Academics > Masters and Ph.D. > Ph.D.

Ph.D. Final Examination Dissertation Defense


The Final Examination is an oral defense of the dissertation.

If a Final Examination is satisfactory, the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee members who participate at the examination will sign the warrant and return it to the ECE Graduate Academic Advising Office at least two days prior to the last day of the quarter (Wednesday of finals week). Any members of a supervisory committee who participate at an examination but do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School. If an examination is unsatisfactory, a supervisory committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit a second examination after a period of additional study.

NOTE: Per UW policy, students are no longer allowed to provide food or drinks for meetings with faculty members including qualifying, general and final PhD examinations.


A Ph.D. Final Examination may be scheduled if:

Dissertation Resources: Please refer to the following links for additional resources to help you prepare for your Final Exam/Dissertation.

Dissertation Reading Committee

  1. The student's first step toward appointment of the Dissertation Reading Committee is to assess the membership of the Ph.D. Supervisory Committee and to make changes if there are faculty who need to be added or deleted. This should be done approximately two to three quarters before the anticipated date of the Final Examination. The student should notify the Graduate Academic Advising Office of any changes to be made to the Supervisory Committee.

  2. The second step is to formally establish the Dissertation Reading Committee approximately one quarter before scheduling the Final Examination. Students should consult with the faculty advisor to determine which faculty on the Supervisory Committee would be appropriate Reading Committee members (three members including the faculty advisor and excluding the GSR). These are the faculty who will actually read the dissertation thoroughly, and who will certify their approval online via the Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee Approval. After determining the reading committee choices, the student should contact those individual faculty to get their agreement to serve on the Reading Committee. The student should then notify the Graduate Academic Advising Office of the selection and Advising will constitute the committee in MyGrad. The Graduate School will send email confirmation to the student and to the Reading Committee members.

Scheduling and Applying

The ECE Graduate Academic Advising Office should be notified 3 weeks in advance of the dissertation defense date. Students should schedule their exam no later than Wednesday of Finals week (2 days prior to the last day of the quarter) to allow for degree processing and ensure there is time to make final edits to their dissertation.


  1. REVIEW all steps outlined on the Graduate School website regarding the Final Submission of Your Electronic Thesis or Dissertation (ETD)
  2. CONFIRM PhD Supervisory Committee is current and email Graduate Academic Advising for any changes.
  3. ESTABLISH the Dissertation Reading Committee and notify Graduate Academic Advising who will then constitute the committee in MyGrad. 
  4. CONFER with faculty advisor and other committee members to determine when defense can be scheduled, and select a date, time and location. Exam must be scheduled no later that the Wednesday before the last day of the quarter.
  5. SUBMIT a complete draft of the dissertation to the committee 4-6 weeks before the exam so that they will have sufficient time to review it before agreeing to schedule the exam. Be sure to include the date, time, and location or zoom link and the link to the Faculty Exam Approval Form and request that faculty complete if they approve at least 3 weeks prior to the date of the exam.
  6. RESERVE a room for the exam via ECE Departmental Calendars. NOTE: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all members of the committee and the student examinee may participate via Zoom meeting. Student examinee or committee chair to provide meeting link to committee members and to graduate academic advising staff. Make sure to confirm with committee chair who will be responsible for creating the zoom link and providing to all committee members and Graduate Academic Advising. Please refer to Additional Guidelines for Scheduling Online Exams below for more detailed information. 
  7. REQUEST the exam through the Graduate School using MyGrad after you have sent the dissertation draft to the committee. 
  8. COMPLETE the Alumni Information Form.
    • Please fill in all the blanks completely, as this information is used for alumni events, statistics, and to help graduates stay in touch.
    • We protect your privacy: This information is not shared with people/agencies outside the UW, and you will not be contacted for UW events unless you select to do so.

ALL members of the Supervisory Committee including the GSR, regardless of whether or not they intend to attend, must agree to the scheduling and will need to confirm their agreement via the Faculty Exam Approval Form. A minimum of four members are required to attend: the chairperson, the GSR, and two other committee members. Two ECE Graduate Faculty Members (which may include one adjunct ECE Graduate Faculty Member) must be included. 

Once requested through MyGrad and all Faculty Exam Approval Forms have been received, Graduate Academic Advising will approve the exam, place on the exam calendar, and send an exam announcement to the ECE community. 


Submitting Dissertation

Students are required to be registered for a minimum of 2 credits for the quarter that the Final Examination is held. 

After the Final Examination, the candidate must submit a dissertation to the Graduate School.  Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter that a Final Examination is taken AND the quarter the dissertation is submitted. The degree is conferred the quarter in which the student's dissertation is accepted by the Graduate School. For graduation timelines, checklists and FAQs, see the Preparing to Graduate page. 

A candidate certificate and the doctoral degree may not be awarded the same quarter.

Graduate Registration Waiver Fee. The $250 Graduate Registration Waiver Fee is an optional fee paid in lieu of registration.  Students who have completed all degree requirements but needed additional time to format the dissertation for a 2 week period directly following the quarter in which all Graduate School and graduate program degree requirements are met, may take advantage of this opportunity to pay the fee and not have to register the following quarter.   Qualifying students who pay this fee will graduate in the quarter following the fee payment period.  Note: This option may have an effect on the grace period for student loans becoming due; students should check with their lenders for registration requirements before utilizing this option in lieu of registration.

Additional Guidelines for Scheduling Online Exams:

Typically, either the chair of the committee or the student may create a Zoom meeting link using the UW Zoom Account. They will then share this link with to include in the exam announcement and in the calendar posting. The Graduate Academic Advisor will send the warrant and instructions to all committee members the day prior to the exam. Usually, the Chair downloads and signs the warrant after the exam, and asks the committee members to email their confirmation of attendance and decision (do they concur and what the decision was). Then the Chair should email the warrant back to

When creating the Zoom meeting, there are certain options that should be selected to protect the integrity of the exam:

  1. The Zoom meeting should be set up so that participants (guests) should be asked to "Register". Do not select the passcode option as this is a public exam (for General and Final Exams). 
  2. All Committee Members and the student being examined should be made "Alternative-hosts" so that they may properly participate.
  3. The committee always has the option to "Record" the exam in Zoom, to review discussion and student's answers. This recording will only be available after the Zoom Mtg is over and the recording downloaded. 
  4. All other "Guest" participants should be muted upon entry and their video disabled.
  5. Guests will automatically enter via the "Waiting Room", then the committee can bring them into the meeting when they are ready to begin the public portion of the exam. This allows the committee to have a private discussion as to the procedures prior to the exam, as well as allow both the examinee and the participants to be placed back into the waiting room when the public portion of the exam is completed. 
  6. The Chair should indicate when participants may begin asking questions - "by raising their hand" in Zoom or typing a question into the Chat portion of Zoom. Then a committee member or the Chair can monitor the 'Chat" for their question, or may unmute the participant to ask the question themselves.
  7. For the private portion of the exam (where committee members discuss the exam among themselves and come to a decision), the examinee can be placed into the waiting room too. 
    • After the committee has had time to discuss the outcome, then they may invite the examinee back into the meeting, and when they are ready, the rest of the participants may also be allowed to be moved back into the meeting for the announcement of the outcome. 

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