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Exam Process

General Exam Process

Establishing a General Exam Committee 

The Doctoral Supervisory Committee must consist of at least four members: a minimum of three graduate faculty and a Graduate School Representative (GSR). HCDE requires that at least 50% of the doctoral supervisory committee be HCDE graduate faculty. Once the minimum committee makeup is met, non-graduate faculty and affiliates may be appointed. To officially appoint a committee, students must send a list of the committee members (with respective roles) to the Director of Academic Services.
To determine if a faculty member is eligible for supervisory committee work or to serve as a GSR, please search the Graduate Faculty Locator.

  • The General Exam Committee chair is chosen by the student from HCDE department faculty. Generally, this person is the faculty member most likely to chair the student’s dissertation; however, this is not a requirement. See the Graduate School Supervisory Memo for specific information.
  • The committee chair, together with the student, will choose the remaining members of the committee. 
  • The student will consult with all members of the General Exam Committee to discuss his or her area of interest. This information will be taken into account when drafting the questions, to strike a balance between the breadth of the field and how it applies to each student’s area of interest.
  • Once the student and his or her committee have determined the dates for the written and oral exams, the student must:
    • Schedule the General Exam defense through MyGrad in advance of the written exam.
    • Email committee members and Director of Academic Services with the dates and times of both the written and oral exam so they will have questions prepared in time. 

Written Exam 

The Written Exam is a self-proctored, open book examination which will take place over four days (maximum five hours per question) within a two week period. The student will respond to four questions, one each day. The department encourages students to use the time for both writing and revising the answer for each question. In addition to books, students may use notes or other preparatory materials made while studying for the exam. 

If a student chooses to work on campus and does not have ready access to a location in which to complete the exam, he or she can request that one of the department’s student assistants reserve a suitable room for the Written Exam. If the student plans to use a department laptop, he or she should also request that through the departmental student assistant.

The student will receive instructions from the Director of Academic Services regarding questions and responses several days before his or written exam is scheduled. 

Oral Exam 

PhD students must schedule the General Exam Defense through MyGrad in advance of the written exam. Students are required to have a Graduate Student Representative (GSR), a UW tenure-track faculty member from outside of the department of HCDE at the Oral Defense. Typically, the Oral Exam will occur within a month of completing the Written Exam. 

The Oral Exam will be evaluated by the members of the General Exam Committee. The Oral Exam will engage students in a discussion of issues related to the written component of the Exam. Committee members may use this opportunity to ask for further clarification on responses.

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