Educational Psychology

Skip to main content

College of Education and Human Development wordmark.
Department of Educational Psychology wordmark.

Written prelim examination

All doctoral students are required to pass a written preliminary examination in their major field. There are three requirements to fulfill the written prelim exam in the Educational Psychology program: 1) two research methods courses, 2) a pre-dissertation research project, and 3) the written specialty prelim. The written specialty prelim within the Psychological Foundations of Education track is intended to be a comprehensive written examination in which students demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a program area (learning and cognition/educational technology, social psychological and social developmental processes in educational psychology.)

Students will register for the written specialty prelim by submitting the prelim registration form to the DGS assistant in 250 Education Sciences Building. Written specialty prelims are only administered in the fall and spring terms and not during the summer. In order to take the written specialty prelim the student must have (a) submitted their degree program form, EPsy examining consent form, and EPsy general prelim registration form to the director of graduate studies, and (b) satisfactorily completed the required coursework listed on their degree program (including completing incomplete grades). Students must also have an active status in the Graduate School to be eligible for the exam.

Students have two opportunities to pass the written specialty exam. If a student should fail the written exam on the first try, the student will work with the advisor to prepare for re-taking the exam and to determine the term that it will be re-taken. If the student fails the exam a second time, the student’s study in psychological foundations in the Department of Educational Psychology is terminated.

When all three components of the written preliminary exam have been completed, submit the Educational Psychology checklist for showing completion of written prelim.

Submit forms to the DGS assistant in 250 Education Sciences Building.

View available Educational Psychology forms.

Preparation for the written specialty prelim exam

The written specialty prelim exam should show that a student has the ability to conduct an independent extensive literature review in each focus area to develop an expertise of the content. The literature review must be a new creative endeavor.

Three faculty members will participate in a student's written specialty prelim exam. The student's advisor will be one member. If the student has a co-advisor, he or she will be the second member. The remaining member(s) will be chosen by the student based on their research interests.

The student will meet with each faculty member, agree on a topic that they will read in, and agree on a reading list. Although it can be based on content from prior research and courses, it must extend prior work by including new readings. When the student has completed their reading, it will be up to the faculty member to judge whether they are ready to sit for the exam, or whether additional reading and studying are necessary to achieve mastery. When all three faculty members have judged the student ready, the student's advisor will notify the administrative staff and the exam will be scheduled. The faculty members will submit their questions one week before the scheduled date.

Format of the written specialty prelim exam

  • The exam will be a take-home exam.
  • There will be 3 research questions from the student's major area (Learning & Cognition or Social Psychology & Social Development) -- one question in each of three topics, including one from the student's main research interest.
  • The student will not see the questions until it is time to write the exam.
  • Questions will be written by the advisor and two co-readers.
  • Students will have three business days to complete the exam. Typically, they will receive the exam on a Friday and return it the next Wednesday.
  • The exam should be a maximum of 8 pages per question plus a separate reference list, and be formatted according to APA style (e.g., double-space with 1 inch margins).
  • Student answers will be evaluated on the degree to which they display knowledge of the literature by (1) identifying and illustrating major themes, (2) critiquing major conclusions, and (3) identifying topics of needed future research.

The exam is distributed via email from the program assistant and it will be due by the end of the fifth day. Exam answers must be emailed back to the program assistant as a Word (.doc or .docx) or .pdf document.

If you have any questions, please contact your advisor.