Comprehensive Assessment for PhD students

Any new students enrolling in the PhD program as of Sept 2022 will undergo a comprehensive
assessment process and will also take a mandatory 0.5 credit grant writing course (first offering
Jan 2023). Any PhD student enrolled prior to Sept 2022 will have the option to take EITHER the
old comprehensive exam OR the new comprehensive assessment and the new grant writing

Students who will complete the previous comprehensive examination process click here.

Philosophy behind the comprehensive assessment process
The purpose of the comprehensive assessment is to emphasize and gauge the development of
skills needed to succeed as a PhD student. Students will be assessed on their depth and breadth
of knowledge within their domain of study, their ability to think critically and evaluate relevant
literature, understand key concepts and methods in their domain of study, and express scientific
thoughts in a written and verbal manner.

The assessment is not a pass/fail exercise, but rather is intended to enable the advisory
committee to identify areas or gaps in knowledge in which the student requires further

The assessment is centered around 3 exercises (described below). Two exercises involve the
production of written documents, and the third is a public speaking exercise. For the written
exercises (Exercises 1 and 2), the student produces early drafts that are evaluated by the advisory
committee. To fulfill these exercises, students may choose to follow author guidelines for
potentially publishable entities. Students do not have to submit these drafts to fulfill the
requirements of the exercise. However, upon consultation with their supervisor(s) and advisory
committee, students could continue to develop their work beyond the end of the assessment
process toward submission, should the student excel in one or both of these exercises.

Timing and commitment
It is expected that PhD students will complete the comprehensive assessment prior to taking the
grant writing course. Students should complete these exercises within a term, while also fulfilling
regular lab and GTA duties as required. For MD/PhD students, MSc students rolling over into a
PhD, or PhD students entering with an MSc, it is expected that the comprehensive milestone will
be completed within the first 16 months (4 terms) of entry into the PhD. For direct-entry PhD
students, it is expected that the comprehensive milestone will be completed within the first 28
months (7 terms) of their PhD.

Role of student, supervisor(s) and potential outside mentors
The student is expected to work independently on all three exercises. However, students are free
to confer with their supervisor(s) and any other outside mentors (other than the advisory
committee) should they choose to do so. The supervisor and other outside mentors can provide
advice and feedback on any of the exercises, in the interests of aiding student development.

Role of advisory committee
All exercises will be assessed by the student’s advisory committee, evaluating the student’s
progress and development. Feedback will be provided by the advisory committee to the student,
and the student may be directed to campus resources should the student require additional work
in a particular area (e.g., the Writing Centre, resources or reviews in their specific area). If
requested by the advisory committee, students may be required to incorporate feedback and
repeat a particular exercise until the advisory committee feels that the student is performing at
an appropriate level. Once accomplished, the milestone will be marked as completed on the
student’s transcript. The comprehensive assessment must be completed to the advisory
committee’s satisfaction before the PhD degree can be granted.