The Final Examination for the Ph.D. Degree

The Final Examination (dissertation defense) is the culmination of the graduate program. Final Examinations at the UW are public events, so all are welcome to attend. The final exam typically includes a short presentation of the dissertation, followed by questions from the Supervisory committee and audience members. The end of the exam includes an executive (closed) session of the Supervisory Committee. If you pass the exam, the committee recommends to the Graduate School that the Ph.D. degree be awarded.

Before you schedule your exam, it is important to:

  • Request a degree audit from the GPA
  • Appoint your reading committee (a subset of your Supervisory Committee that will read and approve your dissertation). Send this information to the GPA, who will form the committee in MyGrad.


  • Have your Chair confirm with the GPA that you are ready to take the exam.
  • Coordinate a day/time/modality (in-person/remote/hybrid) with your entire committee.
  • Schedule a room (This can be frustrating. The GPA is happy to help with this!)
  • Notify the GPA of day/time/modality.
  • Schedule the Final Exam in MyGrad.

The Final Examination

At least four members of the supervisory committee (including Chair and GSR) must be present at the Final Examination. If you plan to have a remote or hybrid exam, review these Instructions for Virtual Doctoral Exams.  


UW Graduate School Final Exam information:

Graduate School guidelines and policies for the Final Exam

Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation information

Preparing to Graduate

Appointment of the Reading committee