Resources for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Examination Committee and Oral Exam

Once you turn in the final draft of your thesis, it will be read by your examining committee, and near the end of the semester you will sit before that committee for an oral examination in which they will ask you questions about your thesis and related topics.  Your performance on this examination will be part of what determines whether you earn honors.

The examination committee will consist of your advisor and at least two other qualified individuals. At least one of those individuals must come from outside of the Classical Studies faculty. You may give your advisor suggestions as to who should be asked to sit on your committee, but the ultimate decision will be his/hers, and is subject to the approval both of the department chair and the Charles Center.   The Charles Center sets a deadline within the first few weeks of the Spring semester for submitting the names of the examination committee.

No later than two weeks before the last day of classes, you will need to present each member of your committee with a digital or printed copy of your completed thesis.  After that, you and your advisor will work to schedule the date of your oral examination with the other committee members.

The examination itself should last at least one hour. Friends, family members, and other spectators may be allowed to attend, but only with the permission of your honors advisor. You can expect to be asked very specific questions about your thesis and about more general issues that your thesis touches upon.  Both you and any audience members you invite should be prepared for the fact that some of the comments you will get may be critical and some of the questions you will be asked may be tough ones. Confer with your advisor ahead of time for advice on what sorts of questions to be prepared for.

When the exam is over you will be excused from the room while the committee confers on whether you have earned honors and, if so, on what level.  The Classical Studies department confers two levels of honors: Honors and Highest Honors.  Highest Honors will only be granted in very rare cases: it is a distinction reserved for theses that display a level of scholarship that rivals that of professionals in the field and that could conceivably be published as-is in professional peer-reviewed publications.  The vast majority of successful theses will earn Honors, and you should keep in mind that earning Honors is, indeed, a significant honor.

Bring a copy of the cover sheet of your thesis formatted to conform to this example. If your examination is successful the members of your committee will sign this page.  After making any minor corrections to your text that your advisor and/or the committee may suggest or demand, you will upload a copy of your entire thesis with the signed cover sheet to Swem library's thesis archive (you can find instructions for doing so here).  Subsequently, your thesis will be available for future researchers to consult in the library's digital collection.