Procedures for Doctoral Qualifying Exams

Written Exams

Written Exams for the Major Fields: American (from exploration and settlement to the present) or European (early modern and modern)

  • The written portion of the doctoral qualifying exam is three days consisting of three-hour sections, followed by the two-hour oral). The schedule may be flexible, depending on the student's preference (for example MWF or three days in a row).
  • It is the responsibility of the committee chair (who is also the student's dissertation advisor) to notify the committee members to give the questions to the Chair's Assistant two weeks ahead of time.
  • The student will take the exams on a computer provided by the department. The committee chair will work with the Chair's Assistant to reserve the room. The student will be on his/her honor to observe the time limitations. The finished exams are then given to the Chair's Assistant.
  • The Chair's Assistant will then see that the exam is copied and distributed to the committee members, along with the appropriate form(s).

After receiving preliminary feedback from committee members, the chair of the examination committee may call a meeting to determine whether or not the student should proceed to the oral portion of the examination. This meeting will take place prior to a formal vote on the examination.

Oral Exams

  • Oral exams are usually one week after the written exams.
  • Students are allowed to consult their own copies of the written exams as part of their preparation for the orals. They are also encouraged to consult with the faculty examiners who may offer direction for areas to address.
  • The oral exam may respond or add to the materials discussed in the written exam. The discussion also may include questions on the student's proposed dissertation research or teaching field as made clear through prior discussions between the student and committee members.
  • Copies of the forms should be made for the student's file before the forms are sent to the Graduate School.


Students are responsible for asking professors to serve on their committees (the request and the professors' agreement should be confirmed in writing), for coordinating their own and their professors' schedules, for setting dates for the written and oral examinations, and for ensuring that all members of the committee are aware of their responsibilities and of any changes in the dates of the examination or in the makeup of the committee.