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Departmental Guidelines for the PhD Oral Preliminary Exam

1. An oral preliminary examination, as well as a written examination, is required of all Ph.D. students majoring in any field of botany and plant pathology. This requirement may not be waived. The examination should be scheduled by the Program Committee for the earliest term possible in relation to the completion of necessary coursework.

2. The written preliminary examination must be completed successfully before the oral preliminary examination may be scheduled. The oral preliminary examination should normally be scheduled within two months of the completion of the written examination. It should be noted that at least one complete academic term, and no more than five years, must elapse between the oral preliminary examination and the final oral (thesis) examination.

3. The oral preliminary examination is conducted by the student's Graduate Program Committee. Other members of the graduate faculty may attend the examination, but they may not participate in the oral examination unless they have been invited to do so by the Graduate Program Committee and the student has been informed at least 2 weeks prior to the examination. The student's major professor serves as chairperson of the Committee during the examination. The Graduate Council Representative acts as chairperson of the Committee during the evaluation of the student's performance in the oral examination.

4. The oral examination should be scheduled to allow at least a 2-hour examination period. Examinations should be scheduled with the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance and for periods when classes are in session. Use online form.

5. The oral examination is intended to provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their professional preparation and ability to perform in a less structured environment and more open-ended and interactive format than that provided by the written examination. The specific content of the examination is determined by the individuals that constitute the examining committee. However, the examination will normally include both questions intended to explore the breadth and the depth of the student's professional knowledge and training and questions designed to test the student's ability to interpret observations and solve problems by synthesizing information from several sources.

6. Preparation for the oral preliminary examination is an intrinsic part of the examination process. Students are advised to begin preparation for the examination by making their own assessment of the types of information, perspectives, and background that a professional in the student's general area might reasonably be expected to have. The student should note that questions in the oral examination are not necessarily restricted to the areas of the student's formal coursework. Students are encouraged to consult with individual members of the examining committee concerning views and philosophies of examination. However, students should not expect members of the examining committee to delineate specific areas that will be treated in the oral examination.

7. Evaluation Criteria for the Oral Examination:

a. The success or failure of a student in the oral examination does not ordinarily depend upon his or her ability to answer one specific question or group of questions. However, failure may occur if the student's responses demonstrate either a lack of serious preparation for the examination or a significant gap in the student's basic knowledge that needs to be remedied before the student is admitted to candidacy for the degree. Students should note that a negative vote by a single committee member is not sufficient to fail a student in the oral examination. (See item 8).

b. Students who are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree are expected to demonstrate an ability to respond to questions in an appropriate professional manner. They should distinguish clearly between fact and speculation. When appropriate, they should be able to utilize their knowledge to hypothesize and suggest approaches to problems for which solutions may not be known.

c. Students admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree are expected to possess the general scientific knowledge and background appropriate to a professional in their area of training in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology and to be familiar with basic principles and practices of scientific investigation and research.

d. Students admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree are expected to be familiar with the premises, problems, perspectives, and approaches of the research area in which they are specializing and with any related fields and concepts that might bear on this research.

8. At the end of the examination period, the student is asked to leave the examination room while the Committee conducts its evaluation of the examination. In determining whether the student has passed or failed the examination, only official members of the student's Graduate Program Committee are eligible to vote. As soon as the committee has completed its evaluation, the student will be informed of the results of the examination. The Committee may decide to:

a. Inform the student that he or she has been advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

If the student is to be advanced to candidacy, only one dissenting vote is permitted. Receipt of two or more dissenting votes constitutes failure of the examination.

b. Inform the student that he or she has failed the examination.If the student fails the examination, the Committee may, by simple majority vote, recommend reexamination. If a reexamination is recommended, a statement describing any conditions imposed, including deficiencies to be removed and the time interval between examinations, is entered by the Committee on the examination report. If the student fails the reexamination, his or her graduate program will be terminated. If the student fails the initial examination and the Committee does not recommend reexamination, the student's graduate program will be terminated.

c. Inform the student that the examination has been recessed.Such action may occasionally be appropriate if extenuating circumstances are perceived to have influenced the student's performance. Such action does not constitute failure of the examination or reexamination. If an examination is recessed, it must be reconvened within 2 weeks.

9. The results of the examination are forwarded to the Graduate School by the Graduate Council Representative.

Guidelines approved by the faculty of the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology on 7 March 1988.