PhD Qualifying Examination

PhD Qualifying Examination

PhD Examination Fields
PhD Examination Format

A written and oral qualifying examination in the student's major field of concentration must be taken when all course requirements are completed and within six months of completion of course work. Doctoral students must complete the MA essay and the language examinations before taking the qualifying exam.

Toward the end of course work and in consultation with the adviser, the student will select a committee for the qualifying examination, which will consist of four faculty members, including the adviser who normally serves as chair. In consultation with the adviser, the student will select the field in which he/she will be examined. Upon agreement of all committee members, their names and the student's selected field will be proposed in writing to the Graduate Program Director by the student.

The composition of the committee and field must be approved by the Graduate Faculty as a whole. In the same letter, the student will also communicate to the Graduate Program Director the approximate anticipated date of the examination. This date should normally be no later than the beginning of the second semester after the completion of coursework. The Examination Committee must be established at least two months before the anticipated date of the examination. The examination will be held at a time convenient for both the student and the committee.

The examination is a field exam, designed to prepare the student for teaching as well as to offer the student an opportunity for surveying the state of research in his or her field. The qualifying exam is not intended solely as a preparation for the dissertation. However, the oral part of the examination will include historiographical and methodological content as relevant to the student’s intellectual interests.

Once the committee has been established, the student will meet with its members separately several times over the course of the following months to determine bibliography and to discuss ideas and issues resulting from the student's preparation. Students, in consultation with the committee members, may choose themes to guide their studies.

Committee members will work as a team to develop bibliography, plan questions, and set procedure for the exam. The committee members will consult with each other about the content of the exam shortly after the committee is formed. All four members of the examination committee will review the entire bibliography. The entire exam will be read by all the members of the committee. The oral portion of the examination will be approximately two hours in length.

All students are urged to form and join, in the semester of the completion of their required course work or in the following semester, a Qualifying Examination study group. These casual workshops provide a loose structure within which students come together in small, self-directed study groups to help in preparing for the Qualifying Examination. Groups may be formed according to shared areas of concentration.

In exceptional cases, students may reverse the order of the dissertation proposal and the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. Students should consult their adviser and the graduate program director for permission to do this. Students will need to show evidence of advanced preparation for the dissertation and give a convincing rationale for reversing the usual order. For students requesting this option, the language examinations must be completed in advance of the proposal submission. The M.A. paper must be completed in advance of the qualifying examination.


Laura Weigert, Chair

Carla Yanni, Undergraduate Program Director 

Tamara Sears, Graduate Program Director

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