Joan of Arc

Ph.D. students typically take their Doctoral Qualifying Examination (DQE) late in their second year of the program. These exams consist of three written sessions (two four-hour sessions for major fields, and one four-hour session split between two minor fields) and one oral session (three hours). Success on your DQE is the gateway to “doctoral candidate” status.

Let it be known that these exams are difficult (rightly so) and will require a serious commitment in terms of time and effort for all students who wish to earn their doctorate in history at MU. You should plan on devoting much of your time to preparation and study during the months prior to your exam date.

Here are some guidelines for preparation and successful completion of the infamous DQE:


All students work on an individual timeline, however, the DQE is generally taken by the beginning of the third year of one's Ph.D. program. Early in your second year, you should:

*Consult with your advisor about your fields, and plan ahead (i.e. be sure to take colloquia and think seriously about arranging for your colloquia instructors to examine you in the corresponding field. If you have taken Modern U.S. with Professor X you will be much better prepared to understand his/her expectations for a Modern U.S. DQE).

Test Week

Oral examinations will take up to three hours. Typically the test time is broken up into two rounds with a short break between. It is common for each committee member to have an opportunity to ask you questions in both rounds one and two. Examiners might ask you to speak to issues their written questions did not cover, or you may be asked to clarify your written answers. It is not uncommon for examiners to ask “lighting-round” questions in which you are asked to speak on an individual term, person, or event in history. Bottom-line it is up to each examiner what they ask you and in what format.

So to all who embark on this journey, good luck! If you have questions, do not hesitate to ask your fellow graduate students, your advisor, or the Director of Graduate Studies. Also, be sure to check out the Forms and Deadlines section of the HGSO website for any relevant paperwork surrounding the DQE process.


What is HGSO?

The History Graduate Student Organization (HGSO) fosters this environment by bringing together scholars at both the M.A. and Ph.D. levels to ensure that all students have access to the support and information they need to be successful.

Read more.