College of Graduate Studies at Middle Tennessee State University

Explanation of Required Examinations

Doctoral Level Examinations

Each Ph.D. student may be required to take a set of examinations administered by a graduate program. A less than satisfactory outcome including a fail decision on any component of the examinations may result in additional academic requirements and/or a re-examination. A re-examination may be given only once. A second fail decision on any component of the examinations results in a recommendation to the dean of the College of Graduate Studies for academic dismissal. The student may appeal the dismissal recommendation, for cause, to the Appeals Subcommittee of the Graduate Council via the chair of the Graduate Council or the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

Qualifying Examinations

Each Ph.D. student may be required to take a qualifying examination. The qualifying examination is administered by a graduate program early in the student's doctoral program; often after the first year of the doctoral program. Students should consult with their advisors as to the individual program policy on the timing and content of the administration. It may assess overall knowledge upon entry into the program or prior to entering the dissertation phase. The results of this examination should be used, in part, to plan the student's academic program. To be eligible to take this examination, the student must be fully admitted to the College of Graduate Studies and to the graduate program. Programs may have additional requirements or assess students by different means. The student should contact the individual program to determine qualifying examination requirements.

Preliminary Examination

The Ph.D. student must also pass an additional or subsequent written and/or oral examination. This examination is referred to as the Preliminary Examination. The student must be in good academic standing and must have at least a 3.25 grade point average in all graduate work at the time the Intent to Schedule the Preliminary Examination form is filed. The preliminary examination is intended to assess whether a candidate is qualified to continue in a doctoral program, advance to candidacy, and pursue dissertation work.

All written examinations are given at least one month before the close of the Fall, Spring, and/or Summer semesters. Permission for the Ph.D. student to schedule the preliminary examination requires the approval of the student's advisory committee. Applications may be obtained from the department. The student should contact the individual program to determine the deadlines for submitting these applications.

A satisfactory or passing performance on the written and/or oral examinations means that the candidate is qualified to continue the program as planned.

Written Preliminary Examination

  • The purpose of the written examination is to evaluate the candidate's overall knowledge of the field, integrative skills, ability to organize material, and competency in written expression. The maximum time limit for the written examination is eight hours.
  • The written examination is administered by the major department (i.e., the graduate program).
  • The graded written examinations are maintained in the department and are available to the student upon request.

Oral Preliminary Examination

The oral examination is administered by the student's advisory committee and covers the candidate's area of specialization and general knowledge. The committee evaluates the candidate's breadth of knowledge of the field(s), integration and problem-solving skills, competency in oral expression, and potential for conducting independent research.


Specialist of Education and Master's Level Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations

The comprehensive examinations are scheduled by each department during the time period designated by the College of Graduate Studies and generally taken during the last semester of coursework. These may be oral, written, or both. This test is not merely a reexamination of coursework, but it is an assessment of the candidate's ability to integrate scholarly information linking the major and related fields.

Normally, the comprehensive examinations may be taken no more than twice, and failure to pass the comprehensive on the second attempt terminates one's degree program. Any exception to this "twice-only" rule must be recommended by the graduate program and approved by the dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

Written Comprehensive Examinations are kept on file in the department of major. The student has the right of access to his or her graded exam for a period of five (5) years.