General Examination

The PhD General Exam should be completed during the 3rd or 4th year of your PhD Program. The General Examination policies are set by the Graduate School, and the goal of this exam is to ensure that you are on track to obtaining a PhD. It is your responsibility to know the complete Graduate School requirements for the General Exam. This information is to serve as a guide.

A General Examination may be scheduled if:

  1. You have completed 60 credits (some of these credits may be taken the same quarter of the exam).
  2. You received notification that your Qualifying Exam Portfolio has been approved by the MSE Graduate Committee.
  3. Your faculty advisor agrees that you are ready for this exam.

General exam steps required to officially set up with the graduate school: 

  1. Meet with your faculty advisor to establish your supervisory committee​.
  2. Provide a list of your supervisory committee members to the Graduate Program Advisor to have your committee officially set up with the Graduate School. After the GPA sets up your committee, you must wait at least 24 hours before officially scheduling your exam via the online Graduate School portal.
  3. Contact your committee to find an agreeable date, time and meeting room for the exam.
  4. At least two weeks prior to the exam, go to MyGrad Program and select the option to set up your General Exam. You will then enter the meeting date, time and room location. The GPA will approve this request and the committee will receive official email notification of your exam.
  5. After you receive an email that she has approved your exam, pick up a General Exam Warrant form from the GPA that you will bring to your exam for signatures. This form is to be returned to the GPA following the exam.
  6. Post Degree Exam Notice.

At least four members of a supervisory committee (including the chair, graduate school representative, and one additional graduate faculty member) must be present at the examination. The Graduate Committee recommends that the supervisory committee be set during the Fall quarter of your 3rd year, and that the General Examination take place during the 3rd or 4th years of your PhD. At the end of the General Examination, the Supervisory Committee will provide feedback to you about your progress, and about areas that you can improve upon.

The exact format of the General Examination will be set by the students’ supervisory committee according to the rules set by the Graduate School. Here are suggested guidelines from the Graduate Committee of the MSE department:

  1. A written research report should be submitted to your supervisory committee at least one week prior to the General Examination. It is recommended that the written research report be 50 pages in length. This written report should include an introduction, research objectives, results and discussion, future work and references. See suggested guidelines.
  2. The oral presentation generally lasts at least one hour (30 minutes for the student’s presentation and 30 minutes for the question and answer period). The exam is a public exam, and you should expect an audience during your oral presentation. After the presentation, there will be time for questions from the general audience. Subsequently, there will be a closed door session with just the supervisory committee.
  3. If the General Examination is satisfactory, the supervisory committee members who participate at the examination sign the warrant and return it to the Graduate Program Advisor by the last day of the quarter (last day of finals week). If an examination is unsatisfactory, a supervisory committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit up to a maximum of two additional reexaminations after a period of additional study. Any members of a supervisory committee who do not agree with the majority opinion are encouraged to submit a minority report to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Registration as a graduate student is required the quarter that a General Examination is completed. When the Graduate School approves candidacy, a student is identified and designated as a candidate for the appropriate doctoral degree. After achieving candidate status, a student ordinarily devotes his or her time primarily to the completion of research, writing of the dissertation, and preparation for the Final Examination. Students receiving an RA/TA salary and pass the exam, advance to the Predoc RA/TA II salary.