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Policy

GCAC-604 Qualifying Examination - Research Doctorate

FAQs


Does the requirement that guidelines established by the graduate program for the Qualifying Examination be uniformly applied to all students mean that all students in the graduate program must be treated in exactly the same way?

No. The policy is meant to ensure that students in the same types of situations are treated in the same way. For example, a program may accept the master’s thesis as the Qualifying Examination for students in the program who completed the master’s degree at Penn State, but require students with a master’s degree from another institution to sit for an examination. However, if the master’s thesis is accepted for the Qualifying Examination for students who completed the master’s degree at Penn State, then it must be accepted for all students who completed their master’s degree at Penn State. The intent is for programs to be consistent and fair in their requirements for students in the same type of situation.

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In defining the 18 credits necessary to be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination, what does “eligible to be counted towards the graduate degree” mean?

Courses eligible to be counted towards the graduate degree are 400-, 500-, 600-, and 800-level courses taken at Penn State, whether taken as:

  • Penn State undergraduate students after having satisfied the credit requirement for their undergraduate degree;
  • Penn State non-degree graduate students;
  • Penn State degree-seeking graduate students.

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In defining the 18 credits necessary to be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination, what does “graduate credits earned previously at other recognized institutions from which transfer credits would be accepted” mean?

See GCAC-309 Transfer Credit, Policy Statement #2: Transfer of Credit from an External Institution.

Note that for purposes of this policy, those external credits do not need to be transferred to Penn State, they simply must be eligible for transfer.

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Are dual-title students required to enroll in the dual-title before being taking the Qualifying Examination?

Dual-title programs may examine proficiency separately at a later date, or accept the results of the Qualifying Examination in the major field. This allows students to be admitted to a dual-title program after they have taken the Qualifying Examination in their graduate major program, as long as a Qualifying Examination for the dual-title (if required) is taken within four semesters of entry into the graduate major program (see GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs).

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Can graduate programs require additional examinations prior to the Qualifying Examination?

Yes, graduate programs can establish requirements for doctoral students in addition to the requirements stated in Graduate Council policies. Note that the primary purpose of the Qualifying Examination is stated in Policy Statement #1: “to provide an early assessment of whether the student has the potential to develop the knowledge, skills, and attributes the program has defined in its formal Learning Objectives, including evidence of critical thinking skills, necessary for a successful researcher in the disciplinary field.” Other kinds of examinations, including placement examinations and examinations that are only concerned with content or technical knowledge, can be required by the program prior to the Qualifying Examination.

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