Attachment 3

Attachment 3: Qualifying Examination Procedures

This document discusses qualifying examination procedures which apply to the major area written and oral examinations, the prospectus presentation, and voting. Note that in some cases a minor area exam may also be required, as discussed previously in the Graduate Handbook.

1)Scope and preparation of the major area written examination.

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to demonstrate that the student has acquired the background necessary to proceed on to research for the dissertation. The major area written examination includes the course work in the major area but need not be restricted to this material, and may also include general mathematics background knowledge and other areas specific to the dissertation research as identified to the student by the thesis supervisor.

The examination should be primarily prepared by the thesis supervisor, preferably in close collaboration with at least one other member of the committee. The examination should be distributed to the committee members for review and comment no later than one week before the examination.

2)The major area oral examination

The oral exam, covering the same material as the major area written examination, will be scheduled no later than one week after the written examination. It may be held contemporaneously with the prospectus presentation. Each member of the committee will be invited to question the student. Questions may concern general topics from the major area or involve examination problems. Members of the graduate faculty, but not students, may attend the oral examination in an observing capacity.

3)Presentation of the written prospectus

The student will provide the committee, no later than one week before the presentation, with a copy of the written prospectus. The prospectus should describe the proposed subject of the thesis with background information, along with preliminary results and proposed approaches, as available. The presentation should last approximately 30 minutes, but may be longer at the discretion of the committee. The presentation will be open to the department, and the audience may ask questions. Subsequent to the presentation, the committee will question the student, with only members of the graduate faculty allowed to be present in an observing capacity. Acceptance of the prospectus by the committee as part of the qualifying examination represents the judgment of the committee that the student is prepared to begin dissertation research and has identified potential avenues of inquiry. The acceptance of the final dissertation is to be considered an independent judgment of the committee members.


After any part of the qualifying examination (including the written and oral examinations on the major area) the committee may meet and decide not to proceed further if the student’s performance has not been satisfactory to that point. In such a case, the vote will be recorded on the signature page of the qualifying examination form and the decision outlined in the space provided, along with the committee’s decision on the time and content of an appropriate reexamination, if applicable.

Given that the qualifying examination proceeds to the prospectus presentation, the committee will meet alone after the questioning following the prospectus presentation to determine whether the student has passed the qualifying exam. Each member will vote pass or fail and the vote will be recorded on the signature page of the qualifying examination form. The student will be deemed to have passed the qualifying examination if all members, or all members but one, vote pass. If the overall vote is to pass the student, the committee may add minor conditions to be fulfilled by the student, as written on the signature page. In this case, the passing vote is not considered final, and the student is not considered to have passed the qualifying examination, until the conditions have been met and accepted via a signed memo from the committee