PhD Preliminary Examination
What is the preliminary exam?
The preliminary exam is a written test of the general knowledge of environmental engineering you have accumulated through Master's degree-level course work. The preliminary exam is a three-day, open-book, closed-colleague exam. The goal of the preliminary exam is to determine if you have adequately prepared yourself to pursue a Ph.D. degree.
When should I take the preliminary exam?
You should take the preliminary exam as soon as you feel capable of passing it, preferably during the first or second semester in the Ph.D. program. The preliminary exam is offered twice each year, during the second or third weeks of the fall and spring semesters. You and your advisor must agree that you are ready to take the exam. In almost all cases, you must take the exam before you begin your fourth academic semester here.
If you have completed a Master's degree in environmental engineering in this department and have been accepted to our Ph.D. program, you have already completed sufficient course work to take the exam in your first semester in the Ph.D. program.
If you have completed a Master's degree at another institution, you may take the exam at the beginning of your first semester if you feel that your previous course work has properly prepared you. However, we recommend that you take the exam at the beginning of the second semester, after taking a semester of courses here. You may decide to delay taking the exam until the beginning of your third semester, but delaying the preliminary exam will delay your overall progress toward your Ph.D. degree.
How is the preliminary exam administered?
Twice each year, at the beginning of each semester (fall and spring), the faculty member administering the exam will send an email to the graduate student list notifying students of the preliminary exam schedule. Once you and your advisor have decided that you should take the preliminary exam, the first step is to respond to the exam administrator with a list of subject areas in which you want to be tested. The exam administrator will obtain approval for your list of subject areas, solicit questions from the appropriate faculty, and prepare an exam package for you. Prof. R. Scott Summers is the current preliminary exam administrator.
On the starting date of the exam, the exam will be sent to you by email. You will have approximately 72 hours to complete the exam. At the end of the 72 hours, you must return the exam to the exam administrator, who will return your answers to the faculty for grading. Approximately one week after turning in the exam, you will be informed of the outcome of the preliminary exam by your advisor.
What does the Preliminary Exam cover?
The preliminary exam covers subject areas relevant to your intended Ph.D. research. A partial, approved list of subject areas is provided below:
Environmental Organic Chemistry
In addition to these subject areas, other subject areas more appropriate for the intended research area of the PhD candidate will be considered by the Environmental Engineering faculty. With the guidance of your advisor, you should choose the subject areas to reflect the necessary skills you will need to successfully complete your research. You must select five of these subject areas for the preliminary exam and convey these selections to the preliminary exam administrator before the exam.
What if I am an Environmental/Water student?
If you and your faculty advisor decide that your preliminary exam should contain questions from courses taught by the Water Resources faculty, these questions will be obtained for the exam. Eligible subject areas for the questions include the following topics. Other topics could be included with the consensus of the Environmental faculty.
Environmental Fluid Mechanics
What are the exam rules?
The preliminary exam is an open-book, open-notes, open-library, closed-colleague exam. You will be asked to sign a statement verifying that you neither gave nor received any assistance in completing the exam. During the exam, you may ask for clarification from faculty on their questions. Any materials (text books, course notes, journal articles) may be consulted during the test. You must clearly cite direct use of any of these materials. Any inappropriate behavior during the exam will be dealt with following University rules of academic honesty.
How will I be graded on the preliminary exam?
The written test will be graded on the following basis for the five committee members' questions: satisfactory = 2, marginal = 1, and poor = 0.
What are the possible outcomes of the preliminary exam?
A total grade of 9 or better is required to pass the preliminary exam unconditionally. If you score 7 or 8 points on your written exam, you may be requested to address deficiencies in your course work and to retake portions of the exam. If you score less than 7 points on the written exam, you may be asked to take courses and retake the entire exam. If you are asked to take the preliminary exam a second time, you must take questions from the same exam committee. A second sub-passing grade (less than 7 points) on the preliminary exam would result in a request that you discontinue the Ph.D. program.