Oral Qualifying Examination

After passing all other requirements (including course work), a student begins intensive preparation for the qualifying exam. The qualifying exam is intended to test a student's depth and breadth of the knowledge that is required to undertake the dissertation research and writing. The qualifying examination normally is scheduled no later than the 10th quarter of residence.

Qualifying Exam Committee

Upon the recommendation of the graduate advisor, after consultation with the student’s major professor and the student, a five-member committee, which normally includes the student’s major professor, will be submitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for approval. The student’s major professor (who normally chairs the student’s dissertation committee) may not chair the student’s qualifying exam committee.

Research Proposal

Prior to taking the qualifying exam, students must submit a research proposal to their qualifying exam committee members. Students write their dissertation research proposal in coordination with members of their qualifying exam committee. Dissertation research proposals contain a clear statement of the research question and background, an analytical framework and literature review, and a detailed methodology. There is no required length, but typically these proposals range between 10 and 25 pages. Once the proposal is approved by the qualifying exam committee the front page is signed by the major professor and the proposal is placed in the student’s departmental file.

Exam Structure and Content

The qualifying exam consists of written and oral components. For both components, students are examined on at least three fields that the student chooses in consultation with the major professor and the examination committee. The written portion consists of nine hours of written responses to questions solicited from the committee members, over a three-day period. A three-hour oral exam is scheduled following the written exam. Students present their research and then are examined on their three topical fields and their research proposal.

The results of the qualifying exam are Pass, Not Pass, and Fail. A student who receives a Not Pass or Fail may take the examination one additional time, but only if the major professor agrees. A student who fails the exam on the second try will be recommended for dismissal from the program. Students who receive a Pass on the qualifying exam are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. They must submit to the Office of Graduate Studies a request for candidacy for the degree of doctor of philosophy, after paying a fee and naming the requested dissertation committee.