Preliminary Exam Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if a professor I'd like on my exam committee is already an approved member of the Graduate School?

Look up the professor's name on the Graduate School website.  If the professor's name is there, s/he is already a member.  If not, you'll need to get them approved as a new member.

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What is needed in order to get a professor approved as a new member of the Graduate School faculty so that they can serve on my committee?

Provide a current curriculum vitae and birth date for the professor to the DGSA, and she will complete the proper paperwork to have the person approved.

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What paperwork is required for the preliminary examination?

The committee approval form must be completed by the student and a preliminary examination readiness statement must be completed by the advisor.  Both of these forms must be turned in to the GPR office by five weeks prior to the projected date for the oral examination. In addition, the request for preliminary exam space should be turned in so that you can get space booked.

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When should I turn in the paperwork to initiate a preliminary exam?

The paperwork for preliminary exams should be turned in after the student has completed coursework and language requirements, and a minimum of five weeks prior to the projected date for the preliminary exam.  The committee approval form must be approved by the department and the Graduate School a minimum of one month prior to the oral examination date. It is wise to complete the forms as soon as you have completed all coursework and language requirements so that the timeline does not become a barrier in scheduling your prelims.

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How do I schedule dates for my preliminary examinations and oral examination?

To schedule preliminary examinations, first consult with your advisor.  Either the advisor or student will need to contact the faculty on the committee and coordinate a date and time for the oral exam.  Once the dates and times have been determined, please turn in this form to the DGSA to request space for a preliminary examination.

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By when should I have completed preliminary exams?

Prelims should normally be completed by the end of a student's third year.  If this deadline is not met, the student should have his/her advisor contact the DGS, who may request an extension of one semester from the Graduate School.  The preliminary examination must be done during a semester rather than between semesters. 

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May I take preliminary exams in summer?

Only schedule preliminary exams in summer if you must enroll for other reasons, such as language classes. 

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What requirements must be met before I take preliminary examinations?

All course work must be completed and language requirements met in order to be able to proceed with preliminary exams.

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What is the next step to complete once preliminary exams are over?

After the preliminary exam, the student writes a proposal and has a proposal defense. The student then completes a CDC form, which is an abbreviated version of the proposal and includes the proposed committee. If the CDC approves of the dissertation committee, the student submits a committee approval form to the DGSA to be signed by the DGS and forwarded to the Graduate School for final approval. 

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How would I go about getting an M.A. degree en route to the Ph.D.?

Before your preliminary exam or your proposal exam, pick up a "non-thesis master's examination card" from the GPR office. If you successfully pass your preliminary exams, have your committee members sign this card in addition to the preliminary exam paperwork.

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Where can I find more information about preliminary exams?

More information about preliminary exams can be found at the Graduate School website.

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What should be the make-up of the committee?

You must have between 4 and 6 committee members. There should ideally be 3 members of the GPR on your committee. There must be a majority of Duke faculty on your committee. One member must represent a minor area of study.

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