Certain special exams are required to earn an advanced degree in the research-based programs at Cornell. Often, these exams need to be taken with consideration of anticipated completion dates. 


If you pass an exam, all members of the examining committee should report this decision to the Graduate School within three business days. No further action is required.

Conditional passing

You may conditionally pass an exam, in which case the examining committee provides you and the Graduate School with the conditions for passing. Once these conditions are met, you pass the exam.


If you fail an exam, a reexamination is allowed only with the approval of the Special Committee. At least three months must pass from the time of the failed exam to the reexamination.

Unanimously Failing

If you’re unanimously failed, you must petition the General Committee to continue study. If the minor members, but not the chair, oppose allowing a reexamination; or the chair, but not all of the minor members oppose a reexamination, you must petition the General Committee to continue study.

Graduate faculty members who attend the exam, but are not on the examination committee, may inform the dean in writing if they disagree with the results of the exam.