All students take the CCS qualifying examination at the end of their second year. During the fall semester of the second year, each student works with the CCS faculty to assemble a qualifying examination committee consisting of three CCS faculty. The exam will be largely shaped, administered, and graded by this committee.
The qualifying exam consists of a written examination and an oral examination.
The written component has three parts: 1) an analytic-synthetic essay* required of all students, written in response to a question determined by the CCS faculty and based on authors’ arguments found in the list of CCS Qualifying Examination Readings,** 2) an analytic-synthetic essay addressing a question customized for the student according to their interests and based on a list of specialty readings within the CCS tradition, both of which are determined by the student and their three-person faculty examination committee, working in consultation with each other, and 3) one of three options intended to establish competence in appropriate research methodology — either a) an analytic-synthetic review essay on how a particular concept, behavior, etc., is observed or measured using a variety of approaches, or, b) a methodological critique of a recent peer-reviewed journal article, or, c) an original, proposed research technique, methodology, or plan designed to answer a specific research question. The decision of which of these methodology components the student will address is also decided by the faculty examination committee and student working in consultation with each other.
The oral examination is given by the faculty examination committee and takes place after the written examination. It is approximately one hour in length. It provides both the student and the examination committee with an opportunity to further discuss the content of the written examination.
The qualifying examination is given to all second year students two weeks after the last day of Spring classes. The written questions are distributed on that Monday morning*** and students have five days to complete the exam. Answers must be original, written independently, and submitted by that Friday at 5:00 PM. Faculty grade the exams over the next several days, prior to the oral examination. The oral examination commences according to scheduled appointments on the subsequent Wednesday. Students will be informed of their exam grade by the end of that week, just before the Memorial Day weekend.****
The student’s faculty examination committee grades the qualifying examination, based on a combination of both the written and oral exams. Each part/question of the exam is assigned a grade of “pass,” or “fail.” Students must receive the grade of “pass” on all three parts of the exam in order to progress in the PhD program. Students who fail one or more parts of the exam are deemed unqualified to continue in the program. Students who do not pass the exam are entitled to one opportunity to revise and re-submit their answers to their faculty exam committee for reconsideration. Revised answers must be submitted by the end of the summer, so that the committee can grade them and inform the student of he outcome before the fall term begins. For a timeline of the qualifying exam process, refer to the CCS Track Description document.
*Analytic-synthetic essays are built on careful readings of others’ claims (this is the analytic part) as well as the essay writer’s observations/claims about those claims (this is the synthetic part). Analytic-synthetic essays demonstrate mastery of existing domain knowledge by demonstrating understanding of individual scholars’ works as well as how a body of works relate to each other.
**This is a list developed by the faculty consisting of general CCS-related readings. It is an on-going endeavor, available to all students. The version available at the start of their second year of studies is the version on which students will be tested during their qualifying exam.
***For some questions, of course, this is only a formality. A student will already know at least one of the questions on their exam (#2) prior to this date, and will already have been working on their answer to it throughout the semester. Depending on what has been decided with their examination committee for question #3, it is possible that a student will encounter only one new question on this Monday morning when the exam questions are officially released (i.e., Q #1).
****For example, during the Spring 2016 term, classes ended on Friday, April 29th. The qualifying exam would have been distributed to second year PhD students at 9:00 AM on Monday, May 16th. Students would have had until 5:00 PM on Friday, May 21st to complete the exam. Each student would then meet with the faculty for their oral exam for one hour on Wednesday, May 25th. Students would receive notification of their exam grades by Friday, May 27th.)