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Procedures and Guidelines for Preliminary Doctoral Exams

                                                                                                                                                                                                  (Spring 2016)

General Procedures

  1. There are two exams (one in Theory and the other in Methods), each containing a written and oral portion. The oral exam is waived for students who receive a “High Pass” on the written exam.
  2. The written portion of each exam takes place on a single day, with a three hour writing session in the morning and a three hour writing session in the afternoon. The theory exam is on Monday, and methods is on Tuesday.
  3. If the student is notified that an oral exam is required, the student should work to schedule the oral exam with the faculty examination committee, typically to be held within two weeks of notification.
  4. The exams are written in word processing software on the lab computers which are not connected to the internet. Generally, students choose from several questions in each set of question types.
  5. Upon completion of the written exam, the student receives a copy of the exam questions and the student’s written answers. The student may bring their copy to the orals; paper and pen will also be available for their use during the orals.
  6. The exams are graded as: fail, pass and high pass. Only a high pass on the written exam will not require a follow-up oral examination. Feedback on the written exams will normally be within two weeks, though that depends on the number of students taking the exams. Feedback is not specific to a question but general comments based on the whole exam.
  7. These are internal department exams which means that there is no graduate faculty representative in your oral exam meeting, should you be required to take one. All results will be communicated to your committee members and added to your graduate file with the department. 

General Guidelines:

  1. A set of essential topics and suggested readings are offered as guidelines for preparation for the preliminary exams. Students are expected to use whatever reading they find useful. They are also encouraged to identify and use any other good quality references/readings which cover the essential topics and which they find useful in preparing for the exams. The general idea is not to memorize any one reference but primarily to be generally prepared for the area (theory or methods). We strongly recommend study groups where student can ‘teach’ each other key concepts to aid in understanding and recall. Answers and questions from previous exams are not made available.
  2. In the examination itself, it is suggested that you make a clear outline to guide your written response to the selected questions and to make sure that you answer each portion of the question. It is also important to keep yourself on schedule in terms of the amount of time you have to complete the required number of questions.
  3. Each student should read each question carefully, so they know what they are being asked to do. They should be asking themselves:  "Is this question asking me to go beyond demonstrating my factual knowledge (understanding).”  Most questions will!  "Is it also asking me to demonstrate my procedural knowledge (used when applying factual knowledge), conceptual knowledge (used when examining and analyzing something using factual and procedural knowledge), meta-cognitive knowledge (always used, and especially when evaluating or creating something using factual, procedural, and conceptual knowledge)?" For example, testing an hypothesis would require all four, and students should demonstrate all four when answering the question.