Preliminary Exams

All students must pass a preliminary examination consisting of two parts: a written and an oral. A student will pass the preliminary exam only by the advisory committee's unanimous vote of approval after the oral defense of the written portion of the exam.

During the last semesters of coursework, the student works in consultation with members of the advisory committee to develop reading lists in subject areas that reflect the student's Plan of Work and/or areas of dissertation research. Based on these reading lists, members of the advisory committee will write exam questions intended to test the student's mastery of the designated subject areas.

Students may choose exam method A, B, or C.

Exam Option A
The student will have up to 4 hours per question to write an answer, with no notes, no outside sources, and no Internet connection
. All questions must be answered within a 72 hour (3 day) period. The advisory committee will determine the location of the exam and the method for distributing the student's answers to the advisory committee.

Exam Option B
The student will have up to 4 hours per question to write an answer. The student will receive a question via email from their advisor, and will answer the question in a location of their choice. They must send the question back to the advisor within 4 hours. All questions must be answered within a 72 hour (3 day) period.

Exam Option C

The student will receive all three exam questions at once, at an agreed upon time. From that point they will have one week to complete all three questions. They can submit the questions in whatever order, and at any time during the week.

  • Regardless of format, each exam response is expected to be 10-12 pages (double-spaced), 4000 to 5500 words, and bear evidence of editing and revision. The responses should involve minimal reliance on direct quotations, particularly block quotations.

After the student has completed the written portion, the graduate advisor will consult with members of the advisory committee to determine if the student is ready to proceed to the oral defense. In cases where the committee determines that parts of the written examination are not adequate, the student may be requested to prepare a supplementary response to bring to the oral portion of the exam.

The oral portion of the exam follows successful completion of the written portion and will last approximately two hours. While it may include material covered in the written examination, it is not limited to the written work. The committee may also add time to this meeting for an initial discussion of the dissertation prospectus (see below). The graduate school representative will attend the preliminary oral examination and sign the Report on the Preliminary Examination to signify that a fair process took place. However, the representative is not a voting member of the committee. A unanimous vote of approval from the examiners is required for students to pass this examination. A student who fails the preliminary examination will be dismissed from the CRDM program.

Scheduling the Preliminary Examination: Written and Oral Components

Students are required to schedule the written portion of the exam no earlier than the end of the second year of graduate study (in the 5th semester for full-time students) and no later than one semester (four calendar months) prior to the final oral examination (i.e., the dissertation defense).

After the advisory committee determines that the student is ready to proceed to the oral portion of the exam, the student works with them to determine a date for the oral portion of the exam. Should members of the advisory committee require any sections of the written exam to be revised or rewritten before the oral exam, the student will receive notice at this time.

The oral portion of the exam cannot be scheduled without prior approval from the Graduate School. The student should download the Request to Schedule the Doctoral Oral Examination, complete the top portion, and gather signatures from the graduate advisor and DGP. The student should return this form to the CRDM Program Associate, who will submit it to the Graduate School. This form must be submitted at least 10 business days prior to the proposed date for the oral portion of the exam. 

This 10-day period allows time for the program associate to confirm compliance of policy. Please allow additional time if a Graduate School Representative needs to be assigned. In order for the DGP to approve the request to schedule the oral exam, the student should have a Plan of Work approved by the Graduate School. Any other applicable Graduate School forms should also be approved by the Graduate School such as preliminary exam time-limit extension (filled out by advisor), inter-institutional member request, and external member request forms.

After successful completion of the preliminary exam, the graduate advisor, advisory committee, and the graduate school representative will sign the Report on the Preliminary Examination (provided by the Graduate School after the request to schedule an exam is approved). The CRDM Program Associate must file this form with the Graduate School within 5 business days of the examination.

All voting members of the committee must also complete the CRDM Preliminary Exam Assessment Rubric. The advisor should ensure that all members complete this assessment immediately following the oral exam. This rubric is for program’s assessment purposes only, and will not be shared with the student or faculty. Forms can only be accessed from your NC State Google login. If the committee has an external member, then the chair can request a hard copy of the form.