Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
School of Communication, Information and Library Studies
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Qualifying Examination Requirement
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  School of Communication and Information 2021-2023 Ph.D. Program in Communication, Information, and Media Program Program Requirements Qualifying Examination Requirement  

Qualifying Examination Requirement

The qualifying examination is taken after the successful completion of all course credits. It consists of two portions: the written and the oral. Qualifying exams cover the areas of coursework specialization (as stipulated in each program area). Completion of course requirements does not guarantee a passing mark on the qualifying examination. Students are expected to read well beyond required course readings in preparing for the qualifying examination, in consultation with their adviser and exam committee members. Prospective candidates for the doctorate should understand that they will not ordinarily be permitted to proceed to the qualifying examination unless their record in coursework shows evidence of distinction, meaning, in general, a B+ or better average. The functions of the qualifying examination are: to determine that the student is adequately prepared to embark on the research required for producing a dissertation; and, that the student has sufficient knowledge to be a member of the academy in the student's discipline.

Exam Dates: Exam dates are determined by the student and his or her adviser and committee, but should not be conducted past the 12th week of each semester without prior approval from all committee members. Exam questions are sent by email to the student from the Ph.D. office. Within two weeks of submitting the written answers, the oral examination is scheduled.  Students have a limit of 10 days to complete and submit their answers. Written qualifying exams are started on a Friday morning and completed 10 days later on a Monday. If a student prefers to write over a 10-day period spanning different days they should consult with the Ph.D. office to evaluate alternatives. Students planning to take qualifying exams must notify the Ph.D. office and the program director as soon as possible. Students will also sit for an oral defense of their qualifying exams, which should be scheduled to occur approximately two weeks after submitting the written answers.

Candidacy Form: Students must download and complete the candidacy form prior to taking qualifying exams:, click on admission to Ph.D. candidacy application. Bring this completed form to the oral portion of the exam.

Examination Committee: The examination committee consists of the chair, determined by mutual agreement of the student and the faculty member, and at least three other examiners, chosen by the chair in consultation with the student. Each question must be read by at least two examiners, and there must be at least four different examiners in total. The four examiners constitute the examination committee.

       For cases in which the student is to answer a written qualifying examination question in an area different from the program area, at least one examiner of that question must be from that area. For instance, if the other area is from outside the School of Communication and Information (SC&I), then at least one of the examiners must be a member of the graduate faculty of that area (e.g., sociology, computer science, anthropology). Or, if the other area is from within SC&I (e.g., communication [COM], library and information science [LIS], or media studies [MS]) at least one of the examiners must be a member of that program area.         

       The members of the examination committee may set questions that are generally relevant to the student's research interests and/or course of study, or they may set questions that are relevant to the examined area as a whole. Such decisions made by the examination committee, within any constraints that may be set by the program area.

Written Examination: The written portion consists of a take-home exam of two questions covering two distinct areas of study. The number of questions that are set, from which the student chooses two to answer, is decided by the program area. Typically the student is sent four questions, and the student then chooses to answer one question from each of the two areas. Answers should conform to the length guidelines if given with your question.  Please limit the text of your answer to 20-25 pages, typed and double-spaced (6,000 words on average). Instructions are also sent to the students with the exam.   

      Each program area determines for itself what the questions cover, within the constraints of the program description for that area. LIS requires that students study in two areas: an LIS area, and an area from outside LIS. This second area can be within SC&I (COM or MS) or from elsewhere in the university. The student must then answer one question relevant to each of the two areas in which she or he has studied. In COM, students must have a major and minor area of study. These may include foci within the COM area: organizational communication, social interaction, mediated communication, or health communication; but are not limited to these areas of communication study. Students may choose as a minor area one of the other areas of the Ph.D. program, or a minor elsewhere in the university. In MS, there is no requirement to study in more than one area, so the two questions may cover whatever aspects of MS the examination committee considers relevant.

Oral Examination: The oral portion of the qualifying examination is led by the chair of the examination committee, and includes all four members. It is scheduled within two weeks of the completion of the written exam. In the oral exam, members of the examination committee pose questions to the candidate, on the subjects of the written questions and/or on subjects related to the areas in which the student is being examined.

      There are three options for examiners when evaluating each exam question: pass, revise, or fail. (See the qualifying exam evaluation form: At the conclusion of the oral exam, the members of the examination committee decide if the student has successfully passed one or both questions, or if the student will have to provide additional written work for one or both areas (revise option), or if the student has failed one or both questions.

        Pass: If the student has successfully passed both questions, the student receives a pass and is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. The committee members will sign the student's candidacy form and give it back to the student to return to the Ph.D. office.

       Revise: If the committee determines that the student has not demonstrated satisfactory performance, but has not failed one or both questions (and could pass with additional revisions), the revise option allows the student to rewrite the answer(s) or provide additional written work related to the same question(s), which would need to satisfy the student's committee. One month is allowed for satisfactory revisions (which then results in a pass for that question or questions); failure to do a satisfactory revision results in a fail for that question or questions. There can be only one revision, and that will be a pass/fail decision. There is no additional oral exam for the revise option.

       Fail: The fail option requires the student to re-sit the examination in those areas where the student has not achieved a pass, including an additional oral exam. A minimum of three favorable votes is needed before one is considered to have passed some or all of the examination. One must ultimately pass both questions to pass the qualifying exams.

       Re-sitting the Exam: In the event of a fail on one or both questions, students may re-sit the qualifying examination once only. Re-sitting the examination means that faculty will provide new questions for the required area(s), students will have an additional 10-day take-home exam and submission, and subsequently take an oral exam in the area(s). The two examiners for each question read the new papers and participate in the new oral portion of the examination. If the student has failed in respect to both questions, all four examiners participate in the reading of the new questions and in the new oral portion of the examination.

For additional information, contact RU-info at 848-445-info (4636) or
Comments and corrections to: Campus Information Services.

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