Oral Exams

The Graduate Board Oral Examination for candidates for the Ph.D. degree has three major objectives:

  1. To assess a candidate’s proficiency in the discipline.
  2. To give a student the benefit of a critical examination of his or her work by scholars outside the department or program committee
  3. To provide a means for extra-departmental monitoring of the academic quality of departments and committees sponsoring candidates.

Types of Graduate Board Graduate Oral Examinations

There are two types of Graduate Board oral examinations: preliminary exams and final exams. Departments or program committees decide whether students will use a preliminary or a final examination to fulfill their Graduate Board requirement. Preliminary exams are given to students at an early stage in the progress toward the Ph.D.; final exams are given to those who have completed the doctoral dissertation.

Preliminary Examinations

The purpose of a preliminary examination is to test the depth and breadth of the student’s knowledge and reasoning abilities. The scope of such an examination cannot and should not be sharply defined. The Graduate Board Oral Examination Committee can determine the limits of the exam by reviewing the candidate’s formal coursework along with the requirements of the candidate’s school, group, department, or committee requirements (e.g., whether specific minor, as well as major, subjects are to be included). The preliminary exam may cover the student’s proposed dissertation topic; in that case, examiners should have information about the dissertation proposal well ahead of the examination.

Final Examinations

A final examination should concentrate on the student’s doctoral dissertation and its implications. It is reasonable for the Graduate Board Oral Examination Committee to explore the candidate’s breadth of knowledge in areas ruled germane to the thesis by the chair of the committee. The dissertation and the readers’ report must be available to the committee at least two weeks before a final exam.