Preliminary Examination• Exam Application Form • Preliminary Exam Timeline
A Ph.D. student must take and pass the Preliminary Examination 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 outcome of the exam is reported to the Department and Graduate School within two working days using the GS16 form.
The Preliminary Examination is administered by the student's Graduate Committee. The overall purpose of the Preliminary Examination is to evaluate the student's knowledge of the field and their ability to independently formulate and propose a research project.
A Ph.D. student, in conjunction with their advisor, should begin forming a Graduate Committee as soon as possible after their admission to the Ph.D. program, normally in the first semester. The GS 6 Form is used to report the composition of the Graduate Committee and the proposed plan of study.
Preliminary Exam components
1. RESEARCH PROSPECTUS
Purpose of the Prospectus
The purpose of the Prospectus is to evaluate the student's ability to independently formulate and propose a research project.
- A clear statement of the problem and its broader significance
- A summary of the existing literature and its relevance to the specific problem being addressed
- A description of the tools, assumptions or understanding that represents the starting point of the proposed research
- A description of the planned research and an explanation of how each research step will contribute to the desired outcome
- A work plan that demonstrates a realistic understanding of the extent of the work involved
- A summary detailing the expected benefits that will result from the research
- A financial budget or statement of resources is not necessary
The Prospectus should be submitted to the Graduate Committee three weeks prior to the scheduled written portion of the exam.
- The Prospectus should be no more than 10 pages long using single-spaced text with a 12-point font. The 10 pages do not include the title page or the references but otherwise include all text and figures. References should be listed separately at the end of the Prospectus.
- The subject of the Prospectus may be generally discussed with the advisor prior to writing the Prospectus but the subject is ultimately at the discretion of the student.
- As stated above, the purpose of the Prospectus is to evaluate the student's ability to independently formulate and propose a research project. While interactions with the advisor or other committee members are not forbidden during the writing process, it is incumbent upon the student to ensure that the main objective of the Prospectus, the demonstration of independent capabilities, is not compromised by these interactions. For example, having the advisor or others students read the Prospectus and comment upon the content prior to submission is in clear contradiction of the objectives. Asking the advisor if a certain data set that might be useful for the research is available, on the other hand, would not be considered a problem. Interactions with the CSU Writing Center (intended to aid non-native English speakers) are permissible as long as they do not impact the scientific content of the Prospectus.
2. WRITTEN QUESTIONS
Purpose of the Written Questions
The primary purpose of the written questions is to test the student's ability to use their understanding of topics pertaining to their field of research to synthesize and process complex information by critically analyzing the research literature through the use of written arguments, appropriate equations and current theory.
- The Graduate Committee will meet and together develop three questions. The external Graduate Committee member is not required to attend this meeting.
- At least one of the three questions must be based on one or more journal articles from the literature that fall within the general research area(s) of the student. In the context of the journal article(s), the questions may require the student to, among other things, critically review the article(s), place the article(s) in the broader context of the field, perform back-of-the-envelope calculations, defend a statement from first principles, discuss how to apply ideas in the article(s) to a different situation, etc.
- The student may use any reference materials required to answer the questions, but may not consult with other persons.
- The student has 48 hours to prepare and submit written answers to the questions.
3. ORAL EXAMINATION
Purpose of the Oral Examination
The purpose of the oral examination is to provide an opportunity for the students' Graduate Committee to ask questions about the student's Prospectus, their responses to the written questions, and related topics in the student's area(s) of research.
Oral Examination Elements
- The oral examination will begin with a presentation of the Prospectus by the student. If uninterrupted, the student's presentation should last 15-20 minutes (but no longer than 20 minutes).
- If the Graduate Committee chooses to ask questions during the presentation, the Graduate Committee Chair is charged with ensuring that the student is able to finish their presentation in a reasonable amount of time.
- The Graduate Committee can then ask questions about the responses to the written questions and other questions in the student's area(s) of research.
Oral Examination Guidelines
- The total length of the oral examination cannot exceed 2 hours.
- An upper-limit of 1 hour is placed on the discussion of the Prospectus.
GRADING of the EXAM
Each of the three portions of the exam (i.e. Prospectus, written questions, and oral examination) are weighted equally and each will be graded by the Graduate Committee as either "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory". Outcomes of the full exam may be PASS, FAIL or PARTIAL PASS.
- Three "satisfactory" ratings will be given a PASS.
- Two "satisfactory" and one "unsatisfactory" ratings will be given a PARTIAL PASS.
- One or zero "satisfactory" ratings will be given a FAIL.
A PARTIAL PASS on the Preliminary Exam may require additional follow-up with the Graduate Committee as will be documented in a department memo - but will be considered a pass according to the Graduate School (as specified in the GS 16 form). Any follow-up requested by the Graduate Committee must occur within 6 months or less (to be specified by the Graduate Committee in the department memo) following the oral examination.
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 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
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 these timelines or the exam format itself. 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 and/or exam format. 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.
Preliminary Exam Timeline
|TIME||STUDENT||ADVISOR||COMMITTEE MEMBERS||DEPARTMENT OFFICE|
|Up to 3 months prior to prelim date||Notify Graduate 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 Graduate Committee members to arrange prep of written examination, confirm date of written exam||Choose research article(s) and prepare written questions by 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, Graduate 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
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