Chemistry Graduate Program

Comprehensive Examination for the Doctorate

Approved February 22, 1996; Effective Fall 1996

Once the Ph.D. aspirants have completed the required curriculum, they are eligible to schedule the Oral Comprehensive Examination. Aspirants for the Ph.D. in Chemistry must pass this examination before the beginning of the fourth year of graduate study. Students who fail to meet this requirement will be ineligible for support through Departmental or research funds until this requirement is passed.


The committee for the Comprehensive Oral Examination shall consist of five members of the Graduate Faculty at least one of whom must be from a department other than the aspirant’s major department. The outside member officially represents the Office of Graduate Studies. Some of the members of this committee will normally be selected for the research advisory committee after the Oral Comprehensive Examination has been passed (see Research Advisory Committee).

Exam Format

  1. Before the examination, the aspirant will prepare a novel and creative research proposal in an area outside of his/her own specialty. Here specialty is used to describe an area closely related to the aspirant’s thesis work but not necessarily the discipline (i.e. physical, analytical, etc.). For Chemical Education students, the research proposal is in any aspect of educational research concerning the learning of chemistry. The format of the proposal shall follow the current NSF or NIH guidelines and shall be no longer than 10 pages in length. (Guidelines for this format can be found here.)
  2. Exams must be scheduled with the graduate school no later than two weeks before the examination at which time the student will distribute a copy of the proposal to each member of the examination committee (See Graduate Secretary for details.). Any member of the committee may request revisions before acceptance for presentation at the exam. Final revision must be completed no later than one week prior to the examination.
  3. The aspirant will present and defend the research proposal to the committee at the oral examination. Although the research proposal will normally be a major portion of the oral examination, the committee may also examine the aspirant on more general subject areas (not necessarily related to the proposal) or on his/her current research activities.
  4. Typical comprehensive examinations last 2 to 3 hours. The grade on this examination will he “Honors”, “Satisfactory”, or “Unsatisfactory”. If the aspirant receives a grade of “Unsatisfactory” on the comprehensive oral examination, he or she may be allowed upon the recommendation of the Department, to repeat it; but under no circumstances may the aspirant take it more than twice. In any case, the examination may not be repeated until at least 90 days have elapsed since the last unsuccessful attempt.
  5. Optional requirements: At the request of the aspirant’s research advisor, the student may be asked to prepare an additional research proposal for the examination. The length, format, and area of the second proposal shall be determined in consultation with the aspirant’s research advisor.

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