Educational Psychology

Skip to main content

Oral preliminary examination

The oral preliminary examination is taken after you have successfully satisfied the written prelim requirements and completed the majority of the courses listed on the doctoral program. "Majority of courses completed" is defined neither by the Graduate School nor the Educational Psychology Program, since you and your adviser are in the best position to determine when you are ready for the oral prelim exam. In general, the examination focuses on: (a) the oral prelim paper and (b) the courses listed on your Program form, including the minor or supporting field.

The oral prelim paper must integrate the literature in a proposed research area. In many cases, it will be the basis of the Literature Review chapter in the dissertation. (However, the paper should not include a specific research plan for your dissertation.) You select the topic and range of coverage of the oral prelim paper with the approval of your adviser. The intent of the paper is to integrate the literature in a specified area of research. The paper is modeled on those integrative reviews found in Educational Psychology Review, the Review of Educational Research, or Psychological Bulletin. Conceptually, the paper coherently identifies major issues in the area chosen; it is guided by ideas and uses information selectively and critically with respect to those ideas; and reflects methodological sophistication in the description of research strategies and results. The paper is neither a mindless listing of studies in excessive detail, nor a widely speculative paper with any evidence offered in support of argument.

The length and content of the oral prelim paper will generally be 30-40 double-spaced pages (excluding title page, abstract, references, figures, and tables).

Once the adviser approves, the oral prelim paper is distributed to the student's Examining Committee for review. The paper should be distributed at least two weeks before the exam. The Examining Committee consists of at least three faculty members from the major (at least two of whom are faculty members in the PsyF program) and one faculty member on the graduate faculty with an appointment outside the Department of Educational Psychology. Students may not use Department of Educational Psychology faculty members with joint graduate school appointments or external affiliations to fulfill the external membership requirement on graduate committees. Committee members are identified when the Graduate Degree Plan is filed; typically, the faculty serving on a student's Examining Committee for their preliminary oral also serve on their doctoral committee.

Note: If it becomes necessary to change the composition of your committee, you must obtain signature (or e-mail) approval from the new member(s) to be assigned. Send the form to the DGS assistant, who will officially notify the Graduate School of the requested change. As a courtesy, be sure to notify the member(s) to be replaced.

There is no specified date within the academic year when the oral prelim exam is to be taken. Plan to take it when:

  1. you feel prepared to be examined on the course content listed on your Graduate Degree Plan;
  2. you have successfully completed the written prelim requirements by your program area;
  3. you have prepared the oral prelim paper; and,
  4. your committee members are available. The oral prelim exam is valid only if all assigned committee members are present at that examination.

The oral prelim may not be held during the summer (unless the members of the assigned committee agree to assemble without substitution).

The oral prelim exam must be scheduled with the Graduate School (in 316 Johnston) at least one week prior to the exam, after the following conditions are met:

  1. The Graduate Degree Plan has been approved by the Graduate School.
  2. The Preliminary Written Examination Report: Doctoral Degree is approved by the director of graduate studies and recorded by the Graduate School.

Successful completion of the oral prelim exam qualifies you as a "doctoral candidate." This allows you to begin work on your dissertation, register for thesis credits, and begin to work on your prospectus.

Students who fail the oral prelim exam have one additional opportunity to retake the exam. Additionally, prior to a scheduling of a retake, you may be required to substantially revise the original oral prelim paper or may be required to write a new paper.

Additional information on the preliminary oral examination can be found on the Graduate Education Catalog and in the Educational Psychology Graduate Program Handbook.