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Comprehensive Exam

Graduate School requirements for the Ph.D. degree require a written exam and an oral exam for all candidates. Implementation of these exams is left to the Department. The Plant Biology Department uses the following guidelines. 

Written Exam 

Students are required to take the written exam no later than Fall Semester of their third year in graduate school, but may elect to take it during Spring or Summer Semester of their second year. The exam may be scheduled over a two-week period, Monday through Friday. Graduate Coordinator Assistant must be given the days of your exam prior to your first exam. Typically the student answers the questions of one committee member each day. Students may use a Departmental computer or personal laptop to compose answers, but we have a limited number of computers available in locations suitable for the exam. Therefore, it will be necessary to coordinate exam schedules so that we do not have more students wanting to take an exam during any given week than we have suitable places to accommodate them. The necessary coordination can be accomplished if students or major professors notify Graduate Coordinator Assistant of an intention to take the exam, and give her a preference for the weeks during Fall Semester that they plan to take the exam. Graduate Coordinator Assistant will then set up an exam schedule for the semester. 

The written exam will be prepared by the major professor and will contain questions from each advisory committee member. The prepared exam should be turned over to Graduate Coordinator Assistant one week prior to the exam. Graduate Coordinator Assistant will administer the exam. As a general rule, each committee member will submit several questions covering the area encompassed by the student’s program of study. The total time required to answer each committee member’s questions should be one working day, and the student should plan to answer 1 committee member’s questions each day. A review paper may be substituted for written questions, at the discretion of the advisor. 

Completed exam questions should be returned to Graduate Coordinator Assistant, who will pass them on to the appropriate faculty member for grading. Each professor must assign an overall grade of pass or fail and provide feedback in the form of letter grades (A-F), numerical scores, or oral feedback. 

The graded copy of the completed preliminary exam must be returned to Graduate Coordinator Assistant within 30 days after the exam is taken. The Advisory Committee can meet, if necessary, to discuss the student’s performance, decide whether the student passed or failed the exam, and discuss remedial action in case of unsatisfactory performance. 

Completed exams are not made available to other students, but the questions are added to the PBGSA file of previously asked questions. 

Oral Exam 

The final doctoral program of study must be on file at the Graduate school BEFORE the oral exam can be scheduled. 

The oral exam is announced by the Graduate School, and Graduate Coordinator Assistant must notify the Graduate School by letter of the time and place at least two weeks (preferably three weeks) prior to the date. Any faculty member may attend. At least two weeks prior to the exam, the student must distribute to the committee a research proposal which covers the student’s dissertation research. 

The advisor and committee members do not have the authority to grant an exception to this 2 week deadline. If there are extenuating circumstances, then the student and advisor must request a waiver and receive approval from the graduate studies committee BEFORE the 2 week deadline. Without an approved waiver, the oral exam must be postponed. The purpose of the oral exam is to provide an in-depth evaluation of the student’s knowledge in the areas covered by the research proposal as well as closely related areas. 

The oral exam will normally be given within 6 months of the completion of the written exam. The oral exam may be repeated once. 

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