General Exam Checklist

The general examination is a total of two hours. It consists of two parts: first, a “research component” consisting of a 30-minute presentation with an open question period (including questions from audience members). This is followed by the “subject component,” a 90-minute closed question period conducted by the student’s Ph.D. committee. 

The examiners are the members of the student’s Ph.D. Committee. The student's adviser serves as the Chair of the exam and is responsible for ensuring a fair exam. The adviser may ask questions, but the majority of the questions typically come from the other examiners. 

The exam is normally taken in January of the second year. Prior to taking the general examination, students must have satisfied the course requirements described in the student handbook.

Prepare for your General Exam

  • Students are expected to take eight courses during the first three semesters prior to standing for the general examination.
  • Approximately two months prior to the exam (typically in October or November), the student must meet with their Ph.D. Committee. Prior to the meeting, the candidate should prepare a two-page extended abstract of the talk that will be given in the research component of the general exam and send this to the committee members. The candidate should also tell the committee members the eight courses that will have been taken prior to the general exam.
  • Schedule your General Exam
  • Hold a General Exam practice talk before your exam