Graduate Student Resources

Qualifying Exam/Candidacy - Doctoral

Doctoral Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the Doctoral Qualifying Exam is to evaluate the student's ability to apply and synthesize the skills and knowledge acquired during graduate study. The exam is an important benchmark in a doctoral student's progress towards candidacy. The Qualifying Exam is required for all doctoral students (Ph.D. and Ed.D.). The student will have two (2) attempts at passing the qualifying exam. If the student fails both attempts they will be dismissed from their program and the College of Education.

Qualifying Exam Options

College Wide

The college wide option is taken over the course of three days (Monday-Wednesday) from 9:00am to 1:00 pm. Please see below for the qualifying exam schedule for the current academic year for specific dates. The student's committee will provide three days worth of questions covering the student's work in the student's specialization area, cognate area, and the foundations area. The Major Professor will submit the three days of questions in individual envelopes marked for each day with a new/blank flash-drive (provided by the student) in the day one envelope. Student's will be allowed to print once at the end of each day of the exam.

Program Specific

There are four (4) program specific options (exam is administered by the program/department) available in the College of Education:


Each program has an approved list of what options they have available.  The student in consultation with their Major Professor will need to select an option from their program's approved list when they fill out the Qualifying Exam Application. The application gives more detailed information on each exam option that the program has available.

Eligibility for taking the exam

To be eligible to take the qualifying exam:

Qualifying Exam Schedule/Deadlines for the Current Academic Year
Qualifying Exam Application (For students with a program that lists the exam options as TBD, The program faculty will need to contact the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320) directly to identify the approved list of options for their program.)

Qualifying Exam Clearance

Once a student's Application for Doctoral Qualifying Exam has been received by the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320) by the deadline for the semester in which the student plans to take the exam the clearance process will begin. The Graduate Support Office (EDU 320) will check the student's records for all items listed above under the section of "Eligibility". In the event that it is determined that there "outstanding items" that need addressing the student, their Major Professor(s), and their department Academic Program Specialist will be notified of the issue.

Once a student has been cleared and their Application for Doctoral Qualifying Examination has been approved, the student will receive an email from the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320) with instructions specific to the type of qualifying examination they are taking. For College Wide applicants, the email will provide dates, time, and location of the college Wide Exam as well as directions on materials you may or may not bring with you to the examination. For Program Specific applicants, the email will provide directions to contact their Department for dates, times, locations, and guidelines regarding their qualifying exam.

NOTE: Students may not take/begin the qualifying exam until they have been cleared by the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320). This includes both College Wide and Program Specific options.

Verification of Qualifying Exam Results

Once the student has completed the Doctoral Qualifying Exam , the student's Major Professor will alert the student of the examination results approximately 3-6 weeks after the the College Wide exam date for the semester in which the exam was taken. this time-frame applies to all students. regardless of the type of Doctoral Qualifying Exam completed (College Wide or Program Specific). The student's Major Professor will complete the Verification of Qualifying Exam Results Form which states whether the student passed or failed the exam. The form is signed by the student's entire supervisory committee. Once signed, the Major Professor will submit the Verification of Qualifying Exam Results form to the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320).

Doctoral Candidacy

Students apply for Doctoral Candidacy following the successful completion of the qualifying exam and all other program requirements. Doctoral candidacy indicates that the program has approved the student for dissertation research. The Admission to Candidacy form is to be submitted for approval during the semester in which the qualifying exam is completed, but no later than the semester following the successful completion of the exam. Completed Admission to Candidacy forms received by the Office of Graduate Studies up to the last day of classes in a given semester will be processed for that semester allowing student to enroll in dissertation hours the following semester.

Admission to Candidacy Requirement/Checklist

To be admitted to candidacy, students must complete the following: 

The Admission to Doctoral Candidacy form should be signed by the student, the student's entire doctoral supervisory committee, and the Program Coordinator or Department Chair. Once these signatures have been obtained, the Admission to Doctoral Candidacy form is submitted to the Graduate Support Office (EDU 320) with the Verification of Qualifying Exam Result form for processing.

The Graduate Support Office will process the form ensuring that all points on the Requirement/checklist have been met before obtaining the Associate Dean for Graduate Education's signature. Once signed by the Associate Dean for Graduate Education, the Admission for Doctoral Candidacy form will be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for processing and approval.

Once the application for Admission to Doctoral Candidacy has been approved by the Office of Graduate Studies, it will be forwarded to the University Registrar's Office for final processing and the student's records will be updated to reflect their status as a Doctoral Candidate. At this point the student may begin registering for Dissertation hours.