Policy in Catalog:
Interim guidelines for qualifying exams are in effect until further notice, due to COVID-19 continuity planning. View the interim guidelines, approved on 3/18/2020.
Scheduling Your Exam
Qualifying Exam Guidelines
The qualifying exam is an oral exam designed to test a student's scientific competence and ability to pursue the research project. The examination allows a student's advisory committee to identify any deficiencies in a student's preparation to successfully conduct and complete the degree program. The student begins with a 20-minute discussion or presentation of the proposed research which is followed by two rounds of questioning from the committee. Each committee member is given the floor for 5-10 minutes during each round. Questioning often starts with a committee member from the SMS, with the outside committee member and major advisor ending the questioning in each round.
The questioning round consists of two components:
Additional guidelines for the qualifying exam can be found here.
The qualifying exam will be administered by the student's advisory committee and chaired by a moderator who is not a member of the student's advisory committee. The moderator must be identified at least 3 weeks prior to the examination. Committee members participating remotely, who are unable to sign the Qualifying Exam Grade Form electronically, can provide signatory authority via email which grants permission to the qualifying exam moderator to sign this form.
Consistent with SMS procedures, the examination will be advertised in the Academic Studies Digest and is open to all faculty members.
The qualifying examination milestone occurs at 18 months for an M.S. student and 30 months for a Ph.D. student. The exam must be completed within 6 or 12 months of the milestone date for M.S. and Ph.D. students, respectively. A student who fails to meet the milestone in the timeframe specified will be placed on academic probation.
Keep in mind, the minimum elapsed time between successful completion of the qualifying examination and the final defense must be no less than six months for M.S. students and no less than one year for Ph.D. students.
Prospectus Guidelines & Defense
The prospectus is a formal written presentation of the proposed research. The prospectus is reviewed by the student's advisory committee for the appropriateness to degree sought, scientific merit, and soundness of research approach. The typical length of a prospectus is fifteen (15) pages.
If the prospectus is properly written, it should be useable (with minor modifications) as the corresponding sections of the final thesis or dissertation. Attention and care in the preparation of the prospectus should significantly reduce the effort required for the final thesis or dissertation.
The prospectus must include:
At least 3 weeks prior to the qualifying exam, the student is required to submit a draft of the approved prospectus to each member of the student's committee and to the faculty member who has agreed to serve as moderator of the qualifying exam. The student's Major and/or Co-Major Advisor must review and approve a draft of the student's prospectus before it is distributed to other members of the student's advisory committee, via signing the Prospectus Pre-Approval Form.
Committee members participating remotely, who are unable to sign the Prospectus Acceptance form electronically, can provide signatory authority via email which grants permission to the qualifying exam moderator to sign this form.