A student becomes a Ph.D. candidate after successfully completing six quarters of course work and the Qualifying Examination. This is the last examination before a student begins dissertation research. This examination serves several purposes: to acquaint faculty members with the research potential and interests of the student, to acquaint the student with the research interests of faculty members, and to determine whether the student can read and assimilate advanced material in a specialized field.
The Qualifying Examination is an oral examination. After the student has decided upon a field of interest, he/she asks a faculty member to chair a committee to conduct his/her Qualifying Examination. The chair, in consultation with the student, selects at least two other faculty members to comprise the committee. The committee members, in consultation with each other and the student, assign topics and a reading list to the student. The committee must be comprised of at least three faculty members, at least two of whom are NU graduate faculty
Students preparing for the Qualifying Examination must submit for approval the qualifying examination form to the Graduate Program Assistant at least three weeks prior to the exam date.
The Qualifying Examination must be taken by the end of the first quarter of a student’s third year. Failure to pass the exam by the end of the third year may jeopardize financial support in the subsequent year.
Students must have a prospectus (dissertation proposal) approved no later than the end of the fourth year of study, which falls on the last date of the 16th quarter. A student failing to meet this milestone will be considered not in good academic standing and therefore will be placed on academic probation. Deadlines will be altered in the case of an approved leave of absence or a childbirth accommodation. The prospectus must be approved by a faculty committee comprised of a minimum of three individuals. At least two members of this committee, including the chair, must be members of the Northwestern University Graduate Faculty.
Students may choose to have their prospectus approved by the faculty committee members via electronic communication or an in-person meeting. The student must then submit the PhD Prospectus form through TGS Forms in CAESAR for program approval. The student’s adviser must email the Graduate Program Assistant to confirm the student’s successful completion of the prospectus. Students are notified via email by TGS of approval of their Prospectus form.