Below is an overview of general Office of Graduate Education degree requirements for the doctorate. Graduate programs may have additional requirements, contact the program for details.

Course WorkAt the discretion of the graduate program, course work may be required or recommended.
Qualifying ExamAt the discretion of the graduate program, a qualifying exam may be required. If required, all students in the program must take the exam.
Comprehensive Exam


The comprehensive exam is required. Its purpose is to ascertain the student’s comprehension of knowledge fundamental to the chosen major field of study and minor fields as may be required.


The exam may be given only after the student has acquired sufficient preparation as determined by the faculty of the graduate program, and has fulfilled the foreign language requirements (if required).

Format & Procedure

The exam may be either oral or oral and written. It is conducted by the faculty of the graduate program or a sub-committee thereof. A majority of the committee must vote “pass” in order for the student to pass. Should a member of the committee voting in the minority wish to have the majority decision reviewed, he or she may do so by submitting a written request to the Office of Graduate Education. The request must state specific reasons. Upon approval of the request, the review will be undertaken by the Graduate Council.


The graduate chair shall coordinate the exam with the student and report the exam results to the Office of Graduate Student Services via Form II.

Repeat Policy

A student who fails the comprehensive exam may repeat it once. The graduate chair shall report the results of the repeated exam to the Office of Graduate Student Services via a copy of Form II. A student who fails any portion of the comprehensive exam twice will be dismissed from both the graduate program and the Office of Graduate Education, unless recommended otherwise by the graduate chair.

Master’s Degree En-route to Doctorate

Upon successful passing of the comprehensive exam, a doctoral candidate may request a master’s degree in the same discipline.  For more information, see Credit Policies > Double-Counting Credits.

All-But-Dissertation (ABD) CertificatesUpon recommendation by the graduate chair on Form II, a student who passes the comprehensive exam may receive an All-But-Dissertation certificate, which indicates that all requirements for the doctorate have been completed except the dissertation.
DissertationSee Thesis & Dissertation.
Final Exam / DefenseSee Thesis & Dissertation > Final Defense.