Comprehensive Examinations

Preliminary Examinations 

Each doctoral student is required to take preliminary or comprehensive examinations, consisting of written examinations and an oral examination, not earlier than the end of the second year of graduate study and not later than one semester (four months) before the final oral examination. 

Written examination questions may cover any phase of the course work taken by the student during graduate study or any subject logically related to an understanding of the subject matter in the major and minor areas of study. The questions are designed to measure the student's mastery of his/her field and the adequacy of preparation for research. Committee members must notify the Director of Graduate Programs when a student has completed the written examination. Failure to pass the written portion terminates the student's work at this institution, subject to departmental and/or school/college policies with respect to reexamination. 

Upon satisfactory completion of the written portion of the preliminary examinations and after completion of all course work relevant to the examination, the student submits a Request to Schedule the Doctoral Oral Examination, indicating that he/she wishes to schedule the preliminary examination. 

The preliminary oral examination is conducted by the student's advisory committee and the Graduate School Representative and is open to all graduate faculty members. The Graduate School will notify the student and the examining committee. The oral examination is designed to test the student's ability to relate factual knowledge to specific circumstances, to use this knowledge with accuracy and promptness and to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the field of specialization and related areas. 

A unanimous vote of approval by the members of the advisory committee is required for the student to pass the preliminary oral examination. Approval may be conditioned, however, on the successful completion of additional work in some particular field(s). All committee actions may be appealed by written application to the Graduate Dean (refer to NC State policy on grievance procedures for students). 

Failure to pass the preliminary oral examination terminates the student's work at this institution unless the examining committee recommends a reexamination. No reexamination may be given until at least one full semester has elapsed, and only one reexamination is permitted in a given doctoral program. 

Final Oral Examination 

As with the preliminary oral examination, the chair of the student's advisory committee is in charge of conducting the final oral examination. The final oral examination is scheduled after the dissertation is complete except for such revisions as may be necessary as a result of the examination, but not earlier than four calendar months after admission to candidacy and not before all required course work has been completed or is currently in progress. 

The examination consists of the candidate's defense of the methodology used, the data collected, and the conclusions reached in the research, as reported in the dissertation. It is conducted by an examining committee, which consists of the student's advisory committee and a Graduate School Representative. This examination is open to the University community. 

While the chair has the option of allowing visitors to ask questions of the candidate, the chair also has the obligation to maintain a scholarly atmosphere and to keep the student's best interest foremost. Graduate faculty members who are not on the advisory committee will have the opportunity to express their opinions to the committee in the absence of the student. However, the final deliberations and the vote are private to the examining committee. 

A unanimous vote of approval of the advisory committee is required for passing the final oral examination. Approval may be conditioned, however, on the student's meeting specific requirements prescribed by the student's advisory committee. Failure of a student to pass the examination terminates his or her work at this institution unless the advisory committee recommends a reexamination. No reexamination may be given until one full semester has elapsed and only one reexamination is permitted.

Oral examinations where one or more of the participants are located remotely from the others may occasionally become necessary, but they should never be normal practice. If such circumstances arise, please see Section 3.6 of the Graduate Handbook for rules for requesting and conducting a remote exam.