Skip to main content

Qualifying Exam

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 at least two purposes:

  1.   To acquaint faculty members with the research potential and interests of the student, and the student  with the research interests of faculty members.
  2.   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, they ask a faculty member to chair a committee to conduct their 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.

The Qualifying Examination is passed by majority vote of the committee and the chair of the committee must be in the majority. The syllabus for the Qualifying Examination must be approved by the committee. The student must enter this and other information on the Qualifying Examination Form at least three weeks prior to the exam date. The student will receive a copy of the form by email and bring it to the exam for the members of the committee to sign. Afterwards the form should be handed to the Graduate Program Assistant for proper recording. The student must also submit their qualifying exam information to the Graduate School through its GSTS site. 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 years.