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image: Psychology Logo
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image: Psychology Logo
Preliminary Exam
About the Exam
By passing the preliminary exams the student demonstrates his or her competence to begin dissertation research. Upon completion of the exam and submission of the completed warrant to the Graduate School, the student will obtain dissertator status. (Please note that all Department and Graduate School requirements  except the dissertation must be complete in order to obtain dissertator status. See the Graduate School Handbook for further details.)

Preparation, grading, and administration of the preliminary exams is the responsibility of the area group or the IGM student's mentoring committee subject to the following guidelines:
  1. Each preliminary examination committee shall consist of no fewer than three psychology faculty (no more than one joint/affiliated faculty member may count as a psychology faculty member)
  2. Exams should be administered so that a student can finish the exam and faculty can strive to grade the exam before the start of the Fall and Spring semesters
  3. The exam must include at least one or more of the following formats: writing a publication-quality paper, a take-home examination, or a four-hour test session. Regardless of the format, the work must be completed specifically for the preliminary examination, so that previous publications, papers written to fulfill course assignments, or other assignments may not be used for the preliminary examination
If a student fails the preliminary examination, the student may repeat the examination only if the student’s major professor and major area group or mentoring committee grant permission to take the examination a second time. If a student fails the preliminary examination a second time, permission for a third and final attempt must be based on highly unusual circumstances and must be approved by the major professor, the major area group or mentoring committee, and the department. Having failed the examination, if a student does not obtain permission to attempt the preliminary examination a second or third time, the student will be dropped from the graduate program at the end of the semester in which the examination was failed.

Warrant Process
Students only need to initiate the warrant process when they are completing their final preliminary exam. This means students with two preliminary exams do not need to initiate this process until the semester they intend to complete their specialty preliminary exam.
  1. Student must notify the Graduate Coordinator via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it early in the semester that s/he intends to take the final preliminary exam
  2. Student must clear any incomplete, unreported, or progress grades (with the exception of progress grades in research/thesis). Independent study must be given a grade.
  3. Student must complete the PhD Minor Agreement form, obtain appropriate signatures, and return to Graduate Coordinator no later than three weeks prior to examination date. For further information about the PhD Minor, please click here.
  4. The Graduate Coordinator will initiate the Certification Process with student's area group chair in order to ensure all requirements have been met to obtain dissertator status. This is an internal process that does not require action on the student's part.
    • Certification constitutes permission by the area group or mentoring committee for the student to take the preliminary exam. When students are approved for prelims, a notice to that effect will be posted outside the Chairperson's office and the certification will be announced on the call for agenda items for the next faculty meeting.
    • If any faculty member wishes to discuss the certification decision, they may ask for discussion at the next faculty meeting. If no one requests discussion before that meeting, the certification will be considered final.
  5. The Graduate Coordinator will then send out a warrant request to the Graduate School.
    • A warrant request will not be issued to the Graduate School until:
      • All course deficiencies have been cleared
      • The PhD Minor Agreement form has been completed and recieved by the Graduate Coordinator
      • The Certification Process has been completed with student's area group
    • All warrant requests must be recieved by the Graduate School no later than three weeks prior to student's defense date.
  6. Within a few weeks the student will recieve the official preliminary warrant.
  7. Upon successful completion of the final preliminary exam, student must obtain all necessary signatures and information to complete the warrant.
  8. Student will then submit the completed warrant to the Graduate Coordinator in person or via mailbox.
  9. The Graduate Coordinator will then submit the completed warrant to the Graduate School and upon approval the student will be granted dissertator status.


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