Examiner's Guide

Thank you for agreeing to serve as an examiner for a graduate student thesis examination. On this page, learn your role as an examiner before, during and after a thesis examination.


A master’s or doctoral thesis represents the culmination of several years of work for both student and supervisor/supervisory committee; examiners are asked to make appropriate preparations for this important academic milestone.

Before the Examination

  • When the exam is scheduled, clear your calendar at least two hours and thirty minutes from the start of the exam. The examination should take no longer than two hours. In some cases, however, the exam may be preceded by a) a separate public seminar, which will not include any questioning by members of the examination committee; or b) an Indigenous ceremony or other traditions. An additional thirty minutes may also be required for discussion of the outcome. You will be informed of the length of the examination and discussion when the examination is scheduled. If no public seminar or ceremony precedes the examination, the student may be offered an opportunity to give a brief (15 minute) presentation summarizing the thesis in addition to the two-hour examination time.
  • If you are participating remotely, you must be in a quiet private space, free from sources of distraction or interruption, with a reliable Internet connection. Test all equipment and the Internet connection in advance. You must be able to connect by telephone if the Internet connection fails. Ensure that the Neutral Chair has your contact information (email addresses, phone numbers) and that you have contact information for the Neutral Chair or the Graduate Program Administrator) at hand.
  • Examiners should expect to receive a complete final draft of the thesis at least three weeks before the proposed oral examination, giving them ample opportunity to read the thesis.
    • If the thesis is to be submitted electronically, please ensure that you have provided your most current and accessible email address.
    • If the thesis is to be submitted through the post or courier, please provide an address where you wish it to be received.
  • Immediately contact the Dean of Graduate Studies (deangrad@ucalgary.ca) if academic misconduct is suspected.
  • Do not discuss the thesis or the evaluation of it with anyone prior to the oral examination.
  • Examiners must provide an assessment of the thesis on the Examiner’s Assessment of Thesis form and provide it to the Neutral Chair before the examination begins. The examination cannot proceed if the Assessment of the Thesis is not submitted.
    • This report is considered a confidential document and must not be shared with others.
    • This document may be made available to the candidate upon request after the results of the examination have been conveyed.
    • If the examination takes place remotely, the report must be emailed to the Neutral Chair in advance.

During the Examination

  • In the event of an extenuating circumstance that prevents you from attending the examination as scheduled, immediately contact the Neutral Chair, Graduate Program Administrator or Graduate Program Director. They will contact FGS for further guidance. 
  • Please give the examination your full attention, turning off your cell phone and using other devices only to refer to an electronic version of the thesis or your notes on the thesis. 
  • There are normally two or three rounds of questions to the candidate, with each examiner taking approximately ten minutes per round. Questions should be posed in a professional and courteous manner, giving the candidate adequate opportunity to respond.
  • Examiners should focus their questions on the candidate, and not discuss with one another. 
  • Examiners who are participating remotely should mute their microphone when they are not asking questions to reduce distractions for the candidate.  
  • Be aware of the current regulations for Thesis and Thesis Examinations, and Thesis Examination Administrative Processes (e.g., seminars, questions to the candidate, recommendations of the examination committee, etc.)
  • If you have any questions, please contact the Graduate Program Director.

In-Camera Discussion  

  • Before any discussion, the student and any guests must leave the examination room. The Neutral Chair conducts a non-binding straw vote. The Neutral Chair will ensure the anonymity of the straw vote for examiners participating remotely.
  • Any examiner who requires substantive or editorial comments must raise them at the discussion. The committee members must agree on the content and scope of the revisions during the discussion.
  • Examiners and the neutral chair sign the Thesis Approval Form at the end of the examination. In the case of major revisions, any committee member who would like to oversee particular revisions may withhold their signature on the Thesis Approval Form.
    • If you are 'withholding signature' until the student makes the requisite revisions, make sure that you are available to review the revised thesis and provide your signature, if approved. 
    • Substantive or editorial comments must be provided them to the candidate within 24 hours of the examination to aid them in revising the thesis. 
  • If participating remotely, provide notification (e-mail) that the Neutral Chair may sign on your behalf. It can be provided in advance when you submit the Assessment of Thesis form.


* These guidelines pertain to master’s and doctoral thesis examinations. They may also be used for candidacy examinations, where applicable.

Approved by the FGS Policy Committee: September 21, 2017

Revised: July 29, 2021