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Preliminary Examination

Exam Application Form   • Preliminary Exam Timeline

Generally within 12 months of defending the M.S. (or within 18 months of admission to the Ph.D. program, if the student completed the M.S. in another department), the student must take and pass the Preliminary Exam. The exam outcome is reported to the Department and Graduate School within two working days using the GS16 form.

Ph.D. students will submit to a preliminary examination administered by their graduate committee which is intended to evaluate the level of in depth knowledge in at least two specialized areas. The student, again in conjunction with the advisor, should identify two topics for the Preliminary Examination most closely related to the intended dissertation research. The Graduate Committee membership must represent expertise related to these two areas.

Acceptable areas of specialization are:

*No more than one of the asterisked topics may be selected.

The student admitted into the Ph.D. program, in conjunction with the advisor, should begin forming a Graduate Committee as soon as possible after admission, normally in the first semester. The GS Form 6 is used to report the composition of the committee and the proposed plan of study.The Graduate Committee will serve as the Preliminary Examination Committee.

Preliminary Exam components

1. A research prospectus. The prospectus should be submitted to the Preliminary Examination Committee two weeks prior to the scheduled written portion of the exam. The following guidelines are to be used for the prospectus preparation.

Prospectus Elements

Prospectus Guidelines

2. Three written questions prepared by the three ATS faculty members on the student's graduate committee, in 2 subject areas of the student's choosing, but closely related to his/her research. One question will be drawn from each chosen topic, and the third question will seek to link the two. The student has 48 hours to prepare and submit written answers to these questions. S/he may use any reference materials required to answer the questions but may not consult with other persons.

3. An oral examination, taking place within about a week of submitting the written exam to the Committee for review. The oral exam will be based on (but not necessarily limited to) the written exam questions, the exam topic areas, and the research prospectus. At the start of the oral examination, to the student will give an approximately 12 minute overview of the content of this prospectus. To the extent possible, the student will not be interrupted except to clarify points that the committee feels are necessary to follow the discussion. More detailed questions about the prospectus may or may not be asked after the initial presentation.

The three portions of the exam are graded in an integrated sense. An overall exam result is reported, based on all three elements of the exam. Outcomes may be passing, failing, or passing with required additional work. Such requirements are documented in writing in the student's file.

If a student fails the Preliminary Exam, s/he may be eligible for one re-examination. However, re-examination must be endorsed by the Graduate Committee on the GS 16 form and must be completed within six months of the first attempt. Conditions to be met before re-examination are documented on the GS Form 16.

A student who passes the Preliminary Exam will change status from Ph.D. I to Ph.D. II. The Department requires a memo from the student's advisor to be notified of this change.

Notification of Exam

The student is responsible for arranging a time and place for the oral portion of the Preliminary Exam after consultation with his/her Graduate Committee.

The student must notify the department office no later than two weeks prior to the exam. The date, time and place of the preliminary examination and the two areas of specialization will be announced to all Atmospheric Science academic faculty members one week prior to the examination. The preliminary examination shall be administered at least two terms before the final examination. It is the candidate's responsibility to comply with these notifications.

Complete the preliminary notification

Failure to Meet Timelines

The student is expected to make every effort to comply with departmental timelines for admission and for passing the Preliminary Examination. However, in some cases, there may be extenuating circumstances that require modification of those timelines. In such cases, the student and advisor may petition, in writing, to the Department Graduate Committee, outlining the reasons for the request and the proposed modified timetable. The Department Head will approve or deny the request.

Violation of Departmental requirements and timetables will be considered grounds for dismissal from the program.

Exam Application Form

This form allows you to electronically request and schedule your preliminary exam. You must complete this form at least three weeks before your requested oral exam date. Once submitted, your advisor, committee members, department graduate committee members and Sarah Tisdale will receive an email notification of your request. You may receive correspondence from them shortly after your submission.

Student Information



Scheduling Information



Topic Selection


* Select no more than one of these topics

Faculty Advisor


Committee Members















Preliminary Exam Timeline

TIME STUDENT ADVISOR COMMITTEE MEMBERS DEPARTMENT OFFICE
Up to 3 months prior to prelim date Notify committee members and arrange acceptable date for prelim, reserve a room
As soon as the prelim date is confirmed (at least 3 weeks prior to exam) Fill out the Prelim Notification Form
When notification email is recieved Contact committee members to arrange prep of 3 questions, confirm date of written exam Prepare potential written questions and submit to advisor before written exam date
More than 2 weeks prior to written exam date Contact student about date of written exam
At least 2 weeks prior to written exam Submit written prospectus to advisor, committee members
1 day prior to written exam Submit questions (email or hardcopy) to dept. office, room 117 (M,T,W only)
Date of written exam (aprox. 10 days prior to prelim) Pick up exam questions at 9 a.m. in the dept. office, room 117 Have a hard copy of the exam questions available for the student to pick up by 9 a.m.
48 hours after written exam Submit written answers to questions to dept. office 48 hours after picking up Send copies of exam questions to
1) Advisor
2) Committee members
Date of prelim exam Relax! Pick up student's file for dept. office. This will include a blank GS 16 form Decide on results and recommendations and sign GS 16
Immediately after the end of the exam 1) Submit GS 16 to dept. office for dept. head signature
2) When signed, take to room 204 Student Services on campus (Graduate School)
Get GS16 signed by dept. head. Notify student
Within a week of exam 1) Memo (email or hardcopy) to dept. summarizing exam results, any recommendations for remedial work.
2) Complete grad student change form from Ph.D. I to Ph.D. II, as appropriate