Ph.D. Exams

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In the UW Health Services Ph.D. program, preliminary and general examinations are required to earn a doctoral degree.

The preliminary examination is written and takes place after completion of first-year courses.

The general examination includes both written and oral parts.

Preliminary Examination

At the end of their first year, after completing the first-year core courses of the program, Ph.D. students are required to complete the preliminary written examination.

The exam is administered by the Ph.D. Program’s Academic Affairs Committee. It is not used as a qualifying exam. Instead, the exam is a mechanism of assuring students meet first-year competencies, which are foundational, and a prerequisite to successfully attaining future competencies in the remaining years of the doctoral education.

Purposes of the Exam

  • Assess students’ integration of key health services knowledge and skills
  • Identify areas that need continued attention for each student
  • Evaluate the program’s strengths and weaknesses in preparing students to be health services researchers

General Examination

The general examination is a requirement of the Health Services Ph.D. program and consists of two parts — a written exam and an oral exam.

Both exams are administered by the student’s Doctoral Supervisory Committee. The examination is designed to move the dissertation from a preliminary proposal to a final proposal and concentrates on the student’s research area and the methods and content needed to study that topic.

Purposes of the Written and Oral Exams

  • Measure the student’s ability to analyze and synthesize information
  • Determine whether the student has significant breadth and depth of knowledge in the area of emphasis and the dissertation topic
  • Evaluate whether the student has adequate knowledge of recent advances in methodological issues relevant to the topic area to move forward in conducting the dissertation research

Written Exam

The written portion of the exam is generated by the Doctoral Supervisory Committee to support the student in further development of content and methodological expertise relevant to their dissertation. The written exam is usually a two-week, take-home exam with four to six questions.

Once the Doctoral Supervisory Committee concludes that the student has passed the written exam, the student is charged with incorporating what they learned into a Final Dissertation Proposal to be submitted to the Committee.

Oral Exam

The oral portion is the official UW graduate school general exam represents a defense or presentation of the final dissertation proposal and should incorporate all learning covered in the written examination.

The oral exam is typically two hours with a brief presentation of the project and response to Doctoral Supervisory Committee questions.


Areas of Emphasis