Exam Scheduling FAQ

This is general information about scheduling committee meetings for Qualifying Exams, Advancement to Candidacy Exams, annual dissertation committee meetings, and the Thesis Defense. These exams are different and have separate requirements; please see the specific information for each. However, the process of scheduling meetings and disseminating materials is similar.

‚ÄčIn most cases, you should reserve a room for two hours and should plan your oral presentation to be about 45 minutes. Presentations often take longer than planned due to questions both during and after the exam. The committee will also have a private committee discussion after the presentation (and often beforehand as well). The reason for a two-hour slot when your talk should only be 45 minutes is to accommodate the questions and the committee discussion.

Finding a time slot
Please contact your committee members months in advance to find out everyone's general availability for a two hour time slot. When will committee members be out of town? What days/times is each member generally available or unavailable due to classes, meetings, etc.? Some students use Doodle polls to find a time slot for the exam; please only do this after you find out everyone's general scheduling parameters, in order to choose reasonable options for the poll. A dozen options may seem like a lot, but if they are all during a period when a committee member is away at a conference, the poll will fail.

Scheduling a room
After you have a list of possible time slots, the Graduate Coordinator can help schedule a room in PFBH. Alternately, your lab or lab's home department may be able to schedule a room in their building. After a room is reserved, please email your entire committee and the Graduate Coordinator to inform them of the schedule and location. It is a good idea to send reminders close to the exam date, e.g., a week in advance and again the day beforehand, or in conjunction with sending the report or slides.

Can a committee member participate remotely (by phone, Skype, webcam, etc.)?
This is acceptable for ONE member if absolutely necessary. See more information below.

I can't find a schedule that works for everyone on the committee.
If just one member cannot make it, please arrange to have them meet with you individually. Afterwards, they will have to discuss the evaluation and decision with the rest of the committee (usually by email if they are unavailable at the exam time). They will also have to sign the decision paperwork (all committee members physically sign the exact same sheet(s) of paper), so if they will be out of town, plan your exam schedule carefully to make sure they will return in time to sign it before any deadlines.

If two or more members will either be missing or will be participating remotely, it will be very disruptive to the committee discussion; you should either reschedule or get approval from your full committee well in advance.

Formatting issues

  • Please use page numbers on written reports and slides. This facilitates giving feedback.
  • For citations in slides, please give a full version of each citation at least once, either in-place or abbreviated in-place with a full citation in a list of references at the end. Abbreviate repeat citations using author, year, journal/conference.
  • For slides, do not give citations using endnotes (superscripts 1,2,3 or a,b,c or *,**) or LaTeX-style citation numbers ([1], [2]), in which the marker/number is one slide but the reference is on another slide at the end, as this style is impossible to follow during a slide presentation.

Distributing your exam materials to the committee

  • Your thesis should be sent to your committee at least four weeks before your defense. Written reports for Qualification Exams and Advancement to Candidacy Exams should be sent at least one week in advance. Any additional supporting materials, such as publications, must also be sent by these deadlines. Please send these by email to all of your committee members and the Graduate Coordinator. If they give you any feedback in advance, please incorporate it.
  • It is also recommended to send slides in advance.
  • The committee members need time to read your materials before the meeting. If you are not ready to distribute these by the advance deadlines, you may need to reschedule the exam.
  • It is recommended to get feedback on your written report, slides, and oral presentation from your advisor, committee members, lab mates, other students, practice talks (such as in BNFO 283 or in your lab meetings), etc. In some cases this may occur after you submit your materials but before the exam.
  • If you update your thesis / report / slides before your talk, please send the committee your updated version as soon as possible; in the worst case, several hours beforehand. Do not wait until the last minute; the members may need to print it out or load it on their computer, which may not be feasible at the last minute.
  • You may also be asked to revise the materials after your talk.
  • If you have a committee member participating remotely (by phone, Skype, Zoom, webcam, etc.), it is very important that you send the final versions of your report and slides and other exam materials in advance. Slides and documents may be difficult to follow or illegible on a webcam, even with screen sharing software. A remote committee member will most likely print out your slides beforehand or follow the slides on their own computer.
  • Use page numbers on your slides. Please help the remote committee member keep pace with the slides by announcing what slide number you are on.
  • Please exchange phone numbers or Skype/Zoom/... account information in advance. You are strongly encouraged to test out the connection in advance on the actual computers that will be used, in order to avoid delays during the exam due to technical issues.
  • Please be alert to signs that the connection has been lost, and reconnect if needed.
  • If the remote committee member is unable to follow your presentation, you will have to give them a separate presentation when they return, which will delay completion of the exam.

During emergency remote instruction, the Qualifying Exam, Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy Exam, and Dissertation Defense will be conducted through Zoom or other teleconferencing software, instead of in-person.

  • The rule limiting at most one committee member to participate remotely is waived during emergency remote instruction; everyone will participate remotely. (This is a temporary exception; see the "Graduate Examinations" section here.) However, the exam should still be scheduled at a time when all committee members are available.
  • After the schedule is determined, please email your entire committee and the Graduate Coordinator to inform them of the schedule, and also notify them promptly if the schedule changes.
  • Part of the exam is a discussion among committee members, without the student or other attendees. If the student is the Zoom meeting host, they will need to transfer Zoom hosting responsibilities to one of the committee members, who can then put the student in the Zoom waiting room. After the committee discussion, the student is brought back into the meeting.
  • Please be alert to connectivity problems with the student or committee members.
  • If there is an audience (typical for defenses, but not qual or advancement exams), please follow campus guidance on Zoom security settings. This includes creating a unique meeting ID (instead of your personal Zoom ID), and a meeting password only distributed by email (not posted on a public website).
  • Exam paperwork is usually done on paper and signed by all committee members in-person. During emergency remote instruction, the Graduate Coordinator will send the committee members instructions by email on how to report the exam results. Procedures are being developed by Graduate Division. For the BISB Qualifying Exam, the evaluation form will be filled out by the Committee Chair, in consultation with other committee members.
  • These procedures may change as we receive further guidance or run into problems.