Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying Examinations

Prior to beginning a doctoral dissertation and at or near the time of completion of all course work, all doctoral students in the School of Education must pass a qualifying examination in their major areas of study. In effect, this examination process is intended to determine if a student is qualified to begin work on a doctoral dissertation.

A minor area qualifying examination may be required for education majors who are minoring in another education program area. Please consult with your department as to whether they require a minor examination. Students whose minor is outside of education may or may not have to take a minor examination, depending on the policy of the minor department. Doctoral students whose major is outside of education, and who are minoring in education, may or may not be required to take qualifying examinations, depending on the judgment of the minor representative.

Departments and programs determine the specific form of qualifying examination their students will take and establish the times at which examinations will be administered. Students need to file an application with their major and minor departments in the School of Education to take their qualifying examinations. Such application forms are available in departmental offices.

All qualifying examinations contain written and oral components.

Before You Take Qualifying Exams

In order to be eligible to take the qualifying examinations a student must have:

  • Been admitted unconditionally to the doctoral program
  • Have a doctoral advisory committee appointed and a doctoral plan of studies approved by the Office of Graduate Studies
  • Completed all or nearly all doctoral course work, with no more than 6 credit hours graded as incomplete

Written Exams

There are three options for the written component of the qualifying exam:

  • Proctored Exam in the Major Area
    • A proctored exam is administered in the School of Education in two four-hour sessions on consecutive days.
    • The minor area examination is administered in a four-hour session on a third day.
    • The major and minor examinations may be taken in the same semester or in different semesters.
  • Take-Home Examination in the Major or Minor Area
    • Students should contact the appropriate program or department for examination requirements.
  • Portfolios
    • Students work with their doctoral advisory committee to determine the contents of the portfolio and a timeline for its completion.
    • Students choosing this option should see their advisors regarding specific requirements for preparation of their portfolios.


Students are not required to register for the semester they are taking qualifying exams (see maintaining active student status), but must register for all subsequent spring and fall semesters once qualifying exams are passed until graduation.

Oral Examination

After all portions of the written component of the qualifying examinations are taken, an oral examination must be held. The primary purpose of this examination is for the advisory committee to review the answers to the written qualifying examination questions, to request elaboration or clarification to questions that were poorly or incompletely answered, and to quiz the student in-depth over any or all of the examination material. The date of passing the oral qualifying examination is a critical date. The seven years for course currency are counted backward from this date, and the seven years for completion of the dissertation are counted forward from this date.

Students who fail some or all portions of the qualifying examinations may be allowed to retake these portions. This decision is made by the student’s advisory committee and the department chair, and is based on the student’s overall program performance and the extent of the deficits on the qualifying examinations. Only one retake of the qualifying examinations is allowed.