Academic Policies & Procedures

Doctoral Students

Doctoral Qualifying Examination Procedures

To become a candidate for the Ph.D. degree, and to proceed with the dissertation research project, students must pass a comprehensive qualifying examination and submit a Nomination to Candidacy Form and Memo of Understanding (MOU) to the graduate recorder in the School of Public Health-Bloomington records office, room 123.  The form may be found at this link:

The qualifying examination covers the fundamentals of the fields in which specialization has been elected. The content and format of both the written and oral components of the doctoral qualifying examination are determined by the members of the doctoral advisory committee. Information below includes a step-by-step description of procedures for the doctoral qualifying examination.

The written component of the doctoral qualifying examination may be scheduled during dates agreed upon by the advisory committee and the student.  The oral examination must be completed no later than 90 days after the start of the written examination.  

[Important note: The date on which a student's Ph.D. degree is awarded must be at least eight months after the passing date of the qualifying examination.]

Doctoral Qualifying Examination Procedures

  1. Students who have been admitted to a Ph.D. degree program pending completion of a master’s or equivalent degree are expected to have completed this degree before taking the qualifying examination. Students pursuing Ph.D. degrees in environmental health, epidemiology, health behavior, and leisure behavior must provide the assistant director of graduate degree administration with a transcript showing completion of this degree before the student may take the doctoral qualifying examination.
  2. A student must submit the Application for Doctoral Qualifying Examination Form to the chair of the student's advisory committee so that the chair can submit it to graduate recorder in the School of Public Health-Bloomington Records Office at least thirty (30) calendar days before the beginning of the examination. The form is available online at
  3. The application must include the proposed dates of the written portion of the examination and a planned date for the oral portion of the examination.
  4. The Memo of Understanding (MOU) must include the following:
    • specific details of product(s) that make up the student’s qualifying exam
    • specific time frame of the examination (not to exceed 90 days), which includes:
      • Start date
      • Full first draft or Department written exam due date
      • Faculty feedback due date
      • Revision due date
      • Oral exam date
    • grading scale/scoring system that will be used

Note: In exceptional circumstances, changes to dates may be granted but will require an amendment to the MOU signed by the student and committee chairperson; those beyond 90 days require approval and signature of Executive Associate Dean.

  1. The School of Public Health - Bloomington graduate recorder determines eligibility of the applicant to sit for the examination.

To sit for the examination, a student must have completed the required research skill courses, and be within one course of completing the 90 credit (major, minor, and elective) portion of the course prescription.

If a student passes the qualifying examination with one outstanding incomplete course, this course must be completed before submission of the Nomination to Candidacy Form.

All 90 course prescription credits must be no older than 7 years on the date of the qualifying examination. Any course on the course prescription, which is older than 7 years on this date must receive revalidation approval before a student will be able to sit for the qualifying examination.

  1. Each member of the advisory committee is informed by e-mail by the graduate recorder of the scheduled oral examination once a room is scheduled.
  2. The chair of the advisory committee works with all committee members to prepare the content of the written components of the exam.
  3. If the written portion of the exam contains activities that are taken in a proctored format, the chair is responsible for securing the space for such activities and ensuring that an appropriate proctor has been identified.
  4. The chair of the advisory committee ensures that the student is provided with details as to the criteria by which the written exam will be evaluated.
  5. The chair of the advisory committee provides the exam to the student and submits a copy via email to the School of Public Health-Bloomington Dean’s Office.
  6. The written portion of the qualifying examination takes place.
  7. The student submits the written portion of the examination to the chair of the advisory committee, who subsequently forwards the responses to the committee members by e-mail, with a copy to the School of Public Health-Bloomington Dean’s Office.
  8. Subsequent to receiving the responses to the written portion of the examination, the advisory committee may choose to request revisions that must be completed prior to the scheduled oral portion of the examination.
  9. The oral portion of the qualifying examination must take place within 90 days following the date that the written examination is initially started by the student. Permission to exceed 90 days between the start of the written and oral portions of the examination must be obtained from the associate dean for research and graduate studies.
  10. If a student passes the qualifying examination, a notification will be sent by the graduate recorder to the student with instructions for the student to visit a link to the University Graduate School's Nomination to Candidacy approval workflow, and initiate the approval process.
  11. In the event of a failure of the qualifying examination, a letter will be sent, notifying the student of the failure and the opportunity for one more attempt to pass the examination.
  12. In the event of a failure on the first attempt, the student and committee will reinitiate the process for the doctoral qualifying examination as described beginning with item #2 above.
  13. In the event of a second failure, the student will be notified of formal dismissal from the doctoral program. No future registrations will be permitted through the School of Public Health - Bloomington.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Question: If I have completed my research tool skills, and all the courses on my course prescription, but I have two courses which have incomplete grades, can I take the qualifying examination?

Answer: No, you must only have one course in which an appropriate grade is not yet posted.

Question: A few of my old courses were revalidated. It took me longer than expected to prepare for my quals. During the extra time it took me to finish my prescribed courses, another course on my course prescription became more than 7 years old. Will this be a problem?

Answer: If you have already revalidated 30 credits of old courses, you may not request revalidation for another course. However, if you have not yet revalidated 30 credits, this problem is not insurmountable. If you have maintained currency of knowledge in the subject matter of the additional old course, you may ask your committee chair to add a request to revalidate that course to the document containing the other course-revalidation requests. If you have not remained current in the subject matter of that course, then you and your advisor must seek a different solution. The worst case scenario would require you to complete more course work before sitting for the qualifying exam.

Question: My minor representative does not wish to be involved in the qualifying examination. Is this OK?

Answer: Yes, the minor advisor may, but does not have to participate in the written examination. Also, the minor advisor may, but does not have to attend the oral qualifying examination.

Question: If my minor advisor participates in the written portion of my qualifying exam, does my minor advisor have to attend my oral qualifying examination?

Answer: No, it is still optional for the minor advisor.

Question: Are School of Public Health-Bloomington Ph.D. students required to be registered during the semester or summer session during which the qualifying examination is taken?

Answer: The School of Public Health-Bloomington does not require that Ph.D. students be enrolled during the semester or summer session during which the qualification examination is taken. However, there are various reasons why a student may need to be registered, including assistantship awards, scholarships, insurance, compliance with SEVIS (for international students only), etc. Students should evaluate their individual situation and contact the appropriate source(s) to determine if enrollment is required.

Question: Can I apply to take the qualifying examination if I currently do not meet the eligibility criteria, but I will by the time the test is administered?

Answer: Yes, you may apply to take the qualifying exam even though you do not meet the criteria, as long as you will have met the criteria when the exam is administered. In a case such as this, the student should inform the assistant director of graduate degree administration of this situation when submitting the application so an explanation of the student’s situation will be noted on the application. If the criteria are not met by the exam date, the student will not be allowed to take the exam.

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