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Preliminary Examination

student writing notes on a whiteboard

The preliminary examination is designed to assess a PhD student’s readiness to undertake dissertation research. After passing the preliminary examination, a student officially is considered a PhD candidate. This is the second major milestone in the PhD program, after the qualifier examination.

The preliminary examination usually takes place when a student has completed most, though not necessarily all, of the coursework but has not yet made a major investment of time and effort toward dissertation research. For this examination, the student performs research under an advisor’s supervision and then defends the work before a Graduate College-approved faculty committee of at least five members.

Students must pass the preliminary examination one year prior to their dissertation defense. Approval by petition is needed if students plan to hold their dissertation defense within a year of the preliminary examination.