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Qualifying Exam

The Ph.D. qualifying exam provides an early assessment of a student’s preparation and aptitude for completing a Ph.D. degree. The exam requires work on a research project and completion of at least three courses in the student’s specialty area.

Timing

Students are expected to take the qualifying exam by the end of their second year in the Ph.D. program.

Requirements

Students should plan well in advance to be prepared for the qualifying exam. To be eligible to schedule their exam, students must have:

  • Identified a permanent faculty adviser
  • Made sufficient progress on their research project
  • Completed at least three courses in their specialty area (grades of 3.5 or higher in 500-level courses)

The coursework and research project must be approved by the permanent adviser before scheduling the exam.

The Exam

The exam is administered by a panel of faculty members with expertise related to the student’s research project. During the exam period, the student must:

  • Submit a five-page written report describing their project.
  • Give a 15-20 minute oral presentation on their project.
  • Respond to questions from panel members about the research project and associated foundational concepts.

In assessing the student, the faculty panel looks for the following:

  • Understanding of relevant fundamentals.
  • Understanding of related literature.
  • Clarity and completeness of written document.
  • Quality of oral presentation.
  • Ability to field questions.

A student who has successfully completed the qualifying exam moves on to preparing for the general exam.