Exams Required for Ph.D. Degree

Students are required to pass a field-administered Qualifying Exam, or Q exam, and an Admission to Candidacy Exam, or A exam, which has an oral portion and is administered by the special committee of the student. Students are also required to pass a Final Exam, or B exam, in which the student presents and defends the Ph.D. thesis.

Q Exam

The qualifying exam, or Q exam, is required for Systems Ph.D students. This exam helps the Special Committee determine your ability to pursue doctoral studies, continue in a program, and tailor an appropriate program of study. The Q exam is taken between August and January of Year 2.

A Exam and Residence Units

The A exam is also known as the Examination for Admission to Candidacy. The A exam must be scheduled before the beginning of the seventh semester unless a special petition is filed. The A exam should be scheduled well in advance of the exam and the appropriate form (Schedule of Examination form (PDF)) MUST be submitted to the Graduate School at least seven (7) calendar days ahead.  After the A exam, the Committee Chair must check the relevant box on the Results of Examination Form (PDF). The form must be turned into the Graduate School within three (3) days after the exam.

A registration (residence) unit is typically awarded to a student who has been registered and enrolled for the full semester. Six registration units, two of them after the A exam, are the minimum requirement for the Ph.D. degree. At least four registration units are required for a non-thesis master's degree and must be earned from full-time, academic-year study on the Ithaca campus.

B Exam

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.

Schedule B Examination (PDF)

B Exam Results Form and Instruction (PDF)

Instructions on Selecting a Full Committee (PDF)