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(Ph.D. only)

(a) Purpose and Scope

In order to be admitted to candidacy and to continue in the Program, the candidate must have their Research Proposal (see below) accepted and successfully pass the oral comprehensive examination. Normally this will be completed by the start of the third year of enrollment in the graduate program. The purpose of the examination is to ensure that candidates have a comprehensive knowledge in their area of specialization and related fields of neuroscience. The student will initiate the process by informing the Neuroscience office to set up the comprehensive examination. The initial meeting is to set up parameters for the exam. The second meeting is the comprehensive exam.

(b) Format of Examination

The comprehensive examination has both a written and an oral component. The written exam requires that the student prepare a grant application according to the Medical Research Council of Canada Operating Grant Application format. The topic of the application is decided upon by the student and his/her supervisor and is normally based on the student's immediate area of scientific interest.

The process is initiated by requesting the establishment of an Examining Committee whose composition is outlined below. The next step is a preliminary meeting of the student and the Examining Committee; the student will submit a title and one-page summary (subject to modification) of the Research Proposal at least one week before this initial meeting. At the meeting, the Examining Committee and the student will discuss and mutually agree upon the guidelines, scope and level of understanding required to complete the written and oral components of the examination satisfactorily. The student will act as secretary at the meeting, and will provide each member of the committee and the GPN office with a written summary of the discussion no later than one week following the meeting; any discrepancies in interpretation should be resolved at this time. The due date for the research proposal will be set at this meeting and will be no later than three months following the preliminary examination meeting. As with MRC grants, if the student fails to meet the deadline for submission of the research proposal, the comprehensive examination will be automatically postponed for six months. The date of the oral component of the comprehensive examination will also be determined at the preliminary meeting, and in all cases will be within 14 days of the student submitting a copy of the completed grant application to each member of the Examining Committee. After the preliminary meeting, the student must issue a written summary of the initial meeting to all examination committee members.

The supervisor may provide guidance and feedback to the student in the preparation of the grant application. However, the research proposal and the essential experimental design should be written by the student.

In the oral examination the student may be questioned on any aspect of the grant application and will be asked to elaborate upon or defend issues arising from the literature review and the research plan contained in the application. The range of questioning may include topics that are not discussed directly in the application but that are deemed relevant by individual members of the Examining Committee. The purpose of the oral examination is to have the student demonstrate to the Examining Committee that he/she has a solid understanding of those areas of neuroscience relevant to the research proposal, can expand upon and defend those ideas verbally, and has attained sufficient intellectual understanding of the subject matter to proceed with primary research likely to lead to submission of a competent Ph.D. thesis. In the event that the student has not achieved a score of first class in both NRSC 500 and 501, the scope of the comprehensive examination will be wider: under such circumstances the examination committee has a mandate to determine whether or not the student has sufficient breadth and depth of understanding of general topics in neuroscience to permit advancement to the Ph.D. The examination will normally include a round of 20-minute questioning from each examiner, followed by another round of questioning, as appropriate. In such case, the Head of the Program will chair the comprehensive examination.

A student may be given the opportunity to re-sit either or both components of the examination if he/she is considered inadequately prepared at the first sitting. In the event that re-examination is required, it must take place within 6 months of the first attempt. No student is permitted to sit this examination more than twice.



Learn more:

Handbook of
Graduate Supervision








Also see:




(Living in Vancouver)

Lifestyle/ Housing


Guide for Chairs of


(PhD thesis approval)

also to
download (rtf)



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