Qualifying Examination

1.    The candidate selects his or her Qualifying Committee Chairperson. The Chair­person of this four-person committee must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty in Psychology. The remaining three persons may be either members or associate members of the Graduate Faculty (the current list is maintained be Senior Administrator Donna Tomaselli). There are provisions for ap­pointing members to this Committee from outside of the Psychology Graduate Faculty, where this would reflect the interdisciplinary character of the student’s program. It is the responsibility of the student, in collaboration with the Committee Chairperson, to select the three additional members of this Committee.   It is possible for the same person to chair both the student's Dissertation Commit­tee and Qualifying Examination Committee, but the committee should not overlap substantially with either the Master’s Thesis or anticipated Dissertation committee.


2.    The student then meets with the chairperson of this Committee to generate five topic areas. The Chairperson will consult with the other three Committee members as indicated. Together, the student and Committee Chairperson will select five topics for further thinking and formalize exact questions. The student should then distribute questions to the other Qualifying Examination Committee members for their suggestions and approval. Suggested changes, if any, will be referred back to the Committee Chairperson.


3.    By vote of the Clinical Faculty, beginning in Fall 2011, all students are required to integrate diversity, cultural, and individual difference considerations into their qualifying examination questions, as appropriate. For example, when examining the efficacy of a treatment approach, literature reviewed should specify the cultural and ethnic groups for which a treatment has demonstrated effectiveness, as well as efficacy in the context of other relevant factors (e.g., gender, SES, family composition, religion, sexual orientation).


4.    Conceptual formulations are primary to the qualifying examinations topics, although clinical applications of these formulations are usually germane. Some overlap between thesis and dissertation topics and the qualifying examination topics is acceptable, but exact duplication is to be avoided. It is advisable to avoid topics that are either too narrow or too broad, on the one hand, or so under-investigated that no literature is available, on the other. These topics may require modification as preparation for Qualifying Examination proceeds. In this event, the student will check and confirm with the Committee Chairperson.


5.    After obtaining approval of the five questions from all members of the committee, the student is expected to prepare a Reference List for all five topics. The primary purpose of this list is to demonstrate broad mastery of the essential elements involved in a scholarly review of each topic. The student is not expected to produce an exhaustive, all-encompassing bibliography. In fact, the choices are, in themselves, a reflection of the student's knowledge and professional acumen. In preparing the list the student may and should consult with the Committee Chairperson and other Committee members. This list should be distributed to all Committee members at least five weeks prior to the date of the examination. This will give the Committee members time to suggest additions or other changes and the student time to react accordingly. The student should contact each Committee member for approval of the reading lists.


6.    It is the student's responsibility to arrange a mutually convenient date and time for the Qualifying Examination, indicating to the Committee members the nature of the five topics. Committee members should explicitly be advised that at least two hours of their time will be required.


7.    Exactly two weeks prior to the date of the oral qualifying examination, the student contacts the Qualifying Committee chairperson to determine which two of the five topics are to be prepared in essay form. It is the responsibility of the Chairperson to give considerable thought to this choice beforehand, discussing the matter with his or her colleagues in the process.


8.    Exactly one week prior to the date of the oral examination, the student presents copies of his or her two essays to all Committee members. These essays, double-spaced and referenced in APA style, should be highly readable, scholarly productions that reflect mastery of the subject, awareness of lacunae and unresolved issues, and organizational ability. While the optimum length is a matter for the student to decide, it is expected that papers will range between 20 and 30 pages in length, exclusive of references. It is essential that the essays properly credit sources used. Students may cite sources beyond their approved reference list if they are relevant (e.g., references to methodological or conceptual approaches). The essays should also be polished and complete drafts of a scholarly analysis of the topic at hand.

9.    The student may consult with the Committee, and particularly the Committee Chairperson, extensively about the formulation of the five topics and the reading lists (typically 15-20 articles per topic). Students may also consult with the Committee Chairperson about strategies to analyze and present material in essays (i.e., students can discuss issues they are experiencing in developing outlines addressing each topic with their advisors). This consultation should be limited to foster student independence and the final decisions about how to organize and present the material must be the student’s. The essays must be prepared independently by the student without consultation with others during the one-week writing period.


10.   At the oral qualifying examination, the student should be prepared to discuss and expand upon either or both of these papers, any of the other three subject areas or anything within the domain of clinical psychology that is broadly relevant to the five topics. The student is expected to be knowledgeable about most questions that he or she is asked. The student should bring to the Qualifying Examination venue a copy of all necessary forms for signing by the Committee members. The Qualifying Committee makes a pass/fail decision at the end of the examination. If there is an unsatis­factory performance, the Committee can either recommend termina­tion or re-examination. In either case, the entire Clinical faculty reviews the recommendation and makes the final decision.


11.   Procedural aspects of the qualifying examination:

a.    Complete the Qualifying Examination Committee form. A copy of this form is attached or may be obtained in Room 203, Psychology Department, Busch Campus. Completion of the form includes obtaining the concurrence and signature (to indicate the concurrence) of the Clinical Area Coordinator. You will be notified of the approval of your Committee by the Graduate Director. The form is then filed in the Office of the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies.

b.    Time limits for passing the Qualifying Examination are no later than the end of the 7th semester after a student registers in Graduate School and at least two semesters before the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree, in accordance with Graduate School and Departmental Regulations.

c.    Application for Admission to Candidacy for the Ph.D. Degree:

i.    Obtain the Admission to Candidacy form in Room 203, Psychology Department, Busch Campus or http://gsnb.rutgers.edu/resources/graduate-students-forms.

ii.    Complete the face page and submit to the Chairperson of your Committee after taking the Qualifying Examination. The Chairperson of your Committee will record the results by signing A or B on page 2. It is then your responsibility to have it signed by the other members of your Committee.

iii.    Return to Senior Graduate Administrator Anne Sokolowski for processing prior to obtaining the Graduate Director's signature. The signed form must be hand-delivered to the Graduate School Office or you will not be admitted to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

iv.    You must remain in registration until you receive your Ph.D. If you do not, you will be withdrawn from the Program.

12.    The qualifying examination must be completed and passed before any Ph.D. dissertation credits are taken. This means that no student may formally commence work on his or her doctoral dissertation until this portion of the qualifying examination has been completed successfully. This includes holding a dissertation proposal defense. A dissertation proposal cannot be approved by a Committee until a student has passed the qualifying examination and been admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.


13.    The Qualifying Examination must be completed at least 2 terms before completing the doctoral degree. The Ph.D. may be obtained a minimum of two and a maximum of 4 years after the Master’s degree. The student must remain in continuous registration with the University, although the student may register for Matriculation Continued in any semester that the student is not working on the dissertation.