Preliminary Examination

Qualifying Standards for Examination

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To take the preliminary examination, PhD students must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 on a scale of 4.0. There are no exceptions.

For students who began the program with an MS degree, GPA is calculated using eight courses, all of which must satisfy the requirements of the PhD program. Students who enter the PhD program with an MS degree may retake or substitute up to three courses to meet the minimum GPA requirement.

For students who began the program with a bachelor’s degree, GPA is calculated using 14 courses, all of which must satisfy the requirements of the PhD program. Students who enter the PhD program directly with a bachelor’s degree may retake or substitute up to five courses to meet the minimum GPA requirement.

Note: The GPA for transfer students is determined using grades that UIC assigned to their courses when transferred.

Preliminary Examination Timeline

Once students complete their PhD coursework and satisfied the minimum-GPA requirement, they have up to 12 months to pass the preliminary examination. The clock begins running when the coursework is completed with the minimum GPA requirement satisfied, not when the director of graduate studies receives the examination request form.

The preliminary examination must be taken no later than one semester prior to the student’s final defense.

Preliminary Examination Requirements

The preliminary examination consists of a written examination and an oral examination.

Written examination

  • First, the student submits his or her written examination to the thesis committee. The written examination takes the form of a research proposal. It is the responsibility of the student to demonstrate fundamental understanding of the material in this proposal.
  • The written examination must be received by the committee at least two weeks ahead of the scheduled examination date. Students are welcome (and encouraged) to attach copies of accepted or published journal articles to supplement the written examination.
  • The written examination must be 10 to 15 single-spaced pages in Times New Roman (11 point) font with 1-inch margins. This is exclusive of references.
  • The written examination should be prepared using the National Science Foundation Proposal Guideline Criteria and must address Intellectual Merit of Research.

Oral examination

  • An oral examination will be held once the committee has reviewed the written examination.
  • External committee members are encouraged but not required to attend the oral examination.

Examination Outcomes and Progress Reporting

If a student passes the preliminary examination, he or she moves on to the dissertation phase of the PhD program, under the guidance of his or her faculty advisor.

If a student fails the preliminary examination, he or she has up to six months to retake the exam and must wait at least one semester before his or her defense.

PhD advisors are provided with regular updates on their students’ progress, including academic transcripts. In addition, the director of graduate studies maintains a spreadsheet of all PhD students’ trajectory in the program.

UIC’s Graduate College requires that students who enter the PhD program with an MS degree complete the doctoral program within seven years of the date of initial registration.