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Bryn Mawr College
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Ph.D. Preliminary Examinations

Students must be accepted for Ph.D. candidacy (application for Ph.D. candidacy) and an outside chair must have been assigned to their Ph.D. Supervising Committee before they can take the Preliminary Examinations.  Preliminary Examinations must be passed before the dissertation can be accepted.

No Preliminary Examinations may be scheduled during the 30 days preceding Dec. 15 or Commencement. No oral examinations may scheduled during June, July or August. Because of the requirement that all Preliminary Examinations be completed within a period of five weeks if there is an oral exam (see the next paragraph), this means that in most cases no written examinations can be taken before the end of July.

The normal format of Preliminary Examinations is 3-4 written examinations of 4 hours each, followed by an oral examination between one and two hours long. All examinations must be taken within a period of four weeks if there is no oral, or five weeks if an oral is required. The following departments and programs have approved exceptions to this format: Chemistry, Clinical Developmental Psychology, Mathematics, and Physics. For details about these exceptions see

FacultyRulesGoverningthePh.D.Degree.shtml, Section D. 5 a. (1).

Preliminary Examinations are scheduled and administered by the departments and programs, normally by the department secretary.  Examinations may be written in bluebooks or - if the department or program allows this - typed on a computer.  In the latter case the Guidelines for Writing Ph.D. Preliminary Examinations on Computer must be followed. 

A student who is completing the M.A. degree at the same time as s/he is taking the Ph.D. Preliminary Examinations may offer the final examination for the M.A. as one of the Preliminary Examinations. If this occurs the examination must include questions related to the M.A. thesis.

The outcome of Preliminary Examinations is determined by a majority vote of the examiners.  Dissenting examiners may file a minority report to the Dean.  Preliminary Examinations may be graded "Satisfactory," "Satisfactory except for [one or more fields or parts of fields]," or "Unsatisfactory."  In the case of "Satisfactory except for," the Supervising Committee must specify what work is required to make up the deficiency and the deadline(s) for doing so.  The chair of the Supervising Committee officially informs the Dean of what is required, and the Dean conveys the information in writing to the student.  Deficiencies must be made up within one year of the first written examination, and before the dissertation can be submitted. In the case of one or more examinations graded "Unsatisfactory," the Supervising Committee may require the student to retake the examination(s) or may deny the student permission to continue for the Ph.D. Re-examinations must be successfully completed within one year of the first written examination.  No examination may be retaken more than once. 

Students must complete all remaining requirements for the Ph.D. within 60 months of taking the first Preliminary Examination, or repeat one of the examinations at the Final Examination.