program or after they have completed 48 hours of coursework, whichever is later.  See the Comprehensive Examinations section of the Graduate Handbook for more information.


Written Exam:

– The committee decides on the specific format of this exam, and each member of the advisory committee prepares a set of questions for the student’s response, and the answers to each set are returned to the appropriate faculty member for evaluation.

– The questions involved may cover any phase of the coursework taken by the student during graduate study or any subject logically related to an understanding of the subject matter in the major and minor areas of study. The questions are designed to measure the student’s mastery of his/her field and the adequacy of preparation for research.

Notification of completion. Committee chair(s) must notify the DGP when a student has completed the written examination.

Oral Preliminary Exam:

The Schedule for part time and direct-to-PhD students is coordinated by the advisory committee and the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP).


I.  Written Exam:  The exam is coordinated by the chair of the advisory committee.  The committee prepares the written exam with input from each committee member.  The Department Exam Report for is used to inform both the student and the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP) of the outcome of the exam.  The exam report should be handled by the committee chair/co-chair or committee member and NOT the student.

II.  Preliminary Oral Exam:  The student prepares a written proposal and submits it to the committee before the exam, typically one week prior unless otherwise specified by the committee.

     Process:  The PhD Preliminary and Final Oral Exams must be formally schedule through the Graduate School.

  1.   Complete the Request to Schedule Oral Exam (Preliminary or Final) Form.
  2.   Submit (in person or via email) the completed form to the GSO (Graduate Services Office ~
  3.   Plan of Work must be approved.
  4.   Written PhD Exam Report must be on file with the GSO.
  5. The student and advisory committee will be notified of the approved request via email.
  6. Forms needed for the exam will be included in a calendar event notification sent out by the GSC (Jodie).  Calendar Event application used is Google Calendar.

III.  Final Oral Exam:  Scheduled after the dissertation is complete except for such revisions as may be necessary as a result of the exam, but not before all required coursework has been completed. The final oral presentation (dissertation defense) is announced by the graduate programs office and is open to graduate students and faculty.


  1. Complete the Request to Schedule Oral Exam (Preliminary or Final) Form in consultation with advisory committee.
  2. Submit (in person or via email) the completed for the GSO (Graduate Services Office ~
  3. The student and advisory committee will be notified of the approved request via email.
  4. Forms needed for the exam will be included in a calendar event notification sent out by the GSC (Jodie).  Calendar Event application used is Google Calendar.
  5. Zoom links should be created by the committee chair so that they can manage the meeting as the host.

Conducting Remote Exams During the COVID-19 Epidemic:

Information from the Dean:

The Graduate School will allow for remote defenses given the move to limit face-to-face meetings. Request to Conduct Remote Exam is NOT REQUIRED.

If there is a need for a student during a defense to use a whiteboard, the use of Zoom is available.  Zoom allows you to annotate on a whiteboard, but also allows you to annotate any shared screen, such as slides, a document, a web page, etc. It’s a commonly used feature, so it is pretty easy to do. Below is the information that they (Zoom) have supplied, and we would like to reiterate their suggestion that it be tested out beforehand (although that’s certainly not foolproof as things seem to work flawlessly until it actually matters).

Sharing your screen (instructions and video):

At around 0:12 of the video above, you can see the screen where you would select “whiteboard.”
Full instructions are below the video, organized by operating system.

Sharing a whiteboard (instructions by OS, no video):

I strongly suggest doing a trial session first, mainly for these two reasons:
1. It is possible that you might have to grant your computer permission to screen share, in which case you would have to quit Zoom and restart it. Better to take care of this ahead of time.
2. Zoom settings for the host must be configured with screen sharing enabled. This setting is enabled by default in NC State’s Zoom, but it is possible for a user to go in and override the setting by turning it off.
Doing a quick 2-minute trial session would allow a user to check those two things. And a s=lightly longer trial session would allow time to play around with the whiteboard and get familiar with the tools. Also recommended. 🙂

Considerations when setting up online oral exams

  • The oral exam can be made public by appropriately setting up in zoom or other online meeting applications
  • The chair should ensure that the committee has the opportunity to have a “closed” session with the candidate;
    • E.g., set up a separate meeting for the public, or drop or put on hold all but the committee and the candidate from the zoom meeting after the public session
  • Similarly, the chair should ensure that the committee members have the opportunity to discuss with each other in the absence of the candidate after the presentation and Q&A
  • The chair should complete the exam paperwork to reflect the committee decision and all conditions if it is a conditional pass, sign, scan and email to the committee members.
  • Committee members will sign, scan and send their copy to Jodie, or send an email to Jodie with the exam form and indicate their approval.

Best Practices for Remote Prelim/Final Oral Exams

As we move forward with remote exams, there are several elements that should be considered:
1. Given that we are moving away from the request form, an important element of that form is that it made clear that technical issues could impact the exam to the point that it really isn’t viable. So, the recommendation would be that students and the committee realize that this could occur.
2. It would also be good for two zoom meetings to be scheduled – one that could be sent out to faculty, other students, and other potential audience members where they could see the presentation and the other to be one for the committee and student.
3. The student should be disinvited for the committee deliberation and then asked via some method to re-engage once a decision has been reached.

Best Practices & Tips Document from Dean Peter Harries

Additional information: 

Remote participants must join via a connection that has video capabilities (not just an audio connection like a phone) if one wants to see or show something to each other. We do not believe that the remote committeee member is required to have the video connection open throughout the exam unless necessary (one could mute mic/speaker/video when not needed). Primarily the candidate or the committee members cannot complain that they couldn’t evaluate properly or the evaluation was not proper because one was not able to see something due to a lack of a video link.


  • Request to Schedule Oral Exam
  • PhD Form – important information for the student regarding ETD guidelines and deadlines
  • Exam Report Form – to be completed by the committee
  • Oral Assessment Form– to be completed and submitted by each committee member

Exam Report Form must be turned in to the GSO within 48 hours of the exam date.

Additional Forms:

Request to Conduct Remote Oral Exam Form

External/Consultant Appointment Form

Inter-Institutional Appointment Form

Oral Assessment Form