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Advanced Graduate Handbook

Doctoral Qualifying Examination

Guiding Principles for Discussing the Qualifying Examination (QE)

The faculty in the College of Education (COEDU) sets forth six (6) principles that serve as a guide for discussing the Qualifying Examination (QE).  They are as follows:

  • The QE represents an experience that is greater than the sum of the coursework that precedes it.  Hence, the QE is neither a repetition of exercises and performances previously encountered in coursework, nor an opportunity to complete advance work on the dissertation.
  • The QE is a summative evaluation.  It represents a terminal performance where students demonstrate a level of scholastic mastery that allows them to begin the task of independent research.  At the same time, successful completion of the QE is a rite of passage that heralds a new relationship between mentor and protégé.
  • The College respects and reveres the diverse intellectual traditions of its constituent programs.  Variations in the nature and substance of the QE reflect these disciplinary differences.
  • The QE represents a shared responsibility between professors and their students.  Professors are responsible for informing advisees about the format and general content of the QE.  Students are responsible for being mentally prepared to successfully complete the examination as well as for meeting administrative requirements and deadlines specified in the COEDU Advanced Graduate Handbook.
  • The College is committed to the growth and success of its students as emerging scholars.  Professors serve as advocates in guiding and mentoring students to perform well on the QE while upholding rigorous standards of academic performance.
  • The COEDU has an unwavering commitment to the concept and practice of academic honesty and the QE exemplifies this in all aspects.

Excerpted from Guiding Principles for Discussing the Qualifying Examination.  Developed by a subcommittee of the Graduate Programs Committee (GPC), and approved by GPC and COEDU Faculty Council, 2006.

Doctoral Qualifying Examination Policy

Policies and procedures relative to the doctoral qualifying examinations are developed by the Graduate Programs Committee (GPC) and the COEDU Faculty Council and are coordinated through the COEDU Office of Graduate Studies.  Students requiring accommodations for a documented disability should make the request at the time the application is filed.

All students, regardless of the Qualifying Examination option (College-Wide or Program-Specific) must meet the eligibility criteria below and must follow the procedures outlined for applying to take the Qualifying Examination.

  1. The student has completed all coursework or is in the semester in which all coursework will be completed.  (Note:  All incomplete ("I") and missing ( "M") grades for courses on the Planned Program of Study form and transcript must be removed prior to clearance for the Qualifying Examination).

  2. The student has an approved Graduate Student Supervisory Committee form on file in the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs with a copy in the COEDU Graduate Studies' Office (EDU106).  An approved and current Program of Study form must be on file in the COEDU Graduate Studies Office.  (If changes are made to the Supervisory Committee, an approved Change to the Advanced Graduate Student Supervisory form(s) must be on file in the Office of the COEDU Associate Dean for Academic Affairs with a copy in the COEDU Graduate Studies Office.)

  3. The student is enrolled for at least 2 hours of graduate credit during the semester in which the qualifying examination will be taken.  Students wishing to apply hours to the dissertation requirement must register for EDG 7910 (Directed Research), must have completed all required courses, and must have "I" and "M" grades removed from their transcript.

  4. The student completes the Application for Doctoral Qualifying Examination form and has it signed by the Major Professor and approved by the COEDU Graduate Coordinator.

  5. The student submits the Application for Doctoral Qualifying Examination form to the COEDU Coordinator of Graduate Studies by the end of the second week of the academic semester in which the examination is to occur.

The COEDU Coordinator of Graduate Studies approves the application if the student is eligible, the Graduate Student Supervisory Committee Appointment form is on file, and the Ph.D. Program of Study form is approved and on file. The COEDU Graduate Coordinator enters the date of the examination on the application form, makes two copies, and sends one copy to the student, one copy to the Major Professor, and retains the original application.

NOTE: No more than 50% of the total number of required dissertation hours may be Directed Research hours.  Directed Research hours used to reduce the number of dissertation hours required may be used only during the semester the qualifying examination is taken and/or the semester immediately following.  To initiate this process, the Major Professor must submit a written request to the COEDU Coordinator of Graduate Studies during the appropriate semester(s).

General Guidelines for the Administration of all Qualifying Examination Options

  • Students are given one opportunity to retake the exam with a minimum of 10 weeks between exam administrations and a maximum of one year.
  • All students who wish to take the qualifying examination must apply to the COEDU Graduate Studies Office in EDU 106 using the Application to Take Doctoral Qualifying Examination Form. 
  • The Application to Take Doctoral Qualifying Examination form is the vehicle used to reserve a space for students desiring to take the QE. 
  • Students are approved to take the collge-wide examination during a specified semester on a space-available (first-come, first-served) basis due to the limited seating and machines in the lab.
  • Students must be cleared by the COEDU Graduate Coordinator prior to beginning the examination using the deadline dates posted at
  • The student’s major professor must notify the student and the COEDU Graduate Coordinator in writing as to the results of the examination using the Verification of Doctoral Qualifying Examination Results Form. This must be done after each administration of the exam.

Note:  Students who wish to be admitted to candidacy must submit all necessary documents to the Graduate School by the last day of classes for the semester.  This is a firm deadline.  Students are eligible to begin registering for dissertation hours the semester immediately following their admission to candidacy.


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Handbook Contents

Qualifying Exams

Admission to Candidacy

Advanced Handbook
Table of Contents

General Degree Info.

Program Descriptions
& Requirements


Qualifying Exams

Admission to Candidacy


IRB Requirements



Financial Assistance


Adv Grad Forms


Most forms are available on the COEDU website.  Go to the homepage, click on "Adv Grad forms" under "Important Information."

OR check the "Forms" web page of USF Graduate Studies

Thesis & Dissertation
(on Graduate Studies website)





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