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Comprehensive examination

The following sections give general information on the predoctoral examination at DIRO.

Computer science PhD students at UdeM should master their specialty domain as well as fundamentals of computer science. In order to achieve both these objectives, DIRO PhD students need to pass the 3 parts of the predoctoral examination before the end of the 6th semester of their PhD studies. Not meeting these requirements will result in exclusion from the program.

DIRO PhD students need to enroll for the first part of the predoctoral examination during the first semester of their studies. The second part of the examination is offered during the Fall and Winter semesters. Students can enroll for this part of the examination during any Fall or Winter semester during the first 6 semesters of their studies. Generally, it is recommended to complete part 1 of the examination before part 2, and part 2 before part 3, but students should consult with their supervisor to plan their path, including courses, which must be completed at the latest at the end of the 6th semester of their studies.

Students are encouraged to contact the professors responsible for each examination part  or the pre-doctoral committee if they have any questions. Both the professors and the committee are always available to help students succeed in the pre-doctoral examination.

Part 1 : Validation of the knowledge of the syllabus of the courses IFT2015 and IFT2125


  • Students must register for the courses IFT2015 and IFT2125 in the 1st semester of their studies. If one of the two courses is not offered, the inscription will be postponed to the next  semester in which the course is offered. If the student has already taken one of the courses (e.g. during his undergraduate studies at DIRO), he/she must inform the director of the predoc committee

  • PhD students taking these courses as part of their predoctoral examination are not required to submit homeworks (though they are encouraged to do so). The evaluation will only be based on the midterm and final exams of the course. The professor will give a literal grade to each of the students based on the overall results of all students enrolled in the course..

Success Criteria

  • The student must obtain a grade greater than or equal to B+ in both courses.

  • If the student gets a grade below B+ in one of the two courses, he/she must retake the exams of the course during the next semester in which it is offered. No interruption of studies will be possible for a student who failed their first attempt at the exam.

  • If the student gets a grade below B+ the second time he/she takes the exam, he/she will be excluded from the PhD program.

Exemption for exceptional students

  • A student who has already taken IFT2015 or IFT2125 during his undergraduate or masters studies and obtained a grade greater than or equal to A- is exempted from taking the exams for this course.

  • A student who passed a course equivalent to IFT2015 or IFT2125 in a university/school other than UdeM can be exempted from taking the corresponding exams. The student must provide evidence that the syllabus of the course he passed is equivalent to one of IFT2015 or IFT2125 and that he/she obtained a grade greater than or equal to A-. The decision of whether this exemption is granted or not is taken by the predoctoral examination committee in coordination with the head of the DIRO graduate studies committee.
Part 2 : Validation of the knowledge of the specialty domain.


The Prédoc 2 exam verifies the level of knowledge synthesis in the student's specialty area.


The examination to assess the student's level of knowledge synthesis in their specialty area is conducted as an oral exam following the submission of a written report. The exam is offered all three terms each year. The candidate's research director is responsible for expediting the completion of this stage.

To be eligible for this second part of the predoctoral examination, the student must have passed Part 1 (or been exempted from it), and ideally, should have successfully completed the required graduate courses in their doctoral program. This part must precede Part 3 (Prédoc 3).


Calendar for Summer 2024

The dates below are strict. No extensions will be granted.

May 17thDeadline to submit the intent to present (student).

June 21st

Deadline to submit the corpus proposal to the committee (student).
June 28th
Deadline for the doctoral committee to validate the proposal.
Before August 2nd
Submission of the synthesis report to the committee (at least two weeks before the oral exam).
Before August 28th
Oral examination.


The process is initiated by the student who sends an email to the president (Pierre Poulin) of the predoctoral committee (copying their research supervisor) expressing their intention to present their Prédoc 2. This intent to present must include the student's field of research and suggestions for a chair and a member for the doctoral committee. The president of the predoctoral committee then sends an email to the student and all members of their doctoral committee to formalize the formation of the committee.

In collaboration with their director, the student prepares a corpus proposal to submit to their doctoral committee for approval. The doctoral committee validates the proposal. The chair of the committee is responsible for scheduling the oral examination. See the schedule for deadlines for these steps.

Once approved, the student prepares a synthesis report on the selected corpus of articles, which must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the date of the oral examination.

During the oral examination, the student presents a synthesis of the literature they have analyzed to their doctoral committee. This is followed by a question-and-answer session with the committee.

At the end of the oral examination, the committee deliberates and assigns a grade (pass or fail) to the student. The chair communicates the committee's report to the TGDE of graduate studies and the president of the predoctoral committee.

In case of failure, the committee's report must specify the reasons for the failure, and the student must retake the exam at the date indicated in the committee's report, at the latest by the next term. A second failure results in the termination of the student's doctoral program.


Doctoral Committee

The student's doctoral committee is appointed by the president of the predoctoral committee. The committee consists of the research supervisor, any co-supervisors if applicable, a member, and a chair. The committee members must be professors at DIRO (including associate professors), but the chair cannot be an associate professor.


Corpus Proposal

The student, after consulting with their supervisor, proposes to the doctoral committee the material for the examination:

  • A title that defines the scope of the research field.
  • A summary of the research field, 250 to 300 words in length.
  • A corpus of 5 to 10 articles to study. Eligible manuscripts include those published in renowned journals or conference proceedings, or book chapters. Additionally, the eligible articles should be a minimum of 8 pages in the publication format.


Approval of the Proposal

The doctoral committee must approve the corpus proposal. The committee may, if it deems necessary, require changes to the selected corpus of articles. These changes are considered final. In its response, the committee also communicates the location, date, and time of the student's oral examination. The oral exam can be conducted in person or remotely, as decided by the committee.

Synthesis Report

The student submits a 10-page report (NSERC format) reviewing the literature corresponding to the summary and the corpus of articles. The bibliography, title, and summary are not included in the page count. Figures, code snippets, algorithms, or summary tables are allowed in the appendix and do not count towards the page limit. The student may consult with their research supervisor for guidance on writing the report. Several resources are also available. See, for example,

Oral Examination

 The oral examination consists of three parts:

  1. Presentation: The student presents a critical synthesis of the analyzed corpus. The presentation lasts 20 minutes. The student is evaluated on their ability to synthesize relevant literature in their research field.
  2. Question-Answer: The committee has a 30-minute period to ask questions to the student. Committee members ask their questions in the order decided by the chair. Questions relate to the student's article corpus and any related knowledge.
  3. Committee Report: The committee deliberates in private and assigns a grade (pass or fail) to the exam in its report. The evaluation is based on the synthesis report and oral exam.

Situation of Failure

If the exam is failed, it must be retaken on the date specified in the doctoral committee's report, at the latest during the next term. Depending on the doctoral committee's report, the retake may include only the oral part or both the written and oral parts. If the student fails the exam retake, they will be excluded from the doctoral program.


Part 3 : Research subject presentation

This last part of the examination is an oral presentation of the student’s research subject. In addition to the oral presentation, the student must submit a written manuscript describing the research subject, with a substantive bibliography, and describing the different research directions envisioned for the PhD.

Presentation subject presentation

This part of the predoctoral examination aims to verify that the students have identified their thesis subject, that they are familiar with the field of research and that he/she already has promising ideas to successfully complete the PhD  program within a reasonable period of time. The jury does not see the presentation as a contract to be fulfilled, but rather as the presentation of avenues of research which might lead to the advancement of computer science.

This part of the exam is individual and a jury is formed for each student. The jury is made up of the research director(s) and two other professors (the president and a member). The examination consists of an oral presentation and a written report which must be given to the members of the jury at least one week before the scheduled date of the presentation.

If, upon reading the document, the jury does not believe that the candidate is ready to make their presentation, they can either delay the date of the presentation and request a new version of the report, or decide that the student has failed.

It is the student, with the agreement of his research director, who requests the formation of the jury by the graduate studies committee. It is the president of the jury who organizes the presentation, to which all the members of the Department are invited.

The content of the report and of the presentation are determined by the student in collaboration with their supervisor. However, as a suggestion, we give here relevant points that may be included in the report.


The student must, in a report of about 30 to 40 pages, present their research topic. It is important that the report demonstrates the student’s knowledge of the field, with a comprehensive bibliographic review identifying the relevance of the research topic and establishing relations with the chosen subject. In short, the report should convince the jury that the subject is interesting and promising and that the candidate is capable of obtaining tangible results within a reasonable timeframe. Indeed, the report should also contain a realistic timeline.

Oral Presentation

Lasting approximately 45 minutes, this presentation takes up the important points of the report by emphasizing the precise statement of the thesis subject and by establishing the necessary relations between the main works in the field. Out of respect for listeners who are not members of the jury, the presentation should not imply a prior reading of the report, which serves primarily to support the assertions made during the oral presentation.

At the end of the presentation, the members of the jury decide whether or not the student has passed this 3rd part of the predoctoral examination.