Graduate Catalog
2018-2019
 
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Examinations
All graduate examinations are open to the faculty and faculty members are encouraged to attend and participate in such meetings. The student must be registered during the semester in which any examination required by Graduate School Policies is taken.
Scheduling Examinations

Scheduling Examinations:

Examinations required by Graduate Policies and Procedures (Preliminary and Final Examinations), are scheduled through the Graduate School.
https://ess.graduateschool.vt.edu

Requests to schedule examinations must include the time, date, building and room number, title of dissertation or thesis, and the names and signatures of the Examining Committee. These requests are due in the Graduate School at least two weeks before the examination date requested. Notification of the approval of the examination scheduling will be sent electronically to the student and all members of the Examining Committee. The examination should not be conducted if the Advisor has not received notification that the examination has been scheduled. The examination result should be entered in the Electronic Signature System within 2 days after the examination, with each committee member signifying whether the exam performance was Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

Preliminary examinations and non-thesis final examinations can be scheduled through the last day of exams for the term. Final examinations for master's thesis and doctoral students must be scheduled early enough in the term to meet the final ETD submission date.

Before filing the request for scheduling an examination, the student's record should be reviewed by the department to make sure that the Plan of Study has been filed and approved and that there are no problems. The Graduate Program Director's signature on the form is the departmental verification that the Plan of Study has been examined and that it is appropriate for the student to schedule the examination.

For Preliminary Examinations, which commonly are comprehensive examinations of the doctoral coursework, typically students complete the formal coursework on the Plan of Study prior to taking the exam. If a student has coursework remaining to be taken, the department should determine whether or not it is appropriate for the student to take the examination before all the graded coursework on the Plan of Study is completed. Students may take the Preliminary Examination despite having some grade problems on the Plan of Study (e.g., Incompletes, grades <C- that require retaking a course) but the student's Advisory Committee should address whether this will put the student at a disadvantage on the exam. If the  decision is to schedule the exam in a case like this, a note addressing the committee's decision to move forward with the exam should accompanying the exam request. By the end of the degree, all grades on the Plan of Study must be a C- or higher and the Plan of Study and overall GPA must be 3.0 or higher.

For scheduling of the Final Examination, Thesis Master's and Ph.D. students must have the thesis/dissertation ready for defense (as judged by Advisory Committee members having read the document and signed the examination scheduling request) and the student must be able to complete all other degree requirements within the semester when the examination is held:  all coursework on the Plan of Study will need to be completed with grades of C- or higher and both the Plan of Study GPA and the overall GPA must be a 3.0 or higher by the end of the semester. Because some of the problem situations with deficient grades or credits require retaking courses or adding credits, the Plan of Study should be examined at the beginning of the semester in which a student plans to take the Final Examination.

For Non-thesis Master's students, scheduling of the Final Examination requires that the student will be able to complete any Project and Report or Independent Study requirements, complete all coursework on the Plan of Study with grades of C- or higher and attain a Plan of Study and overall GPA of 3.0 or higher by the end of the semester.

Students wishing to schedule the Final Examination, who have not been enrolled at Virginia Tech for more than a year, need to file for Readmission and allow enough time for any problems to be resolved so they can be Readmitted prior to the 2 week period needed for Exam scheduling. The minimum enrollment is 3 cr.

For enrollment requirements when taking a Final Examination, see below.

Required examinations are administered during regular academic semesters or sessions, i.e., between the first day of classes for a given semester or session and ending with the last official day for examinations. Permission to schedule an examination in the time between sessions may be granted if an explanation of special circumstances requiring that scheduling is made to the Dean's office of the Graduate School by the student's Advisor. Scheduling of examinations between semesters/terms does not alter ETD submission or approval deadlines.

Examining Committees

At least four scholars eligible to serve are required to participate on every doctoral Advisory Committee, and at least three are required for every master's Advisory Committee. All members of a student's Advisory Committee are required to participate in that student's doctoral (preliminary and final) or master's (final) examinations. If one of the Advisory Committee members cannot participate, the committee member should recommend to the Chair of the Advisory Committee, when possible, the name of a scholar eligible for advisory committee membership to serve as a proxy on the Examining Committee. After consultation with the student, the Chair of the Advisory Committee makes such a proxy appointment in writing. Regardless of the size of the size of the Committee, only one official proxy will be approved.

Those conducting the examination must log in to the Electronic Signature System and enter their decision on the exam result within 2 days after the exam. The proxy must communicate with the committee member for whom he or she is serving as a proxy regarding the exam result decision and the original committee member must log in to the Electronic Signature System and enter the decision.

All committee members must also signify approval or disapproval of the thesis/dissertation in the Electronic Signature System. This signifies that the thesis or dissertation is in final form and ready for ETD submission to the Graduate School.

Successful Completion of Required Examinations

To pass any of the required examinations, a graduate student is allowed at most one Unsatisfactory vote. If a student fails an examination, one full semester (a minimum of 15 weeks) must elapse before the second examination is scheduled. Not more than two opportunities to pass any one examination are allowed. A student failing any of the examinations required by Graduate Policies two times will be dismissed from graduate studies by the Graduate School.

Final Examination (Master's)

An oral and/or written final examination or evaluation is required in all master's programs (see departmental policy for specific format). For some non-thesis master's programs, final exams are structured in special ways, including evaluation of a project as the final examination. For non-thesis, coursework-only master’s degree programs, the committee will conduct a final evaluation of the student’s record to confirm degree completion. All master’s final examinations and non-thesis, coursework only evaluations are scheduled through the Electronic Scheduling System. For more information about master's final examinations, consult the departmental policies and procedures document.

Qualifying Examination (Doctoral)

Certain departments require doctoral students to take a qualifying examination (see departmental policies). The results typically are used to evaluate subject mastery, to determine deficiencies, and to determine whether the student should continue into dissertation research. The results of qualifying examinations are made part of the student’s departmental record. Qualifying examinations are not scheduled through the Graduate School.

Preliminary Examination (Doctoral)

The Preliminary Examination is a requirement for all doctoral students. This examination must be taken at least 6 months before the Final Examination. The Preliminary Examination may be oral or written, or both. Schedule the exam at this site: https://ess.graduateschool.vt.edu. The examination date requested should coincide with the date when the decision about the student's performance is made. If the Preliminary Examination consists of a written section followed by an oral examination, the examination date requested should be the date of the oral. The results should be reported to the Graduate School within 1-2 days of the decision about the examination. 

If an Advisory Committee member cannot participate, the committee member should recommend to the Chair of the Advisory Committee, when possible, the name of a scholar eligible for advisory committee membership to serve as a proxy during the examination. After consultation with the student, the Chair of the Advisory Committee makes such a proxy appointment in writing. Regardless of the size of the size of the Committee, only one official proxy will be approved.

Individual departments may choose to administer the Preliminary Examination as a written departmental examination for a group of doctoral students. In this case the examination is typically administered by a committee with all members certifying the results to the department. After the results are certified to the department, the members of each student's Advisory Committee, including any proxies, must record approval/disapproval in the Electronic Signature System. 

Final Examination (Doctoral)

Final Examination (Doctoral)

All doctoral candidates must take a final oral and/or written examination, which is at minimum a defense of the dissertation. See Advisory Committee Approval of Thesis or Dissertation for a full explanation. This examination must be scheduled no earlier than six months after successful completion of the preliminary examination. https://ess.graduateschool.vt.edu

To be eligible for hooding at Commencement, the Final Examination must be completed and the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) must be approved by the Graduate School by the published deadline for the semester:  http://graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/commencement_deadlines

Enrollment and Examinations

Enrollment and Examinations

The minimum enrollment for students working on writing their thesis/dissertation (including consulting with their advisor and/or committee during a semester or summer session) is 3 credit hours. Graduate students must be enrolled for the minimum number of credits in the semester or summer session in which they take an exam and in the semester in which they complete a degree:

  • 3 credit hours during a semester or summer session
  • 1 credit hour for students who qualify for Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE, see below) in the semester of their final exam


Qualifying for Start of Semester Defense Exception

Start of Semester Defense Exception (SSDE) is a special enrollment category for students who have fulfilled all requirements, including advisory committee review and agreement that the thesis or dissertation is ready for defense, and are registering only to take the final oral examination.

To qualify for start of semester defense exception, a student must have:

  • completed all requirements (including passing grades on all courses on the plan of study), except for the final exam and
  • submitted the final copy of the thesis/dissertation to the advisory committee within the first three weeks of the semester and at least two weeks before the defense and
  • received permission from the advisory committee, who have read the document and consider it ready for defense (to the extent that the student can make corrections and submit the ETD within two weeks of the defense) within the first three weeks of the semester and
  • been enrolled in at least three credit hours the preceding semester and
  • submitted the SSDE form to the Graduate School by the Friday of the third week of classes or no later than three weeks prior to the defense, whichever date comes first


Scheduling a Final Exam within the Start of Semester Defense Exception Timeline

To defend under SSDE, a student must schedule and attend the defense according to the following timeline:

Within the first three weeks of the semester:

  1. Submit SSDE form to the Graduate School
  2. Wait for the Graduate School to enroll student in 1 cr (students cannot enroll themselves)
  3. Submit Application for Degree in HokieSPA
  4. Submit Request for Final Examination (at least two weeks prior to the exam date) in the Electronic Signature System

Within the first five weeks of the semester:

        International students who qualify for SSDE must defend (complete final exam) to maintain immigration status.


Understanding Potential Implications of Start of Semester Defense Exception

If a student registers for SSDE, his/her enrollment status will be less than full time, which may affect the following:

  • financial aid or loan deferments
  • employment opportunities (not eligible for assistantships or fellowships)
  • visa status (for international students)

Students should consult with the Graduate School and/or Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to understand the consequences and additional requirements that may result from enrolling under start of semester defense exception.