A general oral and written qualifying examination, "separate from course examinations", must be passed by the student as required by the Graduate School. The Qualifying Examination serves as an opportunity for the faculty to evaluate students en route to their admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. It also serves as a valuable learning experience, where a student has a chance to read critically and in-depth with various faculty members on both the thesis topic and two other topics of interest to the student.
The Qualifying Examination is normally taken during the spring semester of a student’s second year, but should be completed before he or she registers for the fifth semester.
Students must have completed all course requirements and must have selected a dissertation advisor before taking the Qualifying Examination. Thus, the student should meet with his or her dissertation adviser no later than the third term of study in order to decide on an area of focus in preparation for the qualifying examination and in order to define the research area for his or her dissertation.