Written and Oral Qualifying Exam
In order to advance to candidacy, students must prepare a written proposal that is orally presented to the doctoral committee. The Oral Qualifying Examination should be scheduled and completed by June 1 of year 3.
The Written Proposal
Approximately two months prior to the prospective oral exam date, the student should choose the oral examination topic. It is recommended that a one page proposal that lists the topic and key aims be submitted to the doctoral committee for approval one month prior to the exam date. Once the oral exam topic is chosen, the student then prepares the written proposal to be presented to the doctoral committee.
The written proposal, in the form of an NIH grant application, must be submitted to the committee one week in advance of the scheduled examination. The student and thesis advisor should plan for 4-6 weeks for completion of the written proposal and study for the oral examination. The proposal must include the following sections:
The question to be addressed and the approaches to be taken should be succinctly described. The abstract should be 1/2 page or less.
- Specific Aims:
Provide a short introductory paragraph that delineates the broad, long-term objectives and what the specific research is intended to accomplish. State the hypotheses to be defended. One page or less is recommended.
- Background and Significance:
Briefly sketch the background leading to the present proposal, critically evaluate existing knowledge in the field, and identify gaps that the project is intended to fill. State concisely the importance of the work to a basic biological or clinical issue. Remember that this section must provide a rationale for the specific aims that have been formulated. Up to three pages is recommended.
- Research Design:
Describe the research design and the procedures that will be used to address the specific aims. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. Indicate possible outcomes of experiments and how these will influence the direction of the studies. Discuss potential difficulties and limitations. The experimental methods should not include too many details regarding buffers, concentrations of antibodies, etc., although the committee may ask the student about such details during the oral presentation. This section should form the major portion of the application and should be at least four pages in length.
Sections 1-4 should be no more than 10 single-spaced pages in length. Font size should be at least 11 or 12 point with ½ inch margins on all sides. Adherence to these formatting instructions is mandatory for the submission of the proposal.
The proposal should be a scholarly document and appropriate references should be cited to indicate knowledge of key papers in the field and to support statements that have been made. Each reference must include the title, names of all authors, book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. Select only those references pertinent to the proposal. References are not included in the page count.
Written Proposal Guidelines
- The written proposal may be related or unrelated to the general interest of the laboratory. However, the proposal cannot focus on the student's proposed dissertation research or a reformulation of any proposal written by any member of the laboratory.
- The student may discuss the general choice of topic with the research mentor. However, once the topic is approved, the student may no longer discuss any aspect of the proposal with the mentor or any other committee member.
Oral Examination Guidelines
- The student must be registered during the terms in which the oral examination is taken.
- The Oral Qualifying Examination may not be held unless a doctoral committee has been appointed by the Graduate Division.
- The examination is open only to the committee members and the student.
- All members of the committee must be present during the entire examination.
- Each member of the committee must sign the Report on the Oral Qualifying Examination form, indicating his/her presence during the examination, and record a decision of "pass" or "not pass". You may obtain this form from the SAO.
- The student will not be advanced to candidacy if more than one member votes "not passed".
- If a majority of the committee so recommends, the Oral Qualifying Examination may be repeated once within 6 months.