Comprehensive examination

The Faculty of Graduate and Post-doctoral Studies (GP+S) requires that each Ph.D. student pass a comprehensive examination in their discipline. Although GP+S has some directives regarding this examination (, departments are given considerable flexibility as to its exact format.

Graduate students in the department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics are responsible in ensuring that they take the comprehensive examination within 24 months of their Ph.D. program. Students transferring from a Master’s program into a Ph.D. program will need to organize the comprehensive examination within 6 months of receiving official approval for the transfer. Please note, Graduate Studies allows 36 months for a PHD student to be admitted to candidacy (meeting all requirements, including comp exam completion)

Comprehensive examination

The CIHR grant application format is used for writing the proposal for the comprehensive examination (see below).

Step 1: Find a topic. The proposal is expected but not required to be in the field of general pharmacology, pharmaco-epidemiology or pain and anesthesia. It can be in the general area of the student’s thesis research but cannot be a duplicate of the student’s research or be based on a grant previously written by their supervisor or colleague. The student is expected to ask the Supervisor for guidance.

Step 2: Examination committee. The examination committee must include the Supervisor, at least two members from the Graduate Supervisory committee, and at least one UBC examiner who is external to the Department of APT and is an expert in the research area of the comprehensive exam.

Q.who is eligible to participate at the Faculty level?

Ans.  Mainly Professors, Assoc Professors, Assistant Professors, including emeritus professors, Assoc Professors and Asst Professors.

Other appropriately qualified individuals (e.g., clinical professors, adjunct professors, professors of teaching, senior instructors or visiting professors) who are actively engaged in research and experienced with graduate education may be approved, upon the recommendation of their Head, Director or Dean (or functional equivalent) of the graduate program with which they are affiliated and the approval of the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, to supervise or co-supervise master’s and doctoral students and/or serve on doctoral student supervisory committees provided they meet the relevant criteria. These individuals are not members of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Step 3: Topic for approval. When the candidate selects the topic for their comprehensive exam, a 1 page temporary overview (3500 characters with spaces) of the mock CIHR grant application, with a hypothesis and 3-4 Scientific Aims, must be sent to the Examination committee to ensure that the topic is different enough from the thesis and confirm scientific merit. The student is expected to obtain topic approval within 1-2 weeks. Students are required to submit the title and the short summary of their proposal to the departmental Graduate Advisor. After receiving the above summary, the departmental Graduate Advisor notifies the student’s supervisor to select an external examiner from outside the department in consultation with the student’s committee.

Step 4: Identify a non-APT expert willing to participate in the comprehensive examination.

Step 5:  Written draft abstract for approval (optional): When the topic of the proposal has been approved, a detailed near-final scientific abstract with a hypothesis and Aims (3500 characters with spaces) can be sent to the committee to further ensure scientific merit.

Step 6: Grant application preparation. After final approval of the topic, it is expected that the candidate will complete the written part of the comprehensive examination in 1- 6mo. This includes a 3500 character scientific abstract, 3500 character lay abstract, 10 page scientific proposal including figures, references and a 5 year budget.

Step 7: Find a date for your oral presentation. Once the Grant application is written and approved by the supervisor, the committee and UBC examiner can be contacted to identify a date convenient for everyone. Also ask the Department for a Chair, such as the Graduate Program Advisor (or a designated member of the departmental Graduate Program Committee in the event of a potential conflict of interest).

Step 8: Final grant application submission. The student submits the full proposal to their examination committee at least two weeks before the oral exam component.

Step 9: Oral examination. The oral component of the comprehensive examination will consist of a proposal presentation (20-30min) by the student to the examination committee and the Chair, followed by questioning (60-75min) on areas relevant to the proposed work, and on the student’s knowledge of pharmacology and therapeutics.  The oral presentation is expected to begin with an introduction to the topic, the hypothesis to be tested, the Specific Aims, the approach behind those Aims, and a conclusion. Both the supervisor and the Chair will be allowed to ask questions and to participate in the voting process. Students will be granted either:

1) an unconditional pass, or

2) a conditional pass, with clearly stipulated requirements (such as a written assignment, for example).

3) a fail. Students who are unsuccessful in passing the comprehensive examination may have their examination adjourned and can be examined again within a 6-month period. If a student is unsuccessful the second time, they will be asked to withdraw from the Ph.D. program.