During the final stages of the dissertation research when the dissertation is nearing completion, the candidate makes arrangements for a suitable time and place for the Final Examination which is also administered by the candidate's doctoral committee. The candidate must submit the proposed committee list and information about the time and place for the examination to the AE Department Office at least two weeks prior to the date chosen for the Final Examination. At the same time, the candidate submits the dissertation to the members of the doctoral committee and deposits a copy in the department office for review by all faculty members.
The Final Examination for the PhD degree is a public oral examination administered by the candidate's doctoral committee. It must take place at least nine months (but no later than five years) after the Preliminary Examination. The examination is composed of two distinct parts:
- the PhD candidate presents a formal one-hour departmental seminar (including some time for questions from the audience) during which the student summarizes the results of his or her research efforts. Since the presentation is aimed at a fairly general audience, this first part of the defense should focus on the motivations, importance, methodology, and main results of the research work, leaving the more advanced concepts and technical details for the second part of the Final Examination.
- This part, which is also public, consists of a less formal session during which the candidate may be asked to clarify matters in the thesis and to defend various aspects of the work. Errors and ambiguities in the thesis may be brought to the candidate's attention by the members of the thesis committee. If needed, the student may choose to give an additional presentation on topics not covered, or covered superficially, in the first part of the examination. This second part of the Final Examination takes place immediately after the general seminar, or at a later date agreed upon by the doctoral committee.
At the conclusion of both parts of the Final Examination the committee deliberates privately, and the chairperson of the committee informs the candidate of one of five possible decisions:
- The candidate passed the Final Examination and the thesis is accepted as submitted; the thesis certificate of approval is signed by all the members of the committee.
- The candidate passed the Final Examination but the thesis will be accepted and signed by the committee after various specified corrections and revisions have been made; the candidate must make the necessary changes and submit the thesis to the committee members for their signatures;
- The examination is temporarily adjourned, and the candidate must revise the thesis and be examined again within the next six months;
- The candidate failed, but may rewrite the thesis and take another Final Examination after completing additional independent study and research;
- The candidate failed and will not be admitted to another examination.