The purpose of the qualifying examination is to determine the student's qualifications to pursue a doctoral degree and to determine any course deficiencies that should be considered.

The candidacy examination should be taken early in the student's program. It shall be administered before 15 graduate credits have been completed beyond that of the M.S. degree or equivalent. In the case of students without an M.S. degree, the examination should be taken after 18 credits have been earned.

Qualifying Exam Requirements

The purpose of this exam is to assess whether the student is capable of conducting independent Ph.D. research based on critical thinking, basic intellect, attitude, and previous training.  It is also designed to determine if the student can demonstrate a satisfactory level of competence in the use of the English language, including reading, writing, and speaking.  This oral exam is conducted by the student’s faculty advisor and prospective Ph.D. advisory committee members.  The student cannot be considered a Ph.D. candidate or form a formal Ph.D. advisory committee prior to passing the qualifying exam.

The qualifying examination must be taken within three semesters (not including the summer semester) of enrolling in the AEPS Ph.D. program.  Students who have been identified as master’s-along-the-way upon admission into the graduate program may be allowed an extension such that the three-semester time limit will begin upon completion of the M.S. degree.  Students pursuing dual-title degrees must take the qualifying examination within four semesters (not counting the summer semester) of entry into the Ph.D. program.

To be eligible to take the qualifying examination the student must:

  1. Have earned at least 18 credits in courses counted toward the graduate degree. These may be graduate credits earned previously at other recognized institutions from which transfer credits would be accepted, or the equivalent as determined and documented by the program.
  2. Have a grade-point average of 3.00 or greater for work done at the University while a graduate student.
  3. Have no incomplete or deferred grades.
  4. Be in good academic standing and registered as a full-time or part-time graduate degree student for the semester (excluding summer session) in which the qualifying examination is taken.

Process: The student meets with his or her Ph.D. faculty advisor to ensure that all the requirements for the examination have been met, to discuss potential exam committee members, and to arrange possible dates and locations for the qualifying examination. Typically, the student selects faculty that will likely serve on the Ph.D. advisory committee after passing the qualifying examination. The student and/or advisor then contacts each member of the committee and arranges a mutually agreeable date and time for the qualifying examination.

When all arrangements have been made with the examination committee members, the student will complete the qualifying exam form and contact the AEPS Graduate Program Coordinator with the date, time, and location of the examination. 

The Graduate Program Coordinator will then file the necessary paperwork with The Graduate School.  The Graduate School will verify that all requirements have been met and will then forward the exam paperwork to the Graduate Program Coordinator.  This paperwork will then be given to the examination committee chair for the date of the examination.

Qualifying exam requirements: The student will prepare a written summary of a challenging research journal article related to the student’s area of research interest selected by the student’s advisor (in consultation with the student).  The summary will be submitted to the examining committee at least one week before the oral qualifying examination date.  The student should also prepare a packet consisting of undergraduate and graduate transcripts, an abstract from the student’s M.S. thesis (and any other relevant publications), and the goal statement from the admissions application.  This packet should be distributed to the examination committee members at least one week before the exam date.  Additional questions concerning the examination should be directed to the student’s faculty advisor or the Graduate Program Director.

At the beginning of the exam, the student will make a 15-minute oral presentation summarizing the research journal article.  Each member of the exam committee will ask questions of the student during or after the presentation and rate the student’s performance.  This exam also includes an evaluation of English competency.  Committee members will determine whether the student should take additional courses or actions to improve English competency.

After the oral presentation, and with time permitting, each exam committee member will have up to 30 minutes to question the student.  At the end of the questioning period, the student will be asked to leave the room and the committee members will evaluate the student’s performance.  The student will then be asked to return to the exam room and be informed of the committee’s decision.

Evaluation of performance will include one of the following:  Pass without reservation; failure, with an opportunity to retake the exam at a later date (no more than one retake, at a date no later than one month following the first examination, will be allowed); or failure without the opportunity to retake the exam.  At least two thirds of the exam committee must vote in favor of the student passing the qualifying exam.

The exam committee chair (typically the student’s advisor) submits the examination results and forms with signatures to the Graduate Program Coordinator immediately following the examination.  The outcome of the examination will be reported to the Graduate School by the Graduate Program Coordinator.