Comprehensive Examination - Epidemiology

The comprehensive exam for epidemiology (EPI) students will evaluate whether a candidate has the knowledge and skills required to be successful as a PhD candidate.

Epidemiology (EPI) students must refer to the following conditions:

  • Register for the comprehensive examination four months prior to sitting the written component (Part 1) of the exam;
  • All required coursework must be completed before the examination takes place;
  • Both components of the comprehensive examination must be completed by the end of 6th term of enrolment in the program.

Description

The Comprehensive Exam consists of a two-part exam used to evaluate whether a student has the knowledge and skills to be successful as a PhD candidate.

Both components of the comprehensive examination are graded separately.

  • Written component (Part 1) is a half-day in-class written examination on core epidemiology concepts and methods.
  • Oral component (Part 2) is a one-hour oral examination on topics that are relevant to the student’s thesis, based on a specific journal article, to be selected in advance by the examining committee.
  • Students must pass the written component before being eligible to sit the oral component.
  • Only two attempts (for each part) are allowed: if a student fails the same part of the examination twice, the student will be asked to withdraw from the PhD program.

Timing

  • Students must register for the comprehensive exam four months prior to sitting the written component.
  • Both parts of the comprehensive examination must be completed by the end of 6th term of enrolment in the program. Students who have not passed both parts of the comprehensive examination by the end of the 6th term will be asked to withdraw from the program.
  • Students must have completed all required courses before sitting the comprehensive examination.
  • The timing of the oral component is coordinated with the written component. Typically, the oral component will be scheduled to take place 2 to 4 weeks after the written component.

Scheduling

At least 4 months prior to sitting the written component, a student must submit:

  • Letter of Intent Approval form
  • A brief letter of intent (maximum 2 pages) to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office, outlining his/her proposed thesis project in sufficient detail to allow part 2 (oral component) examiners to prepare
Students must be enrolled to EPI 9998 in order to take the written component.
Information

Comprehensive examination dates

Fall 2019
Part 1 (Written component): September (Date to be confirmed)
Part 2 (Oral component): Should take place 2 to 4 weeks after part 1
Winter 2020
Part 1 (Written component): January (Date to be confirmed)
Part 2 (Oral component): Should take place 2 to 4 weeks after part 1.
Spring/Summer
  • No comprehensive exams will take place.

Examination Committee

The examination committee for the written component (Part 1) of the comprehensive exam is comprised by the 5 or 6 faculty members with appointments in the School of Epidemiology & Public Health who make up that year’s comprehensive exam committee.

The examination committee for the oral component (Part 2) of the comprehensive exam will comprise two members:

  • The first examiner will be a faculty member with an appointment in the School of Epidemiology & Public Health who is a member of that year’s comprehensive exam committee.
  • The second examiner will be a content expert with supervisory rights in the PhD program in Epidemiology, chosen by the first examiner (in consultation with members of the comprehensive examination committee), and based on the student’s letter of intent.

All examiners are required to be present during the oral examination.


Written Examination - Part 1

General Requirements

  • At least 4 months prior to sitting the written component, a student must submit:
    • Letter of Intent Approval form.
    • A brief letter of intent (maximum 2 pages) to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office, outlining his/her proposed thesis project in sufficient detail to allow examiners to prepare.
  • Students must be enrolled to EPI 9998 in order to take the written component.
  • Half-day in-class written examination on core epidemiology concepts and methods.
  • The questions for the written examination are developed by the comprehensive examination committee.
  • Occurs on the same date for all students who are sitting the examination in a given term. It is offered whenever at least one student has registered to sit the examination.
  • Covers material that all strong MSc-trained epidemiologists can be expected to have mastered.
  • A reading list is provided in advance as a resource to students in their preparations

Assessment and Evaluation

  • The written examination is graded as pass/fail. A grading rubric prepared by the examiners in advance is used. The exam will be 40% on epidemiological concepts, 40% on biostatistical concepts, and 20% on concepts related to intervention studies. Examiners are blinded to which student’s exam they are grading.
  • Only two attempts are allowed: if a student fails this part of the examination twice, the student will be asked to withdraw from the PhD program.

Part 2: Oral Exam

The oral component is a one-hour oral examination on topics that are relevant to the student’s thesis, based on a specific and relevant journal article.

The timing of part 2 is coordinated with part 1. Typically, part 2 will be scheduled to take place 2-4 weeks after part 1.

The examination committee of the comprehensive exam will comprise two members:

  • The first examiner will be a faculty member with an appointment in the School of Epidemiology & Public Health who is a member of that year’s comprehensive exam committee.
  • The second examiner will be a content expert, chosen by the first examiner (in consultation with members of the comprehensive examination committee), and based on the student’s letter of intent.

The examiners collaborate to select a journal article of relevance to the student’s thesis topic; a different article is selected for each student sitting the comprehensive examination.

The article is submitted to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office and must be approved by the Graduate Studies Director.

The student is provided with the journal article 7 days prior to the Oral Component - part 2 examination date.

The examiners pose a series of questions to the student during the examination. The questions are founded on the journal article but may extend to topics within the student’s general research area. The student does not receive the questions in advance; the examiners may adjust the line of questioning during the examination.

All examiners are required to be present during the oral examination.

The oral examination is a closed examination.


Assessment and Evaluation

The Oral Component of the comprehensive examination is evaluated as pass/fail.

Only two attempts are allowed: if a student fails this part of the examination twice, the student will be asked to withdraw from the PhD program.


Final Approval from the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office

Once the Comprehensive Examination is successfully completed and the required approvals have been received, a final grade of S (satisfactory) will be added for the candidate’s file.

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