Comprehensive Examination for Ph.D. candidates

All Ph.D. students (admitted directly into the Ph.D. program, or those allowed to transfer from M.Sc.1 to Ph.D.2 without writing an M.Sc. thesis) must pass the Comprehensive exam.

Comprehensive Examination

All Ph.D. students candidates are required to pass a Pre-Doctoral Comprehensive Examination that should be taken within 36 months of enrollment in the Ph.D. program (within 24 months if they have fast-tracked from the M.Sc. program to Ph.D.2). This is an integral part of the Ph.D. program at the Department of Surgery and is consistent with the Ph.D. Comprehensive Policy at McGill university regulations and resources/graduate/gps guidelines and policies and comprehensives policy.

Purpose: The aim of this examination is to test 1) the student's understanding of the field of study and the vision for their project; 2) their ability to critically evaluate their own research as well as the research published in the peer-reviewed journals; 3) their ability to present and to defend material orally and in writing.

Exam Committee: The examination is conducted by a panel consisting of the student's Research Advisory Committee plus 2-3 additional members and chaired by the Committee Chairperson. All members of the panel are required to have faculty appointments.

Exam Format: The Comprehensive Exam consists of two components: 1) Review of the progress made in the candidate's research project; 2) Critical assessment of a research article in the field of the candidate's research. This component of the exam consists of two parts - a written report and an oral presentation of the article.

The written report should be submitted 10-14 days prior to the Exam. The format of the Exam session itself is two 20-30 minute oral presentations (of the project and of the article), each followed by a period of questions. The session typically lasts 2 hours.

The first component of the Exam, i.e. presentation of the research project, should include introduction, methodology, results and discussion of the data and the future directions. The student should demonstrate sufficient amount of research data, a detailed knowledge of their project, good understanding of the basic concepts of research design, critical thinking and good communication skills.

For the second component of the Exam, the student will receive three recent articles (within 5 years) on topics related to their area of Research and will select one for the assignment. The articles will be suggested by the Supervisor and approved by the Advisory Committee Chairperson (with help of the Exam Committee members). The student will prepare a written report on this article which will include: 1) a brief introduction to the area of research; 2) the rationale, objectives and hypothesis for the conducted study; 3) a critical assessment of the methodology, the data presented and the conclusions drawn from them. The student should also comment on the contribution of this article to the field of study and identify future directions for research in that area. The candidate should complete this task without help from colleagues or the research advisor. Two weeks are allocated for the preparation of the written report (10-15 pages, double spaced, references included). The report will then be given to the members of the Pre-doctoral Exam Committee 10-14 days before the exam.

In the oral session, the student will present and explain the findings of the article, as well as defend his assessment outlined in the written report.

Assessment and Grading: The Committee will grade the student's performance in each component of the Pre-Doctoral Comprehensive Exam as PASS , FAIL or CONDITIONAL PASS. The candidate must receive a PASS grade on both components of the exam in order to be permitted to continue in the Ph.D. program.

If the student fails one or both parts of the Comprehensive Exam, they may be given a chance to re-schedule the entire exam, or only the failed part of the exam. The details and conditions of a re-examination will be determined by the Committee and communicated in writing to the student and to the Graduate Program Director. A failure at the second attempt will lead to termination of the student's PhD program.

If the Committee is not satisfied with a particular aspect of the student's performance, a CONDITIONAL PASS can be given followed by specific recommendations and assignments to correct the weakness. The student will have to report back to the Committee once the assignment is completed to get re-evaluated. If the result is a positive review, the student will get a PASS grade. If the student fails to comply with the required work or if the Committee is not satisfied with the progress made, a FAIL grade will be issued and the student will not be permitted to continue in the Ph.D. program.

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