Finishing Up & Final Oral Examination (FOE)

Note: The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) has given the option that every doctoral final oral examination (FOE) can be held remotely and is providing accommodations to enable this. SGS and the Registrar's Office & Student Experience (ROSE) remain committed to providing the best possible experience for candidates while ensuring that each candidate and the members of the examining committee remain safe and healthy. In line with the guidance from SGS, ROSE is implementing changes to procedures so FOEs can be held remotely.

General Information & Procedures (Doctoral FOEs & Program Completion)

All doctoral theses at the University of Toronto must be defended at a Final Oral Examination (FOE). The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) sets the Guidelines for the Doctoral Final Oral Examination (FOEs); OISE and the OISE Registrar's Office & Student Experience (ROSE) must follow these guidelines; OISE deadline dates are set to ensure SGS deadlines are met.

  • SGS FOE guidelines for the criteria to select an External Examiner (EE); criteria are strictly enforced by SGS.
  • Approval for the EE can be requested in advance of requesting the FOE; otherwise this must be done at the same time. At OISE, normal practice is the supervisor submits electronic versions of the proposed EE’s CV and of the thesis abstract (including the title) to the student's Department for approval. After the Department approves, ROSE will facilitate SGS final approval for the EE.
  • The thesis must not be sent to the EE until SGS approval is secured.
  • The candidate must not have any communication with the EE until the start of the FOE. The candidate should not send their thesis to the EE.
  • At OISE, normal practice is the supervisor sends the thesis. This should be done at least six weeks prior to the date of the FOE. When sending the thesis, it is best practice to informally tell the EE the due date for the appraisal (which is two weeks before the FOE).
  • ROSE will send a formal notification to the EE that includes the deadline and detailed instructions. Guidelines for preparing the external appraisal.
  • SGS FOE guidelines for criteria to select FOE participants. These criteria are strictly enforced by SGS. In particular, all members of the committee (except the EE) must hold a Graduate Faculty Membership (GFM).
  • At OISE, normal practice is that the supervisor requests the FOE by completing the FOE Nomination Form (available in the "Graduation" section of our student forms webpage) and submitting it to the candidate’s Department for approval. After Department approval is secured, ROSE will facilitate SGS final approval for the FOE.
  • The Department should submit the approved FOE Nomination form to ROSE at least 8 weeks in advance of the FOE, and must submit it no less than 6 weeks in advance. Due to the Winter break, for FOEs held in January and February these deadlines are 10 and 8 weeks in advance, respectively. SGS and ROSE reserve the right to refuse an FOE request that does not meet these deadlines.
  • Please ensure that the FOE Nomination Form is filled out completely and correctly. ROSE returns forms with incomplete or incorrect information to the Department, which may result in the FOE having to be delayed.
  • The FOE will be prepared using the thesis title as entered on the FOE Nomination form; no changes will be considered. After the FOE, in consultation with the supervisor, the candidate may revise the title (no form is necessary for this; SGS will simply publish the thesis with the title used in the thesis submitted by the candidate).
  • ROSE schedules FOEs at either 10:00 AM or 2:00 PM (Toronto time), and normally has resources and staff to support a maximum of two simultaneous FOEs. ROSE and SGS reserve the right to refuse a request for a FOE scheduled at another time, or that would cause resource or staff availability to be exceeded.
  • The following rules determine whether the FOE has achieved quorum (otherwise, it must be delayed or rescheduled):
    • At least 4, and no more than 6, voting members must participate.
    • At least 1, and no more than 3, voting members must have supervised the thesis.
    • At least 2 voting members must not have supervised the thesis.
    • *Temporarily lifted, please refer to Temporary Procedures for Remote Final Oral Examination. 
      • No more than 2 members may participate remotely (the candidate must participate in-person).
    • No more than 2 non-voting members may participate.
  • To help ensure quorum, it is strongly encouraged that the FOE committee include an Alternate Internal-External Examiner (identified on the FOE Nomination Form). This member must agree to be on hand to participate if needed to achieve quorum; otherwise, their participation is welcome but not required.
  • If the Supervisory Committee has more than 3 members who wish to participate, the additional members may participate as non-voting members. They must be identified as such on the FOE Nomination form and approved by SGS. They may question the candidate, stay in the room when the candidate is asked to leave, and participate in the discussions, but do not have a vote.
  • The FOE committee must vote on the version of the thesis that was distributed for evaluation. If the candidate makes any revisions after distribution, they are not permitted to distribute the revisions to the committee prior to, or during, the FOE. The candidate can use the revisions as a basis for answers to questions during the FOE.
  • SGS maintains an online Doctoral Examination Schedule.
  • Detailed procedures for conducting the FOE are included in the SGS guidelines, and are distributed to all participants prior to the FOE. Brief summary:
    • The candidate may be present for preliminary introductions at the start of the FOE, but must leave while the Chair and committee discuss the thesis, the appraisal, and the order of questioning. Typically, this is a relatively short interval.
    • The Chair will then admit (or re-admit) the candidate, who will have a maximum of 20 minutes to present a summary of the thesis.
    • The Chair will then invite committee members to question the candidate.
    • After this, the candidate must leave again while the committee deliberates and votes. The Chair will explain the rules for voting (these are also included in the detailed procedures that will have been distributed).
    • Typically, the Chair will then re-admit the candidate and inform them of the result of the vote, but the candidate can instead be notified of the result by other means.
  • There is no length of time defined for a FOE. At OISE, the typical length is between one-and-a-half to two hours from start to finish, but it is not unknown for a FOE to fall outside the typical length.
  • If the thesis is not accepted, the FOE is adjourned and must be reconvened within one year (except for the Chair, the committee must remain identical, to the extent possible). Otherwise, the thesis can be accepted: 
    • As it stands (no revisions required or expected; the thesis is to be submitted within one week).
    • With minor corrections required (typically merely typographical, grammatical, or stylistic, and to be completed within about one month).
    • With minor modifications required (to be completed within about three months).
  • Candidates must continue to register until all program requirements are complete. For most, this is when the final, approved version of the thesis is submitted. This includes completing required revisions (if any) that arise from the FOE.
  • Information about preparing and submitting the thesis.
  • Candidates can request an embargo to be placed on the public release of the thesis for one or two years after graduation, with the approval of their Department Chair (further embargoes require approval from the Dean of SGS). The candidate must still submit the thesis within the appropriate deadline.
  • Some candidates may be required to remain registered after submitting the thesis.
    • Examples include if an internship course is still in progress, or if an EdD student has not yet completed the required one year of full-time study.
  • Information about final-year doctoral fees.
  • Candidates should verify their official email address on ACORN and update it if necessary, as this email address will be used for official communications about Convocation.
  • Candidates must graduate in the Convocation period following when they complete their program requirements; delaying graduation is not permitted. Candidates eligible to graduate in March may choose to graduate in June instead, as there is no Convocation ceremony in March.
  • At least three months before graduation, candidates should check the graduation checklist. They should review their name as it appears on ACORN, as this is the name that will appear on the diploma.
  • The degree is not conferred until graduation. In the meantime, candidates who have completed all program requirements may request an official letter from ROSE to certify that they have done so, and when their degree is expected to be conferred.
  • SGS updates official transcripts to show the degree has been conferred within a couple of business days after the end of the appropriate Convocation period. After that, alumni who need it can request a Certification of Degree from the Office of Convocation (not the OISE Registrar's Office & Student Experience).

Procedures for Remote Final Oral Examination

Unless otherwise specified, all rules and approval processes regarding FOEs remain in effect (these are summarized in General Information & Procedures (Doctoral FOEs & Program Completion)). In line with the guidance from SGS, the OISE Registrar's Office & Student Experience (ROSE) is has implemented the following changes to the usual FOE procedures for OISE students, until further notice.

  • Quorum requirements (except for the limit on the number of remote participants).
  • The candidate and external examiner must not communicate until the start of the FOE.
  • The FOE is a closed meeting and only those approved by the SGS Vice-Dean, Students, may attend. Participants must take appropriate steps to ensure privacy. Recording the FOE is strictly prohibited.
  • All documentation for OISE FOEs must be submitted electronically, including the FOE Nomination Form. ROSE may contact supervisors or departments to request the Form be re-submitted electronically if only a paper copy was previously submitted. Please take special care to ensure all member email addresses are correct on the Form, as this will be essential for the voting procedure below.
  • All FOEs will be held entirely remotely, including all members of the examination committee, the Chair, and the candidate. General instructions for remote participation are provided below, and specific instructions will be provided to all participants in advance of the FOE. ROSE staff will host the meeting and provide administrative and technical support.
  • The candidate will be required to sign a form stating that they have access to and will be using a private and controlled space during the FOE.
  • ROSE will provide FOE participants with all necessary information and guidelines for holding an examination remotely.
  • All participants are to join the FOE five minutes early so that ROSE staff can ensure that communication technologies work smoothly and everyone can be heard. If showing a slide presentation, the candidate is encouraged to join the FOE earlier (up to half an hour before the start time).
  • When required to withdraw (twice, once briefly at the start of the FOE while the committee discusses the thesis, the appraisal and the order of questioning, and again after the questions while the committee deliberates and votes), the candidate should leave the meeting (not merely mute video/audio). A member of the examination (typically the Chair or supervisor) will contact the candidate to inform them when it is time for them to return. Alternatively, the Chair may place the candidate in the virtual waiting room if they are comfortable doing so.
  • ROSE will provide the email address of the Chair to all voting members, as well as an electronic voting ballot for reference only (not to be filled out).
  • ROSE will provide the Chair with a list of all voting members’ email addresses (as specified on the FOE Nomination Form) and an electronic copy of the Chair Summary Form.
  • Members must email their vote to the Chair and copy ROSE and SGS. The vote should be text in the body of the message, i.e., “Accepted” or “Not Accepted”, and if accepted, “As Stands”, “with Minor Corrections”, or “with Minor Modifications”.
  • Once all votes are received, the Chair will read them aloud to the meeting.
  • The Chair will ascertain the result. Typically, the candidate will rejoin the meeting, and the Chair will provide them with the result. In the event that the thesis is not accepted, all other participants except the supervisor and Chair will leave the meeting before the candidate re-joins to receive the result.
  • The Chair will complete the Chair Summary Form and email it to ROSE and SGS.
  • ROSE will email the student with respect to thesis submission and various deadlines and will ask the student to email all information necessary for preparing the student's file for graduation.
  • For APHD students only: ROSE staff will email the APHD Completion Awards Form and instructions directly to the supervisor. If the supervisor wishes to nominate the candidate for an award, they should complete the form and email it to the appropriate administrator within APHD.


Advice to Candidates Defending Remotely

The overwhelming majority of remote FOEs for OISE candidates have been smooth and successful. Based in part on feedback from previous candidates, we offer the following advice.

  • Review the Instructions for Remote FOE Participants - [Student Name] document that will have been provided by the Registrar's Office & Student Experience (ROSE); these instructions are specific to your FOE.

    • A generic version of these instructions is available in the "General Instructions for Remote Participation" section on this page.

  • If you are not familiar with Zoom, sign up for a free account so you can learn how it works. Have a conversation using Zoom with some friends or colleagues so you can become comfortable with the interface (sharing your screen, muting and unmuting yourself, arranging the view of the speakers the way you want).

  • Practice your presentation with the Zoom window open and sharing your screen to show your slides (as described in the "General Instructions for Remote Participation" section above), so that this will feel familiar to you at the time of the FOE. If possible, do a mock defense remotely with your supervisor.

  • If possible, set up the space where you will do your remote presentation at least one day before your FOE.

  • You are of course required to be in a private and controlled area for your FOE, but try to also ensure the area looks nice. Preferably, you should be lit from the front; rearrange floor or desk lamps as appropriate. Avoid having bright lights or windows behind you.

  • Some of you may want to use a green screen (i.e. a background picture); we advise against this if you do not have a physical green screen--the computer effects may be too jarring.

  • Minimize distractions and extraneous noise. If you share a space (roommates, spouses, partners, friends, pets, children, etc.), try to make arrangements for them to go for a walk or to a distant room with the TV on low. If you have a headset or headphones with a microphone, try using them.

  • Have your camera as close to eye level as possible. Looking directly into the camera (rather than your screen) helps other participants feel that you are speaking to them directly.

  • Remember that Presenter View will not be available. There are a number of possible ways to handle this, including: using a hard copy of your speaking notes, connecting a second monitor to use Presenter View, or rehearsing your presentation until you can do it without notes (yes, you can!).

  • Dress professionally.

  • Have water, a pen, and paper handy.

  • Take a screenshot to remember the moment.

    • Do this early, committee members are busy people and may disappear once the FOE is over.

  • You will be required to leave the meeting twice (once briefly near the start, and again when it is time for the committee to discuss and vote). ROSE will have instructed you to provide your contact information to your supervisor and the Chair of the FOE, so one of them can tell you when to rejoin the meeting. If you are having one of them call or text you, keep your phone charged and nearby (in silent mode to avoid interruptions). Alternatively, the Chair may choose to put you in a virtual waiting room within Zoom; in that case, you should remain online so that you can rejoin the meeting when the Chair recalls you from the waiting room.

  • Responding to questions remotely has a different feel to it than in person. Give yourself time to think through the questions--make notes, have some water--and do not rush through.

After a remote FOE, it can feel anti-climactic to find yourself alone in your private space again. A number of our candidates and supervisors have arranged a "virtual celebration" using their personal Zoom accounts (or by other means). If this is not possible, at least set aside some time after the FOE to treat yourself to something special as a reward.


General Instructions for Remote Final Oral Examination Participation

The OISE Registrar's Office & Student Experience (ROSE) will send instructions (including authentication credentials) for participating in a specific FOE to all participants by email. 

OISE uses Zoom for both video and telephone conferencing (the software supports a mix of video and telephone participants). All participants are to join the FOE five minutes early. Recording the FOE is strictly prohibited. Whether joining by video or telephone, refer to this Meeting ID:

Meeting ID: [to be provided to participants by ROSE in advance of the FOE]

Video participants must also use this password: 

(not required for telephone participants). If copying and pasting the above credentials, please avoid including space characters. Alternatively, a Zoom link will be provided closer to the FOE.

To reduce extraneous sounds, all participants are encouraged to mute their microphone when it is not their turn to speak.

  • Minimum Requirements: internet connection, a webcam, and a microphone.

  • Preferred Requirements: a wired internet connection, a webcam, and a headset with microphone (the ones provided with most smartphones should suffice)

In advance of the examination, please visit Zoom from a web browser on your Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, or Android device. Enter the Meeting ID, and then use the link on the next page to download and install the Zoom application on your device. Until the time of the examination, you may not join the meeting, but you can test the connection.

At the time of the examination, please visit Zoom again, enter the Meeting ID, and then follow the prompts to join the meeting. If you experience difficulties with video conferencing, you may instead try connecting by telephone.

To ensure you can see all participants when slides are being presented, put Zoom in full-screen mode, use Gallery View, and adjust the size of the area showing participants as appropriate.

  • Please make arrangements to provide all participants with a copy of your slide presentation in the event that telephone conferencing is required. At OISE, the slides are normally distributed by the supervisor (remember that you are not to have contact with the external examiner until the start of the FOE).
  • Please connect half an hour before the start of the FOE, so that ROSE staff can check that your connection and slide show are working as expected.
  • To show your slides, select “Share Screen” within Zoom, and then start the slide presentation as you normally would on your device. Note that because you are sharing your screen (rather than connecting a second screen), Presenter View will not be available (but see "Advice to Candidates Defending Remotely", below).
  • Once you have completed your presentation, it is advisable to stop sharing your screen. This improves your and other participants’ visibility.
  • When asked to withdraw from the FOE, please leave the meeting (do not merely mute video and audio). You should provide your supervisor or the Chair with your contact information so they can let you know when to return to the meeting (you may need to then share your screen again, depending on the situation). Alternatively, some Chairs may place you in a virtual waiting room within Zoom and invite you back when it is time to return.

If you have any concerns about being able to telephone the numbers below, please contact ROSE to provide us with a phone number where we can call you directly (i.e. no extension) at the time of the examination.

Otherwise, at the time of the examination, please call one of the following numbers (for higher quality, use a number based on your current location).

Follow the prompts (including entering the Meeting ID above) to join the meeting:

  • Canada: +1 647 558 0588 or +1 855 703 8985 (Toll Free)
  • US: +1 669 900 6833 or +1 646 558 8656 or +1 877 853 5247  (Toll Free) or +1 877 369 0926 (Toll Free)
  • United Kingdom: +44 (0) 20 3695 0088 or +44 (0) 20 3051 2874 or +44 (0) 80 0031 5717 (Toll Free)
  • Other international numbers are available:

Formal Guidelines (Including OISE-Specific APA Thesis Styles & Formatting)

Thesis/Final Oral Examinations

The guidelines date from before the pandemic and may not include temporary changes to procedures arising from it. Learn about Temporary Procedures for Remote Final Oral Examination.


Thesis Styles & Formatting

APA specific guidelines and templates written by faculty in LHAE to coincide with the release of the new APA Publication Manual 7th edition. Most publishing by OISE students uses APA guidelines, however in the past the only format guidelines and templates were those available through SGS. Please check with your thesis supervisor as some professors may want different formatting.

University of Toronto Doctoral Examination Schedule

SGS maintains an online examination schedule.