Taking Exams

When and Where to Hold Exams

As long as you meet the minimum number of enrolled semesters requirement you can take an exam with seven days’ notice to the Graduate School. This gives the director of graduate studies (DGS) time to announce the exam to other faculty members. Any may choose to attend.

Exams, if held in person, must be held on the Ithaca campus or at a satellite campus location (including Geneva, the I.L.R. program in New York City, the Cornell Tech campus in New York City, or the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences in New York City). However, for an exam to be held at a satellite location, the exam schedule must be posted in the Ithaca office of the field of study, as well as in the satellite location, prior to the exam.

Scheduling Exams and Exam Results

Students must schedule exams with the Graduate School at least seven calendar days in advance by filing the proper examination scheduling form. Scheduling forms can be found on the Forms pages.

The Role of Faculty Members During Exams

All members of the special committee are expected to participate in the examinations and evaluate you, the candidate. Other members of the graduate faculty are encouraged to attend exams and may question you only during the time allocated by the chair.

Faculty Participation in Examinations

All members of the special committee are expected participate in all examinations. At the discretion of the field demonstrated by permission from the DGS, and with the agreement of all members of the committee, exams may be held either in person or online via appropriate, high-quality electronic audio and video conferencing. When exams are held online, provisions must be made to allow other members of the graduate faculty to participate. Instructions for access to online exams must be made available to field faculty.

In exceptional cases, when a faculty member is unable to participate in an exam, they may designate another member of the graduate faculty to serve as their proxy. A special committee chair may not designate a proxy; the chair must participate in the exam. If a committee has more than the required number of minor subject members, one minor member may designate another as their proxy.

Exam Results

Examination results must be filed with the Graduate School within three business days of the exam. 


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.  Enrollment in future semesters after the date a student passes their M or B exam is not permitted.

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.