Purpose and outcome
The PhD Comprehensive-II tests the student's preparedness to pursue thesis research. It is an oral presentation of a Research Proposal (not a Thesis Proposal) together with questioning by the Advisory Committee. The examination is normally held in camera. The candidate should convince the committee that the chosen research area is suitable and demonstrate an appropriate breadth of knowledge in the chosen area. The committee should decide if there is a thesis topic in the area and whether the candidate is capable of completing such a thesis. It is not required that the student should have already obtained new, publishable results in the proposed area. Also, a detailed thesis proposal is not part of the Comp II exam. The result of the examination can be either (1) pass or (2) fail and retake later. The committee reports the results to the student and to the Graduate Committee; in case (2) the report details the reasons for failure and what needs to be done to satisfy the committee.
A binder containing examples of of research proposals is available from the CS Graduate Office in DC 2599.
The Advisory Committee
The committee consists of the supervisor (and co-supervisor) and two additional members from the School of Computer Science. One of the two members may be from outside the School, if this is approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Normally at least two members of the committee will be regular faculty members in SCS. It is assumed that this committee will become part of the candidate's PhD Thesis Committee. For this reason it is expected that the committee will meet regularly to discuss the candidate's progress and be available to discuss the research topic with the candidate. The make up of the Committee must be approved by email to the Director of Graduate Studies of the School of Computer Science prior to the PhD Comprehensive-II exam.
The scope of the examination includes not only the research proposal, but also breadth in the chosen area. The student's supervisor is primarily responsible for the definition of what constitutes breadth. For example, for a research proposal in hashing, the candidate might be questioned on other aspects of file techniques, and for a research proposal in systolic automata the candidate would be expected to know about classical automata theory.
Written research proposal
The candidate should submit a written research proposal to each member of the committee and to the Director of Graduate Studies of the School of Computer Science at least two weeks prior to the examination. It is recommended that the research proposal be no longer than 20 pages in length. The research proposal should endeavour to convince the committee that the candidate can complete a thesis in the chosen area in the remaining time available to do so. However, it is not expected to contain new research results."
As of Fall 2019, new University regulations regarding comprehensive exams will come into effect. Graduate students within the Faculty of Mathematics should familiarize themselves with these regulations. In particular, based on these new regulations students are expected to complete their Comprehensive exam by the end of Term 7.
Additional information about Comprehensive exams within the Faculty of Mathematics can be found in the following document.
The examination should be satisfactorily completed within 7 terms of entering the PhD program. Credit is assigned following a satisfactory oral examination as determined by the supervisor and advisory committee. If a student switches supervisors or area after passing the PhD Comprehensive-II, the Director of Graduate Studies should be consulted whether a new examination will be required so that the student takes a PhD Comprehensive-II examination in the area of the actual PhD research.