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Ph.D. Qualifying Exam Requirements

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to test whether graduate students in the Ph.D. program can communicate clearly about the science underlying environmental problems and their broader implications, think on their feet about a broad range of environmental issues, and plan and conduct original research. Note that the qualifying exam is distinct from the presentation of the dissertation proposal which is to be presented to the dissertation committee 6 months after successful completion of the qualifying exam (2 years for part-time students)


The qualifying exam must be taken within two years of entering the program (four years for part-time).


The Qualifying Examination Committee will consist of four members of the Environmental Sciences graduate faculty, appointed by the Option Coordinator in consultation with the student and his/her advisor.

Exam Format

The qualifying exam will follow an oral, question and answer format in which the student will be asked to explain answers verbally and visually by writing equations, formulas, reactions, schematics, etc. on a presentation board. Exam questions will be framed by, but not limited to, the core courses and a collection of representative environmental science papers to be selected by the graduate program option coordinators and given to all Ph.D. students when they enter the program. The student must bring a completed degree application form and unofficial transcripts to the exam. At the beginning of the exam, the student will be asked to leave the room for several minutes while the committee reviews the student's progress in the program.