The final examination for the Ph.D. degree is a public oral exam administered by the Final Exam Committee. It must take place at least six months (but no later than five years) after the student has passed the preliminary exam. The exam begins with a short presentation by the candidate outlining the chosen problem, the procedures and methods used, and the results obtained. The committee then questions the candidate regarding the research results and completeness of the written dissertation to determine its suitability for completion of the Ph.D. The candidate may be asked to clarify materials presented and defend various aspects of the work. Errors and ambiguities in the written and oral presentations will be brought to the candidate's attention for discussion and possible correction. At the conclusion of the exam, the chairperson of the committee announces one of five decisions:
- The candidate passed the final exam, and the dissertation is accepted as submitted. The dissertation Certificate of Approval is signed by all members of the committee.
- The candidate passed the final exam, but the dissertation 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 dissertation to the committee members for their signatures.
- The exam is temporarily adjourned. The candidate must revise the dissertation and be examined again within the next six months.
- The candidate failed the exam but may rewrite the dissertation and take another final exam after completing additional independent study and research.
- The candidate failed the exam and will not be admitted to another exam.
The candidate needs to submit their final examination committee request directly to the Grad College through this form, https://go.grad.illinois.edu/student-portal, at least two weeks before the proposed final exam date. Ideally, committee members serve on both the preliminary and final exam committees to maintain continuity in advising; however, each is appointed separately by the Graduate College.