Guidelines for Graduate Study

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VII. The Qualifying Examination

  1. The Qualifying Examination is a knowledge-based examination covering the student’s three areas of concentration (it is not an examination of the student’s research). Students are expected to demonstrate appropriate general knowledge of Neuroscience, with significant depth of knowledge in their concentration areas.

  2. The examination is administered by a committee of four faculty members, including the student’s research supervisor. This Committee will be appointed by the Program Director with the advice of the research supervisor; its membership may overlap that of the Diagnostic Committee. Its composition should represent the student’s areas of major and minor concentration. After the committee is appointed, the Neuroscience Program Office will provide each member with current program guidelines for the conduct of the examination. The advisor normally serves as Committee Chairperson, and has primary responsibility for ensuring timely administration of the examination in accordance with the guidelines.

  3. The Qualifying Examination shall be taken before the end of the student’s second year in the program. Students are asked to submit a date for the Qualifying Examination at the beginning of the fourth semester, or if unable to meet this timeline must petition to the Program Director to take the examination at a later date. Once a date for the Qualifying Examination is set, the Neuroscience Program Office must be notified in writing by the Committee Chairperson. The examination consists of written and oral parts, and must be completed within a span of 30 days. The written examination shall cover the student’s areas of concentration and other neuroscience topics deemed appropriate by the Diagnostic Committee. The format of the written component of the examination can either be "take-home, "open-book" or "timed, close-book’ – this is left to the committee, and can vary among the examiners. The time allowed for each question is left to the individual examiner. It is the responsibility of the Committee Chairperson to review all questions in advance of the written examination to ensure appropriate coverage, avoid excessive duplication, and specify a sc.edule that will allow the entire examination (written plus oral) to be completed within the allotted 30 days.

  4. Each member of the Qualifying Examination Committee provides one or more questions to the Committee Chairperson, who will distribute them to the rest of the committee and to the student at the sc.eduled times. Two members will provide questions for the two minor concentration areas, and the other two will provide questions in the major concentration area. The specific format, including the number of questions per examiner, is defined by the committee. Whatever the plan, it should be clearly detailed in writing, and all questions for the written examination submitted to the Committee Chairperson prior to the start of the Examination, who will in turn submit them to the student.

  5. The student submits his/her answers directly to the appropriate examiners, who in turn distribute it to every member of the committee, along with an evaluation of whether or not the answer is satisfactory. When the written portion is complete, the Committee Chairperson shall submit the questions and answers to the Neuroscience Program Office.

  6. The oral examination is held only after completion of the written examination. It also covers the student’s major and minor areas, and concentrates on the subjects. It is limited to no more than two hours in duration.

  7. Following the oral examination, the Qualifying Examination Committee evaluates the overall performance of the student for both written and oral parts, and, by consensus, decides whether the examination has been passed. The committee may decide that the examination has been irrevocably failed, or that it has not been passed but may be retaken wholly or in part. A second chance at the examination is not guaranteed in cases of clearly substandard performance. If there is a second examination, it must be taken and passed within six months if the student wishes to remain in the Neuroscience Program. Details of the second examination (parts to be retaken, whether written papers on selected topics or further coursework may be substituted, etc.) rest with the Qualifying Committee.

  8. A student who fails the second attempt at the Qualifying Examination shall lose his or her standing as a Ph.D. student at the end of the semester, but may apply for admission to the Biology M.S. Program.

  9. A student who disagrees with the committee’s decision on the Qualifying Examination may appeal the case in writing, within one month of the examination date, to the Chair of the Grievance Committee. A copy of the letter shall also be sent to the Program Director.

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Last Revised May, 2007

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