Qualifying Exams

Doctoral students in Media, Culture, and Communication are required to pass two qualifying exams. Each of these take-home exams is composed of two parts; each part requires a response of 10-15 pages in length to be completed within a 48-hour period. If a student fails an exam, s/he will have one opportunity to re-take it.

General Theories (First Year)

Students take this exam after the end of their second semester in the program and must pass the exam by the end of June.

  • The exam consists of two parts and covers the readings studied in Doctoral Core Seminars I and II.
  • The exam will be administered and graded by the faculty teaching Doctoral Core Seminars I and II.
  • Both parts of the exam are taken during the same week, and students have 48 hours to complete each part.
Dissertation Specialization (Third Year)

This exam covers two separate areas of specialization and is a gateway and a pre-requisite to the dissertation proposal review.

  • By the start of the second semester of the second year of study, students identify two faculty members (called readers) who administer this exam. Normally, these readers will serve on the student's dissertation committee, but this is not required. One reader must be from within the department (and ideally, serves as the chair of the dissertation committee).
  • Students develop two reading lists and a timeline for completing the exam on their own initiative but in consultation with and subject to approval by the two readers. The exam questions will come out of these reading lists.
  • Both parts of the written exam are taken during the same week, and students have 48 hours to complete each part. Questions are given one at a time.
  • Approximately one to two weeks after both parts of the exam are completed, students have an oral defense in which both readers are present. In addition to the specialization topics, a plan for the dissertation proposal will be addressed. There may be some exceptions to this time frame due to scheduling conflicts, breaks, etc. 
  • The exam should be taken either at the conclusion of the spring semester of the second year, or, at the latest, in the beginning of the fall semester of the third year of study with a deadline of September 15 of that year.