PhD Qualifying Examinations

The qualifying examination is a demanding written exam that is designed to test the preparation of students intending to write a dissertation in a given area of research. The exam covers topics included in courses, as well as additional papers and publications. In general, the exam requires a broad and unified knowledge of the area, is closed-book, is written under time constraints, and often contains essay questions. It is a good idea for a student to discuss preparation for the exam with appropriate faculty members once the area of specialization has been decided, and to start preparing well ahead of the qualifying deadline.

Qualifying examinations are offered early in every regular term. Students are required to register for the exam with the Graduate Program Coordinator. Registration deadlines and exam dates are announced well in advance. Registration dates are strictly enforced.

Each exam lasts four hours and is graded on a scale of P+ (high pass), P (pass), P- (near pass), or F (fail). A grade of P+ or P is required to pass the exam. In any given area a student is allowed at most two chances to pass the exam. All attempts must happen prior to the initial qualifying deadline set at the time of entry to the program unless an extension has been requested and approved.

The Department offers qualifying exams in each of the areas listed below. Click on the link for the area to find out about courses that may help prepare for the exam, the current reading list for the exam, and copies of prior exams.