Qualifying Exam Regulations


As of Sept. 10, 2022
and in accordance with the Graduate Council Policy on Service on Advanced Degree Committees, QE’s must be held fully in-person with the option to include up to one committee member participating remotely, other than the QE chair, with Graduate Studies approval of a Remote Participation Request

Policies regarding Doctoral Qualifying Exams and Service on Advanced Degree Committees

QE Report Form: Report on Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy

Committee and Student Attendance at the Qualifying Examination

It is the responsibility of all committee members to be in attendance for the entire qualifying examination. The Chair will explain in detail any unanticipated or unavoidable absence in the report on the outcome of the examination, and a specific plan for completion of the examination within 72 hours by all members of the committee will be detailed. 

In the event that the Chair is absent, the remaining members of the committee shall suspend the examination after waiting a reasonable time, and after attempting to contact the Chair. In this case, the Chair will report the results as ‘No Exam’ and explain the circumstances in detail. The examination shall then be rescheduled and conducted in the same manner and format intended for the original examination.

If a student is not present at the time of the scheduled Qualifying Examination, both the committee chair and the student must submit written reports explaining the circumstances to Graduate Studies. The Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council will review the case, and rule on whether the student’s absence constitutes a failed examination or if a rescheduled examination should take place.

Adjourning the Qualifying Examination in Process

Under unusual and extenuating circumstances, as determined by the committee, the committee may suspend the qualifying examination in process, and may request that the exam be considered a ‘No Exam.’ If the committee wishes to suspend the exam, the chair must return the Report on Qualifying Examination indicating ‘No Exam’ along with an explanation to Graduate Studies.

Evaluation Procedure

The members should endeavor to reach a unanimous decision as to the qualifications of the student for successful completion of a doctoral program. They should include in their evaluations of the student such factors as relevant portions of the academic record, performance on specific parts of the examination, and an overall evaluation of the student's performance and potential for scholarly research as indicated during the examination.

Unanimous Decision

A committee, having reached a unanimous decision, shall inform the student of its decision.  If a unanimous decision takes the form of ‘not pass’ or ‘fail’, the Chair must include in their report a specific statement, agreed to by all members of the committee, explaining its decision, and must inform the student of the decision. See results section below for more information on required statements.  The decision of a unanimous committee may be changed only for cause, e.g. procedural error or probable bias.

Split Decision

If after deliberation, the committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision concerning a pass, not pass, or fail, the chair shall inform the student that the committee is divided.  Chairs of divided committees must inform the student that the majority and minority are making recommendations, that the recommendations will be subject to further review, and that the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council or its designee will make the decision as to future action. The chair must notify the Dean of Graduate Studies that the Committee is divided and shall forward to the Dean separate reports from the majority and minority of the committee with their specific evaluations of the student's performance on the examination and recommendations for further action by the Administrative Committee. The Administrative Committee may, at its discretion, request individual statements from members of the examining committee and will consider a written statement from the student if one is submitted. While the deliberations of the examining committee are confidential, student records, such as written reports from committee members, are available to the student by law.

Results of the Qualifying Exam

Results of the Qualifying Exam committee vote should be reported using the ‘Report on Qualification Examination for Admission to Candidacy’ form attached to the Chair’s QE approval email from Graduate Studies.  QE Chairs should submit completed QE Report forms to the student’s Graduate Coordinator or to your SAA directly with the Coordinator CC’d. Any report other than ‘Pass’ must be accompanied by a memorandum of explanation.  Decisions must be communicated to the student immediately following committee deliberation.

Pass: The committee unanimously decides the student passed the examination and is prepared to advance to candidacy and continue toward the doctoral objective as a doctoral candidate.  No conditions or additional requirements may accompany a Pass decision.

Not Pass: The committee unanimously decides the student is not yet prepared to advance to candidacy due to deficiencies in portions or all of the examination, but the committee agrees the student should have the opportunity to address the deficiencies through reexamination. 

The chair of the QE committee must inform the student verbally and in writing of the Not Pass decision.  A copy of the Not Pass memorandum must be sent to Graduate Studies along with the exam report, assessing the student’s performance on each subject area covered during the examination. The statement must specify if the committee will reexamine the student on all topics or only on those not passed in the first exam. The committee must determine and identify the format of the second attempt (oral examination, rewriting of the proposal, writing an additional paper, retaking the entire exam), the details (i.e. length of the second oral exam, length/word count of the paper, etc.) and provide a detailed timeline of events.

Fail: The committee unanimously decides the student failed the examination, and the deficiencies were of an extent that the student may not continue towards the doctoral objective.  A unanimous fail on either the first or second exam is a recommendation of the student’s disqualification from the doctoral degree objective.  In the case of a 'Fail' decision, the chair must notify the student verbally and in writing of the decision. A copy of the memorandum must be sent to Graduate Studies along with the exam report, assessing the student’s performance and deficiencies in the examination.  If for a first exam, the statement should explain why reexamination is not recommended by the QE committee.  

The Qualifying Examination can be a stressful experience for the student, especially in the case of a ‘Not Pass’ or ‘Fail’ result. Consider whether the student might benefit from consultation with other faculty and staff advisors or with a mental health professional (530-752-2349); see Mental Health and Counseling Services.

Reporting the Results of the Second Qualifying Examination

Only one retake of the qualifying exam is permitted and the outcome of a second QE Examination may only be a decision of ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’. In the case of a decision of ‘Fail’, the student must be notified verbally and in writing following the committee deliberation. The report form must be submitted to Graduate Studies along with a written memorandum describing the student’s performance and deficiencies in the second examination.  


If the chair or committee members have questions or concerns prior to or after the Qualifying Exam, contact the Graduate Studies Senior Academic Advisors (SAA’s) by emailing your SAA or calling (530) 752-0650 during business hours.