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Pre-Qualifying Examination

Before the Qualifying Exam

The Pre-Qualifying exam should be completed no later than the fourth semester (2nd year) of graduate studies. The purpose of the Pre-Qualifying Exam is to define thesis committee members and to help the student formulate the specific aims and goals of their thesis proposal with input from committee members.  

Complete Pre-Qualifying Exam Paperwork

Although the pre-qualifying exam paperwork seems to be daunting, it really involves only 3 documents:

  1. Appointment Form for PhD Pre-Qualifying Exam announces date, time, and location of the exam, the student’s program, committee members and proposal title. This form is prepared by the TBS coordinator and signed by one of the TBS co-directors.
  2. Proposal Abstract Page is a cover page for the thesis proposal abstract. It is one page in length and it is usually not numbered.
  3. Proposal Aims is a graduate student's statement of intention. It contains an outline of the proposed specific aims, not to exceed two pages in length, and is presented to the exam committee for approval. 

The committee conducting the qualifying exam must consist of four current full-time tenure-track faculty members appointed at the assistant professor rank or higher. Two members must have primary appointments in the department most closely related to the student's thesis topic. One additional member must have a primary appointment in a different department, and the last member can be from any department or academic unit. A TBS Co-Director will be present as a non-voting member and must be included in the pre-qualifying exam committee meeting. This committee will (in almost all cases) be the committee that will also preside over the Qualifying Exam.

Submit Pre-Qualifying Exam Paperwork

The student is required to distribute the Proposal Abstract and Proposal Aims to the TBS Program Coordinator, Co-Directors and exam committee at least 10 full working days prior to the Pre-Qualifying Exam. If the paperwork is late, students will be required to select a new date. The TBS Co-Director requests feedback from all committee members to determine the acceptability of the Pre-Qualifying Exam documents. If the TBS Co-Director determines that each member of the committee finds the abstract and specific aims to be of sufficient quality, the Pre-Qualifying Exam proceeds. An affirmative answer means only that committee members find the abstract and specific aims as sufficient on the whole and do not commit to agreement with every sentence or paragraph. Moreover, an affirmative answer that the documents are of sufficient quality to discuss does not preclude changes to the document after the pre-qualifying exam.

The Pre-Qualifying Exam

The student is expected to present an overview of the thesis abstract and specific aims for the first 20-30 minutes. The committee and student then have an informal discussion about the science and the potential for expanding the specific aims into a full proposal. The advisory committee will determine if the student's ideas are well formulated enough to go on to write a full proposal for the Qualifying Exam. The TBS Co-Director will notify the student in writing that the student has passed and has been invited to take the Qualifying Examination, or that the student has failed and needs to reschedule the Pre-Qualifying Exam after a period of five calendar weeks.