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Your Honors Oral Examination

The final hurdle to jump in doing an Honors project is the qualifying oral examination. The Honors oral exam is a lot like M.A. and Ph.D. level oral examinations. If you are considering graduate work in psychology, an Honors project will give you a chance to practice skills you will need there.

You will take your oral exam after you have written a thesis that is acceptable to your Honors advisor. Now you have to defend the project to your full honors committee. Your committee consists of your advisor, another member from the Psychological Sciences Department, and a member of another department on campus.

Before the Exam

If your Honors advisor feels that it is time to schedule the defense, it means that they feel that you are ready and should do well. If it is clear that you will not be able successfully defend the project, your advisor may recommend that you switch the honors registration to a directed readings or directed research project.

You will give the committee members copies of your thesis two weeks or more before the end of classes of your final Honors semester. If the committee finds your thesis acceptable, you will schedule the final defense. The defense should take place well before the end of exams - see the Charles Center for exact dates.

During the Exam

Nerves are normal. Keep in mind that your Honors advisor has confidence that you will do well.

Once everyone is seated, start by briefly summarizing your work. Even though the committee members have read your report, they expect a 10 to 15 minute abstract stating the basic question of the research, the main features of the method, the most important parts of the data analysis, and your conclusions.

Then, your advisor will ask the committee members if they have any questions. Here is your chance to show that you know the topic and have given the project ample thought. Your responses should make it clear that you are interested in the topic and find the research worthwhile (no matter how it came out). Expect questions about future prospects for this research project.

Do not worry if you draw a momentary blank on a simple question. You can say "I don't know." or "I can't recall right now," and return to it later. The questions continue, rotating through the committee. The committee often suggests fixing minor typos and unclear wording in your thesis. Larger, more important, changes have to be reviewed before the final draft is accepted.

After the Exam

When the committee runs out of questions and suggestions, your advisor will ask you to leave the room while they evaluate your performance. The first task of the committee is to decide if the report and defense are of honors quality. If so, then they have to decide if a High or Highest level is appropriate. Finally, you are invited back and the results are declared with exclamations of "congratulations!" and additional comments about your fine performance.

You will then make the final changes to your thesis, have them reviewed if necessary, and submit it to Swem's archives.