Chapter 14-E

Chapter 14E: Capstone Project and/or Examination Requirements

Professionally oriented master’s students may be required to take a comprehensive examination, and/or complete a capstone project (such as a written paper or oral presentation) as part of their professional master’s requirements.

Regardless whether the program requires a final examination or 500-level capstone course, a balloting meeting of the faculty advisory committee (scheduled through the Graduate School) is required for all degree candidates to determine if the student has satisfactorily met all of the program requirements. During the balloting meeting, the faculty advisory committee must determine whether the student has passed the final examination and/or capstone project and has met the requirements of the degree program. Professionally oriented master’s degree programs may wish to schedule multiple students at one balloting meeting of the faculty advisory committee. In such cases, a list of students and their IDs should be attached to the Scheduling Examination form.

1. Before Scheduling the Final Exam

a. The student must:

  • have an approved Program of Study on file with the Graduate School
  • have completed or be enrolled in all the coursework required by the program or listed on the Program of Study;
  • be registered for a minimum of two hours of 701 credits (capstone credits) or be registered in the professional master’s 500-level capstone course (as specified in the program’s Faculty Senate-approved curriculum);
  • have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a minimum 3.0 GPA on the Program of Study;
  • complete the Application for Degree in myWSU. The graduation fee must be paid before the final exam is scheduled; and
  • wait a minimum of three months after a failed first attempt before scheduling a second attempt at the final exam.

b. The candidate’s advisory committee is responsible for:

  • approving all aspects of the capstone project; and
  • verifying that the student will complete all program requirements by the end of the semester in which the final exam is taken.

2. Scheduling the Final Exam

  • Depending on the program, the student may be responsible for filling out the Scheduling Examination form and obtaining the advisory committee signatures, or the program may submit the Scheduling Examination form for an entire cohort. In the former case, the student should forward the form to the academic coordinator for review by the program chair and final submission to the Graduate School via the GRM.
  • In either case, the Scheduling Examination form must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than 10 business days prior to the proposed date of the examination for a first attempt. If a student is attempting the final exam for a second time, the Scheduling Examination form must be submitted no later than 15 business days prior to the proposed date for the exam and/or balloting meeting.
  • When advisory committee members sign Scheduling Examination form, they indicate their acceptance of the date, time, and place of the final examination and balloting session.
  • A student, department chair, graduate program director, advisory committee member, or any other concerned member of the WSU community may request that the Graduate School provide an independent observer to be present at any final examination/balloting meeting. This request must be made 15 business days in advance of the exam date. The name of the individual making the request will be confidential. All such requests will be fulfilled by drawing upon a member of the Graduate Mentor Academy. During the scheduling process, the Graduate School will notify the student, advisory committee and department chair/program director if a graduate mentor has been assigned to an exam.

3. Scheduling Requirements

  • For a first attempt exam, the Graduate School usually appoints a member of the student’s advisory committee, preferably the chair, to serve as the Graduate School liaison regarding the examination process.
  • For a second attempt exam, the Graduate School will appoint a representative from the Graduate Mentor Academy to serve as the Graduate School liaison for the examination process.
  • Proctored written examinations, oral examinations, and balloting meetings will be held during regular business hours in an academic environment (e.g., on a WSU campus or research and extension center).
  • For students participating in on-site (campus or extension center) programs, at least one advisory committee member must be physically present in the room with the student during an oral final exam.
  • Students in approved Global Campus programs have the option of taking their final examinations on a WSU campus or via technology available through the Global Campus. The technical arrangements must be approved by the advisory committee, program chair, and the Graduate School.

4. Examination Process

The process for the master’s final examination should be outlined in the program’s Graduate Student Handbook and must adhere to the guidelines provided here.

a. Written Exams

  • Students in the professional master’s option may be given a comprehensive written exam as their final exam.
  • The written examination may be proctored by a faculty member approved by the program chair/director.
  • The entire advisory committee is not required to attend the written final examination but must participate in the assessment of the examination/project and ballot.

b. Oral Exams

  • The student presentation of project results is a public event. All faculty and students, regardless of discipline, are encouraged to attend. Audience members may be allowed to ask questions, but such questioning should not unduly influence the examination outcome.
  • It is acceptable to conclude the public presentation and conduct a separate examination portion with only members of the advisory committee and program graduate faculty in attendance and asking examination questions. Again, the standard procedure of the program should be clearly described in the program’s graduate handbook and applied consistently to all students.
  • The examination portion of the oral exam should not exceed two-and-one-half hours
  • If any advisory committee members, or graduate faculty intending to ballot, must leave the room or the online session during the examination or balloting discussion, the examination or discussion must be recessed until the faculty member returns.

c. Balloting Meeting

  • For oral exams, the ballot meeting must follow immediately after the conclusion of the student’s oral exam.
  • Only individuals casting ballots or appointed as a representative of the Graduate School are allowed to attend the balloting portion of the exam.
  • All advisory committee members must be present at the oral exam and balloting meeting and must cast a ballot.
  • Any graduate faculty in the program may ballot. Individual programs determine in their bylaws which faculty can participate in the graduate program and thus are eligible to ballot in examinations.
  • As a best practice, graduate faculty choosing to ballot should have participated in the assessment of all components of the student’s work being evaluated during the examination (e.g., any written component of the 701 project).
  • Graduate Mentor Academy members, representing the Graduate School at an exam, do not ballot.
  • Ballots must be completed in ink, by checking the appropriate box (pass or fail), signed, and dated. The ballots are collected by the Graduate School liaison, who keeps the individual ballots confidential, but announces to the committee whether the student passed. In situations in which balloting faculty participate via videoconference or other approved Global Campus technology, the remote participants should communicate their ballot recommendations directly to the Graduate School liaison (e.g. text or email). A scan, snapshot, or fax of the paper ballot should be sent to the Graduate School liaison immediately following the exam via confidential fax or emailed as a pdf file from a WSU email account.
  • The student must be informed of the outcome immediately after the balloting meeting is adjourned.
  • The Graduate School liaison is responsible for ensuring that all ballots and paperwork are returned in a single packet to the Graduate School as soon as possible and no later than five business days following the exam. For some programs, the graduate coordinator will keep the original paperwork (in a confidential file) and submit the balloting packet electronically to the Graduate School via email to

Under extraordinary circumstances, on the recommendation of the advisory committee, the dean of the Graduate School may approve alternate arrangements for the examination environment and/or process.

5. Examination Outcome

The candidate shall pass if the number of affirmative ballots is equal to or greater than the minimum listed in the table below. If the number of ballots exceeds the numbers listed in the table, then a minimum of 2/3 of the ballots must be affirmative for the student to pass.

Table of Master Final Exam Ballots

Number of Ballots Minimum Number of Affirmative  Ballots 
3 2
4 3
5 4
6 4
7 5
8 6


6. Second Attempt Exam

In the event of a failed first attempt, the student will be given a second attempt unless a member of the Graduate Mentor Academy (appointed by the Graduate School) presided over the student’s first exam and agrees that a re-examination is not an appropriate disposition of the case (see Chapter 1.E.2, Examination Failure). A student who has failed two examinations will be dismissed from the Graduate School. Should there be procedural irregularities or extenuating circumstances during the first or second examination, the student has the right to appeal to the Graduate School in the event of examination failure.


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