Gearing Up for you Oral Examination
So, you're coming forward for your Oral Exam. Great. Like most things about this innovative MA – it runs a bit differently in Interdisciplinary Studies. This is for sure the best time to really have one of the three supervisors take the reigns to usher you through the process of gearing up paperwork wise.
Normally an IS student is ready to come forward for defence once there have been major edits to their thesis based on rounds of collaborative feedback from all supervisors. This is truly best achieved during meetings where all voices can be heard at the same time – building from one another and collectively deciding on edits, shape etc. Then your supervisors are ready to ‘sign off’ on a student’s thesis.
What for is that you ask ? (Remember at York you can be sure that there is always a form for things) Please ensure they all fill in the Recommendation for Oral Examination form and then together with it you must send in 3 hard copies of the thesis to the program office.
Examination Committee Makeup
The make-up of an IS MA Thesis Oral Examination Committee differs from the make-up of the standard FGS MA Thesis Oral Examination Committee. Every IS MA Thesis Oral Examination Committee consists of four (4) voting members: An External Examiner, A Chair (normally the GPD or designate); An Inside York Arms-Length Examiner; and ONE member of the supervisory committee. While all members of the IS student’s committee are invited and encouraged to attend the oral examination, only members of the examining committee can vote and deliberate.
Scheduling the IS MA Thesis Oral Examination
Scheduling the IS MA Thesis Oral Examination is a complex and lengthy process. A general rule applies: to meet IS program deadlines, double the times FGS allocates to the various stages of the process. Scheduling the IS MA Thesis Oral Examination normally proceeds in stages:
- Eight weeks before the projected date of the Oral Examination, every IS student should meet with the full Supervisory Committee to confirm their approval that the final draft of the Thesis is worthy of proceeding to Oral Examination. The Supervisory Committee should confirm which supervisor will serve on the Oral Examination Committee, as well as the availability and ranking of candidates for External Examiner and the York Arm’s Length Examiner.
- Four months before the projected date of the Oral Examination, as an examinable draft of the Thesis takes shape, every IS student should meet with the full Supervisory Committee to map a timeline for proceeding to Oral Examination. The current Coordinating Chair of the Supervisory Committee should confirm with the other two supervisors that the Thesis is on target. Any impediments to the student’s proceeding to Oral Examination should be raised and discussed at this meeting.
- Three months before the projected date of the Oral Examination, every IS student should meet with the full Supervisory Committee to confirm final revisions
necessary for the Thesis to be considered worthy of proceeding to Oral Examination. The Supervisory Committee should agree on these final revisions and provide clear instructions to the student, in writing if necessary, and sufficient to enable the student to produce an examinable draft of the Thesis.
The Supervisory Committee should also nominate one supervisor to represent them at the Oral Examination (normally the current Coordinating Chair acts as representative) as well as agree to at least two potential candidates for External Examiner and at least two potential candidates for Dean’s Representative. The Supervisory Committee should rank in preference the potential candidates for External Examiner and Dean’s Representative and (prior to any contact with them) submit their names to the GPD for approval. If the Coordinating Chair is uncertain about the suitability or eligibility of potential candidates for External Examiner and Dean’s Representative to serve on an IS MA Thesis Oral Examination Committee, they should consult with the GPD before contacting possible examination members. After approval from the GPD, the Coordinating Supervisor should undertake to establish informal contact with them to determine their willingness and ability to serve, after which their names and contact information are submitted to the GPA. The program then sends the External Examiner and Dean’s Representative a formal invitation together with their copy of the thesis
The Coordinating Supervisor should confirm the availability of the potential candidates for External Examiner and York Arm’s Length Examiner, and the Supervisory Committee should confirm their ranking. If the Coordinating Supervisor has not been able to secure commitment from candidates for External Examiner and the York Arm’s Length Examiner, alternate candidates should be nominated and the process of recruitment repeated.
Every IS student should submit the final draft of the Thesis to all three members of the Supervisory Committee for approval to proceed to Oral Examination as soon as possible after this meeting.
IS students should make sure the IS Recommendation for Oral Examination form has been completed, as well as the Copyright Licence (Partial Copyright) form, the UMI Form, and the Theses Non-Exclusive Licence (National Library) form. Every IS student is responsible for securing these signatures. The form also requires the names, academic affiliations and contact data for the External Examiner and the York Arm’s Length Examiner.
The Big Day
So you've been offered all kinds of support, guidance and direction. And no doubt one of your supervisors has mentored you to get the presentation ready and ready for fielding questions. Also, you've had the experience at your Colloquium which really builds confidence and helps students get ready for their Oral Exam. And lastly, many IS students often go to other IS Oral Exams – hopefully to support their peers along with learn and see how things unfold. Hopefully you've done that too.
So it’s the big day! It unfolds similar to a PhD Oral Exam where everyone but the examining committee is excused briefly from the exam room and discussion ensues regarding examinability of the thesis and speaker order. We will start with the External Examiner asking questions, then the York Arm’s Length examiner and then the Committee Member. At times, we welcome questions from the student’s other supervisors if they are present—always of course yielding time to the four core examiners. Once questioning is done, again we ask that only members of the examination committee then deliberate and all others will be asked to leave the room. Following that, the student and others are recalled and the decision shared with comments being read from the chair of the examination. And then the celebration begins!
NB Here are the FGS oral exam guidelines (.pdf)—make sure you review these so you're ready.
We need your supervisors to assign a grade for your Interdisciplinary Studies Seminar Course. View the INST 5000 6.0 Interdisciplinary Seminar Criteria for Evaluation document (.pdf) for more information.
So make sure they have the IS 5000 6.0 Interdisciplinary Studies Seminar Grade Submission Form (.docx) and ask that you ensure they get that into the program office pronto.