General Exam Requirements

TIMELINE: As noted in the Graduate Student Handbook of the Graduate School, the General Examination for the Ph.D. degree must be completed at least eight months before the date of conferral of the degree. Since the General Examination is generally taken over a period of months, a student is advised to begin the process well before the Graduate School deadline.

The division of the Department in which the student is working determines the actual format of the General Examination, but in all cases the Examination consists of a written portion and an oral portion. Departmental regulations stipulate that the related area requirement must be met before the final phase (generally the oral portion) of the General Examination is completed. Divisional guidelines for the General Examination are outlined below.

Graduate School Requirements

Before considering the Departmental guidelines for the general examination, the candidate should be aware of the Graduate School requirements that must be fulfilled before a general examination can be successfully completed. The detailed guidelines are given in the Graduate Catalog; a summary of the major points follows:

  • The General Examination must be completed within five years of the beginning of doctoral study or (and this is important!) within four years if the student entered the Ph.D. program with a master’s degree in the same field.
  • Before taking the Examination, the student’s Plan of Study Form must be approved by the Graduate School.
  • Not fewer than five (5) faculty members, including all members of the advisory committee, constitute the examining committee and participate in the examination

Departmental Guidelines for the Oral Portion of the General Examination

The oral portion of the examination, presented to an examining committee consisting of the candidate’s advisory committee and an additional examiner approved by the Department Head, is taken after successful completion of the written portion.  This oral examination is open to students, faculty and other interested parties.  All those present may participate in the examination but the outcome of the examination will be determined by vote of the examining committee.

The oral portion of the examination will ordinarily consist of questions covering not only the major field of study but also other areas of chemistry (generally the province of the external examiner).  There is no formal time limit on the oral portion of the general examination.  At the discretion of the examining committee, the examination may be recessed to be reconvened at a later time. At the end of the oral portion of the examination and before discussion among the examining committee, an initial vote (pass or fail) will be taken by written ballot.  The outcome of the examination –pass or fail– will be determined by majority vote of the examining committee.

General Exam Requirements by Division