Comprehensive Exam

Every doctorate candidate must write a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination or “Comp” as is often referred by students is an important step towards the award of your Ph.D.


The objective is to confirm the student’s synthesis ability and to ensure that he/she possesses the knowledge and maturity essential to strive in his/her field of study and to conduct an in-depth original research. 


The comprehensive examinations (including the written and oral exams) must be completed by the end of the 4th semester after the student’s first registration, at the latest. In the case of a re-take, the time allotted may not be more than 3 months and the student is required to once more take the examination in question. Only one re-take may be allotted.

Students, who have not completed their comprehensive examination by the end of the 4th semester of study after their initial registration to a doctorate program, will receive on their transcript the mention "Conditional authorization to proceed".  Students who have not completed their comprehensive examination by the next semester will receive the verdict "Not allowed to proceed", leading to cancellation of the candidacy.


The committee consists of at least 3 members. It is strongly recommended that at least one member come from outside the department of the student’s program. The committee must be formed before the exams begin. The student’s research supervisor or co-supervisor cannot serve as committee chair.


The comprehensive exam consists of 2 separate parts:

Written exam: assess knowledge of a specific field acquired by candidates throughout their program of study, along with their capacity for synthesis and critical thinking. The exam may take place over a number of days but must be completed within a set period that may not exceed 2 weeks.
Oral exam: assess candidates’ expertise, mental agility and capacity for original thought, as well as their synthetic and analytical abilities. The oral exam addresses candidates’ capacity for synthesis in relation to the written exam and research proposal.

Two weeks before the oral examination, at the latest, students present to the members of the jury, a written document introducing their research proposal, including a critical review of the literature pertaining to their research topic. During the oral examination, the members of the jury will ask the students questions on the content of their research proposal, on concepts related to the content of the written examination and on any related topic that is deemed relevant.


Only one grade is awarded for the comprehensive examination. Following the written exam, the jury can either invite the student to continue his/her comprehensive examination, require that the written examination be re-taken or unanimously declare the comprehensive examination failed.

Following the oral exam, and after deliberation, the jury can declare that the student has either passed or failed the comprehensive examination, or can require that the oral examination be re-taken.

REGULATIONS: Article 75 of the Graduate Studies - General Regulations

The terms of the qualifying exam vary by department. It is strongly recommended that students educate themselves as soon as possible with their department's administrator of student files.