Examiners 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, but an additional thirty minutes may be required for discussion of the outcome. The exam may be preceded by a separate public seminar, which will not include any questioning by members of the examination committee. If no public seminar preceded 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 you have contact information (email addresses, phone numbers) 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.
  • 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 can be made available to the candidate upon request after the results of the examination have been conveyed.
    • If the examination is tele- or videoconferenced, the report must be emailed or faxed 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 the microphone on their computer or telephone 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.


After the Examination 

  • Before any discussion, the Neutral Chair conducts a non-binding straw vote. The Neutral Chair will ensure the anonymity of the straw vote for examiners participating via tele- or videoconference.
  • Sign the Thesis Approval Form at the end of the examination; 
  • If participating in a tele- or videoconference, 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.
    • 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. 
    • Please provide the student, supervisor and/or Graduate Program Administrator with a valid email address, if the approval is submitted electronically.
  • If you have substantive or editorial comments, please provide them to the candidate to aid the candidate in revising the thesis. 


* 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: June 12, 2018