Qualifying Exam - Portfolio

The Qualifying Exam takes the form of submitting a student portfolio (see PhD Portfolio Check Sheet) for review by the research faculty at the end of the 5th semester. This review ensures that students are capable of completing the rigorous work of doctoral study in a timely fashion. PhD students may also be required to pass a qualifying examination in their minor field, with requirements determined by the minor department.

To provide guidance on academic progress, students will work with their faculty advisor to produce a portfolio in the 3rd semester. This will allow the faculty to review academic progress in advance of the 5th semester portfolio and give the student time to shore up their portfolio and address any concerns.

Portfolio Components

Component 3rd Semester 5th Semester
Portfolio Check Sheet Required Required
Statement of Purpose Required Required
Curriculum Vitae Required Required
Evidence of Research Ability/Achievement   Required
Two letters of recommendation from CSC or affiliated faculty   Required
Other letters of recommendation   Optional
Other materials   Optional

Portfolio Submission Deadlines

Submissions are typically required around mid-October and mid-March; the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) will establish these deadlines. The faculty will review and comment on student's progress and, if needed, make recommendations for improvement. The faculty may grant extensions of up to two semesters for students who have many deficiencies when entering the program or in cases where extenuating circumstances make it impossible to complete the portfolio requirements on time. Extensions will not be granted simply because a student has not completed his or her portfolio requirements. Well-prepared students are allowed to submit their portfolio before the 5th semester or prior to any extension deadlines. 

Portfolio Evaluation

Portfolios will be considered every fall and spring semester. The Graduate Affairs Committee will review portfolio materials and solicit opinion from the faculty, then make the recommendation of pass or fail to the faculty. The faculty will then discuss and vote on the committee's recommendation. 

The faculty will check that the student has continued to make progress and addressed any issues identified at the 3rd semester review. Continuing in the program is subject to passing the qualifying exam, and to subsequent satisfactory progress evaluations. The department reserves the right to remove students from the program who are deemed to not be making satisfactory progress at the 5th semester review.

Each student will receive a letter that explains the faculty's decision. If the portfolio is rejected, and the student's extension deadline has not expired, the Graduate Affairs Committee can send the portfolio back without going through the faculty vote, with written instructions to improve the portfolio. The Graduate Affairs Committee will exercise this option at most once for a student.