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Washington State University Graduate School

Chapter 7E. Master’s Degree Academic Policies: Final Master’s Examination

A final examination and/or balloting meeting is required for all master’s candidates. This examination is intended to test the candidate’s ability to carry out a critical dialogue integrating and interpreting material in the major and supporting fields with emphasis on the work presented in the thesis or non-thesis special problem/project. Non-thesis master’s degree students may not have a formal examination; however, at a minimum, the advisory committee must hold a balloting meeting, scheduled through the Graduate School, to determine if the student has satisfactorily met all program requirements. Information regarding any non-thesis, special problem/project final exam requirements should be outlined in the graduate student handbook for the program.

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 coursework required by the program or listed on approved the Program of Study;
  • register for a minimum of two hours of 700 (thesis option) or 702 (non-thesis option) credits (unless otherwise specified in the graduate 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 project or thesis before the student schedules the final exam. A student completing a master’s thesis will only have five business days after the final exam to make any requested changes to the thesis (Chapter 6.H); 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

  • The student is responsible for filling out the Scheduling Examination form and obtaining the advisory committee signatures. The form should then be forwarded to the academic coordinator for review by the program chair and final submission to the Graduate School via the GRM.
  • 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.
  • For the thesis option:
    • The student must send a PDF copy of a full draft of the thesis to the Graduate School at, at the same time as the student submits the Scheduling Examination form to the program coordinator. The Scheduling Examination form will not be processed until the Graduate School has received the thesis draft. Graduate School staff will advise the student if there are any formatting issues that need to be addressed before the thesis can be accepted by the Graduate School and ProQuest.
    • The thesis must be available for public inspection in the graduate program’s office at least five business days prior to the final examination.
  • When advisory committee members sign the Scheduling Examination form, they indicate that they have read and approved a printed or electronic draft of the thesis, suitable in content and format,for defense and submission to the Library(Chapter 6.H). They also indicate their acceptance of the date, time, and place of the final examination.
  • A student, department chair, graduate program director, advisory committee member, or 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 attend the 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 standard process for the master’s final examination varies across disciplines and programs. However, the policies and procedures established for final exams by a graduate program should be outlined in the program’s Graduate Student Handbook and must adhere to the guidelines provided here.

a. Written Exams

  • Students in the non-thesis option may be given a comprehensive written exam as their final exam.
  • The advisory committee is not required to attend the written final exam but must participate in the assessment of the examination/project and must attend the balloting meeting

b. Oral Exams

  • The student presentation of a thesis or 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 oral exam should not exceed two-and-one-half hours.
  • If any 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.,read the thesis or master’s 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 or not the student passed. In situations in which balloting faculty participate via video conference 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 75% 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,a second and final attempt may be scheduled after a lapse of at least three months. The exception to the allowance of a second attempt may occur if 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). When scheduling a second exam, the scheduling form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least 15 business days in advance of the exam day. A member of the Graduate Mentor Academy will be appointed by the Graduate School and must be present at re-examination. The entire committee must be present and vote. 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.

7. Taking More than One Examination During the Same Semester

  • If a student is completing a master’s and a doctoral degree in the same discipline, the master’s final exam must be completed at least one semester prior to taking the doctoral final exam.
  • A student may take two master’s final exams (in different disciplines) in the same semester.
  • A student may take a master’s final exam in the same semester as a preliminary exam.
  • A student may take a master’s final exam and a doctoral final exam in the same semester,provided the degrees are in different disciplines and subject to the following conditions:
    • The student must obtain written approval from the advisory committees and program chairs/directors for each degree, and this approval must be submitted with the Scheduling Examination forms. The student will have to apply for graduation for both degrees and pay a separate fee for each graduation application.
    • The student is allowed take the doctoral final exam before the master’s final exam.
    • The examinations must be scheduled on separate days, with a minimum of 15 business days in between the examinations. This period allows time for completion and submission of the thesis or dissertation within the five business day timeline stipulated in Chapter 6.H, before submitting the Scheduling Examination form to the Graduate School 10 business days in advance of the second exam.

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