General Exam: Organic

Written Exam:

What are the pre-requirements?

  • There are no formal pre-requirements.

When in my PhD timeline should I take it?

  • In the organic division the written portion of the general exam is a series of cumulative exams offered eight times per year. You should begin taking the cumulative exams in your first semester.
  • You must accumulate 5 points within the first 19 cumulative exams offered from the date you start the graduate program. Scoring is detailed below.

When during the year is it offered? How is it announced? How much advanced notice is given?

  • Eight cumulative examinations are given each year, one each month from October through May, with specific dates and faculty giving the exam announced at the beginning of each academic year.

How do I sign up?

  • You should inform the cumulative exam coordinator (currently Mark Peczuh) that you intend on joining the organic division and obtain an ID number to be used for identification on the exams.

What is the format? How long does the exam take?

  • Each exam is written and graded by a member of the Organic Division and its format will be determined by the individual who writes it. The exams typically involve a series of questions drawn from material covered in courses, the current literature, and recent seminars presented in the Department. At the discretion of the individual who writes the exam, the topics to be covered may be announced in advance and take-home exams may also be given.
  • Scoring is as follows:
    • 1 point for each exam you pass (=full pass).
    • 0.5 points for each half pass.
  • The total of 5 points can come from 5 full pass grades or from 4 full passes plus 2 half passes.

Oral Exam:

What are the pre-requirements?

  • You must complete the written part of the general exam before proceeding to the oral part.
  • You must submit a detailed written research proposal, not related to the thesis research, and defend it in an oral presentation with questions from your thesis committee and other examiners (See below.).
  • The Division recommends that you provide a 1-2 page summary of the proposal idea, including relevant citations, to the advisory committee for approval prior to writing the full proposal. The purpose of this exercise is to prevent you from proposing something that is likely to be indefensible or that is too close to your thesis project.

When in my PhD timeline should I take it?

  • You must complete the oral part of the general exam within 3 months after having completed the written part. This is usually in the third year of the program.

How soon after I’ve completed the written exam should I take it?

  • As soon as you like, but it must be completed within 3 months of completion of the written part.

 How long should the presentation be? What should I cover?

  • The presentation should be long enough to explain the proposed research adequately, approximately 25-45 minutes.

Which (and how many) faculty members must attend the exam? What is the role of the general examiner?

  • At least five faculty members, including the student’s advisory committee, must attend the exam. The role of the general examiner is to ensure that a fair and comprehensive exam is administered.

When do I give my committee a copy of my proposal? How many days in advance of the exam?

  • At least one week before the oral examination. It is your responsibility to distribute copies of the written proposal to all members of the examining committee, to schedule the room, etc.

What is the format for the proposal document (sections, number of pages, etc.)?

  • The format of the written proposal should follow a typical grant application. Specific sections should be: Summary/Abstract, Specific Aims, Background & Significance, Innovation, Experimental Design & Methods, and References. References should include titles in the citations. The length of the proposal, including all sections except the references, should not exceed 10 pages.
  • The presentation and defense of the research proposal will be the focal point of the oral portion of the examination. Questions during the exam will, however, be comprehensive in nature and the candidate should be prepared to answer questions in all areas of basic chemistry.