Comprehensive Exam


March 18, 2020

Students are encouraged to hold a virtual comprehensive exam to reduce the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. UBC Virtual Meeting Room and Zoom are two common tools to set up virtual exams. Before sending a request for a virtual comprehensive exam, please ensure all required participants, outlined below, have agreed to participate in a virtual exam.

  • The Student
  • The Examination Chair
  • Supervisory Committee Members
  • The External Examiners

Please be noted that the quality of both the audio and visual components will depend greatly on the quality of each participant’s internet connection. We recommend connecting from a computer that is hard-wired into an internet connection and if you must connect via WiFi, try to test the connection prior to the exam.



The Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination should be held within two years from the date of initial registration. The Faculty of Graduate Studies states that a Ph.D. student who is not admitted to candidacy within a period of three years from the date of initial registration will be required to withdraw from the program. However, extension of this period may be permitted by the Dean under exceptional circumstances.  Students should complete and submit to Experimental Medicine Office, the “Recommendation for Advancement to Candidacy” form (from the Faculty of Graduate Studies website) once they complete all their coursework and comprehensive examination.



  1. The Supervisory Committee determines that the student is ready for a Comprehensive Examination and states so on the Supervisory Committee Meeting report (SupervisoryCtteReport-2).
  2. A minimum of two external examiners are required for the Comprehensive Examination. One of these examiners must be a faculty member who is not in the Department of the student’s Research Supervisor (and who does not hold a cross-appointment with the Department of the student’s Research Supervisor). External Examiners may be chosen by the Research Supervisor but must be approved by the Program Director.  Both External Examiners must not have published with the student or the Research Supervisor over a period of five years prior to the exam and must not have been involved in the student’s research project at any time.
  3. All members of the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee are expected to participate in the Comprehensive Examination, but a minimum of two members, plus the research supervisor, will be required for quorum.
  4. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule the date, time and location of the exam and to check with the examiners for their availability. A lead-in time of four to six weeks is usually needed to schedule the examination. It is expected that a student will require at least one month in which to study for the exam. All examiners, including members of the Ph.D. committee have the right to provide pertinent study materials to the student (and it is the student’s responsibility to ask all examiners for this material).
  5. The Chair is generally confirmed by the Research Supervisor and the student, but must be approved by the Program Director.
  6. The student should submit a brief abstract (one page), outlining the topic of the thesis, to the Experimental Medicine Office, as well as the Comprehensive Exam Form 4-6 weeks prior to the exam (to allow time for Director review/approval/invitations preparation and circulation).
  7. The Experimental Medicine Program will send out official invitations, together with the abstract the student provided, to all members of the Comprehensive Examination committee one month before the exam.  Please also see our General Guidelines (General Guidelines PhD Comp Exam).
  8. Chair will submit a report on the comprehensive exam (Guidelines for the Chair PhD Comp Exam)