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Preliminary Examinations


The Committee
By the end of the first month of the sixth term (fifth term if you have a relevant M.A. from another institution) of the Ph.D. program, you will form a preliminary examination committee of three members, which may or may not include members of the mentoring or review committees at your discretion, and which should include one member named as chair.

Date of the Prelim
The preliminary examinations must be completed by the end of the summer between your third and fourth years in the program (by the end of the fifth term for students with an M.A.), preferably in May rather than August.

Structure of the Prelim
The prelim has two parts: a written part and an oral part. There are two options for the written part. You should consult your preliminary examination committee as to which option (A or B) you should choose.

  • Option A: Two written exams, based on reading lists devised by you and approved by the committee, each of which will focus on distinct but complementary aspects of the topic that you expect to be the subject of your dissertation and/or field of principle interest. In forming the lists with your committee, you will submit a concise statement (max. 5 pages double-spaced) describing the rationale for the lists and their aims in the examination process. The exams will be in the form of essay questions. You will have two weeks for each take-home essay exam, each of which should be no longer than 20 pages.
  • Option B: A draft portion (approx. 40 pages) of the dissertation, with an annotated bibliography of works you have studied, are studying, and want to study for the project. Whether this draft be an introduction, a chapter, or some other portion, will be determined by you and approved by the examination committee. In addition, you will submit a concise (max. 5 pages double-spaced) statement of research purpose and plans. This option should be taken only if you have a clear conception of your dissertation, and have done extensive research on your topic and methodology.

Oral Discussion
You will meet with the preliminary examination committee to discuss the written exams and the direction of dissertation research, including the nature of the prospectus and portfolio to be presented.

Results of the Prelim
If the committee determines that you have passed the preliminary examination, and provided that all “incompletes” have been removed, you will be accepted into candidacy and asked to provide a portfolio and prospectus.

If the committee determines that you have not passed the preliminary examination, the committee may, but is not obligated to, allow you to retake the examination. If no such opportunity is offered, or if you do not pass the retaken examination, you will be offered the option of applying to the Rackham School of Graduate Studies for a terminal M.A.

Questions? Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.