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Economics | PhD Comprehensive Exam Information

Doctoral students are required to pass three written comprehensive examinations. These are: a preliminary theory exam; an advanced theory exam in the student's chosen theory track; and one applied field exam in the student's field of specialty. The fourth comprehensive exam is the oral defense of the student’s dissertation proposal. The members of the student’s prospective dissertation committee serve as the student’s examiners for the proposal defense.

Scheduling of Comprehensive Examinations

Ph.D. Requirements Page

Students are advised to apply for comprehensive examinations when they register for classes or maintain matriculation each semester. It is the students' responsibility to consult their advisers, papers published on campus, and/or notices posted in the department for application deadlines each semester. E-mails will be sent to students who provide their e-mail addresses with announcements of registration deadlines. Responsibilty for registering by the deadlines lies strictly with the students. Approximate dates (e.g., weeks) for comprehensive examinations will be announced in advance; exact dates for the individual examinations will not be be set until after the registration deadline has passed. Students are required to be present on those dates.

Time Limits for Completing Comprehensives and Numbers of Permitted Attempts

Students have only two attemps to pass the Preliminary Theory comprehensive exam. A student who passes the Preliminary Theory exam on the first attempt may have three attempts to pass the advanced theory exam in the student's chosen theory track. A student who requires two attempts to pass the Preliminary Theory comp may attempt the Advanced Theory comprehensive only two times. Changing theory tracks does not increase the number of permitted attempts for the advanced theory comp.  No more than four total attempts at the two theory comprehensives are permitted.

Full-time Ph.D. students are required to take their Preliminary Theory comprehensive in June following their first year. If a student fails to pass, a second attempt to pass the Preliminary Theory comprehensive may be made in January of the second year. Failure to pass the Preliminary Theory comprehensive by January of the second year will result in dismissal. The Advanced Theory comprehensive in the student's chosen track should normally be taken in the January of the second year, unless the student has to re-take the Preliminary Theory comp at that time. In the latter case, the Advance Theory comprehensive may be attempted at the next sitting after the Preliminary Theory exam is passed (for example, June following January). If a student does not pass an advanced theory comprehensive, the student must re-take it at the next available sitting (up to the maximum number of permitted attempts, as stated above). 

All full-time students must pass their two theory examinations by January of their third year of full-time study or will be dismissed from the program. Students on fellowships or assistantships who do not pass their two theory examinations by June following their second year will not be eligible to receive financial awards in the third year.

All full-time students are required to pass the comprehensive in their chosen applied field of specialty by June following their third year of full-time study, as long as the necessary courses have been offered prior to that time. If a student fails a field comprehensive, only one re-take is allowed, and changing fields does not increase the number of permitted attempts. Anyone failing to meet this requirement will be given a written warning and given one more calendar year to complete all required comprehensives or be dismissed from the program.

Part-time Ph.D. students and students entering the program in a spring semester must take the preliminary theory comprehensive, the advanced theory comprehensive appropriate to their track, and the applied field comp in their chosen specialty at the first sitting after the required coursework for each one is completed. Failed exams should be re-taken at the next sitting, subject to the same limits on the number of attempts as specified for full-time students. 

Part-time students and students who enter in the spring are required to pass both of their two theory comprehensives by the first sitting (either June or January) following the completion of 36 credit-hours; otherwise, they will be given a written warning, after which they would have one calendar year to pass both theory comprehensives or be dismissed from the program. Part-time and spring entrants are also required to complete their applied field comprehensive examination by the first sitting after completing 54 credit-hours; otherwise, they will be given a written warning, after which they would have one calendar year to pass all comprehensives or be dismissed from the program.

Extensions of these deadlines will be made by the Ph.D. Program Adviser only on the basis of demonstrated serious personal hardship (for example, serious illness or extreme family emergencies), and must be entered in writing in the student’s file.

(Students admitted prior to Fall 2005 may take comprehensives under previous rules. These may be obtained from the Ph.D. Adviser.)

Administration of Ph. D. Comprehensive Examinations 

Complete anonymity is to be maintained for students in the grading of comprehensive examinations. A special identification number (not the regular AU identification number) will be issued to each student for each session of comprehensives; neither the system for assigning these numbers nor the names of the students taking the comprehensives are available to the faculty reading the comprehensives. Each comprehensive is graded by at least two professors. Should they disagree about whether a student passes, the examination is read by one additional reader. Students are allowed to know the names of the readers for each exam. Additional rules and regulations will be sent to all students who register for comprehensive examinations.

(Rev. 07/2008)

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