Qualifying Exam

Qualifying Exam


Taken by October 31 of G3


The Oral Qualifying Exam assesses the student’s mastery of the fundamental ideas and approaches in the chosen Concentration Area.


Requesting an Oral Qualifying Exam
The student requests an oral exam by meeting with their Concentration Advisor and completing a Request for Oral Examination Form no later than August 31 of the G2 year.


  • Prior to this meeting, the student must have consulted with the Concentration Advisor, their Dissertation Advisor, and other mentors regarding the elective coursework that would best prepare them for research in their chosen area, and to clarify expectations for the exam.
  • During the exam, the student will give a brief presentation on their research and will be examined on both research and relevant aspects of coursework
  • The exam is administered by an ad hoc committee comprising three faculty members. The student’s Dissertation Advisor cannot serve on this committee.
  • The Exam Committee is appointed by the Concentration Advisor with suggestions from the student and other advisors. A Chair of the exam is also assigned who is responsible for reporting the outcome of the exam to the Tracking Committee.



  • The student will contact their committee to schedule a date for the exam and reserve a room in which to take the exam for three hours.¬†
  • A written summary of a research project carried out during rotation(s) must be submitted to the committee at least one week before the exam. This research summary should be 6-8 pages long (not counting figures and references).
  • A brief (10-15 min) synopsis of the research project is presented during the exam. This presentation usually consists of preliminary results for the anticipated dissertation project. This synopsis must indicate why the research question is important, describe the techniques used to address the question, present and interpret results, and discuss how the approach advances knowledge in the research area.


If the first attempt is not a pass, the student may be given a second chance.


Continued enrollment for any student who has not attained a clear pass after a second examination (if a second chance had been approved) will be considered and determined by the SHBT Student Affairs (tracking) committee and the Director of Graduate Studies of the DMS.


A student is not allowed to register for the fourth year if he/she has not passed the qualifying examination.


After passing the Oral Qualifying Exam, students may submit their dissertation proposal and devote full-time to dissertation research.

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