Exams Required for Ph.D. Degree
You must pass at least two exams, known respectively as the A and B exams. Some fields require an additional qualifying examination known as the Q exam.
The A exam is also known as the Examination for Admission to Candidacy. This oral exam may include a written component, as determined by your Special Committee. You can take the exam after completing two registered semesters in your program, but before beginning your seventh semester—unless special permission is obtained from the dean.
Passing the A exam means the graduate faculty believes that you are ready to proceed into the dissertation phase of your degree program.
Some fields may offer a Special Master’s Degree after a doctoral candidate has completed four semesters of registration and either passed the A exam or performed at the level of an A exam. This is a master’s degree awarded to a student who is continuing on for the Ph.D., and is awarded without completion of a thesis.
The B exam is an oral defense of your thesis or dissertation. This exam can be taken after completing all degree requirements, but not earlier than one month before completing the minimum registered semester requirements. At least two semesters of successful registration must be completed between the passing of the A exam and the scheduling of the B exam.
The qualifying exam, or Q exam, is required in some fields for Ph.D. applicants. This exam helps the Special Committee determine your ability to pursue doctoral studies, continue in a program, and tailor an appropriate program of study.