Preliminary Exams

To attain the level of doctoral candidacy and begin research, students admitted to the PhD or DA program must first pass a doctoral preliminary examination consisting of two written exams, a minor sequence, and an oral examination (Statistics concentrators only). This process helps to determine the student's readiness to undertake thesis research.

Students who have completed 64 hours of graduate coursework and have passed the doctoral preliminary examination are formally recommended to the Graduate College as doctoral candidates. Students should consult the Graduate Handbook pdf for additional details and specific deadlines for completion.

Preliminary Examination FAQ

When are the written prelims offered?
Prelims are offered once each year, typically at the end of the Spring semester. The date and time of each exam is arranged by the examiner in consultation with the students pre-registered for the exam. Students are allowed 3 hours to complete the exam.
How do I register for a prelim?
Students register online for each exam no later than February 28. Students who register for a prelim, then decide not to take the exam, MUST notify the examiner at least 10 days prior to the exam. Failure to do so will result in a failing score on the exam.
Which prelims must I take?
The prelims are listed by subject area. Students must complete two different written prelims and select a minor sequence from a third prelim area. Most students may "select" their prelims. Statistics students are required to take the Probability and Statistics prelim, then select their remaining prelim and minor sequence.
How can I prepare for the exams?
Sample exams are posted on the website for review. Check the Exam Topics link to see if a prelim syllabus is available.
What is the minor sequence?
The minor sequence consists of two 500-level courses that lead to a written prelim, without overlapping an area in which a written prelim is taken. The minor sequence requirement can be satisfied either by passing a written prelim in a third area OR by completing the sequence of courses and earning grades that convert to a qualifying numerical score.
What is a qualifying score on the doctoral prelim exam?
Scores assigned for the written prelim exams are: 1 (best), 2, 3, and 5 (fail). Students may retake a written prelim. Although scores of 2 and 3 are passing scores, the sum of the scores on the two written prelims cannot exceed 4. To be eligible for doctoral candidacy, the combined scores of the two written prelims along with the numerical score earned in the minor sequence cannot exceed 6; in addition, Statistics students must pass an Oral Examination.
When do I take the Oral prelim exam (Statistics students only)?
Shortly after completing the written prelims and minor sequence, Statistics students should contact their advisor to plan for their Oral Prelim exam. Students must submit the Committee Recommendation form at least 30 days prior to their planned Oral Prelim exam date. Specific deadlines for nomination to doctoral candidacy are outlined in the Graduate Handbook pdf.
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