Your browser is unsupported

We recommend using the latest version of IE11, Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

Preliminary Exam Policies and Procedures


The preliminary examination is generally administered during or near the end of the time the student has completed most, though not necessarily all, of the coursework, but has not made a major investment of time and effort towards the dissertation research project. A minimum of one year has to elapse before the defense of the dissertation after passing the preliminary examination. Only students in good academic standing are permitted to take the examination.

Committee Composition

The committee for the preliminary examination is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College upon the recommendation of the department or program.  The committee consists of at least five (5) members, of whom at least three (3) are UIC Graduate Faculty with full membership, and two (2) of whom must be tenured. The chair of the Committee must be a full member of the UIC Graduate Faculty.  An outside member is recommended but not required.


Doctoral candidates must be registered for credit the term when they take the preliminary exam. Students must also register each semester (excluding summer) after passing the preliminary examination and until successfully defending the dissertation. Students must register for the summer term if taking the preliminary exam or defending the dissertation during that term.


Each member of the examining committee assigns a grade of “pass” or “fail” on the Examination Report. A candidate cannot be passed with more than one “fail” vote. The committee may require that specific conditions be met before the “pass” recommendation becomes effective. The exact conditions and time-frame to complete the conditions must be specified on the Examination Report.  For failed exams, on the recommendation of the committee, the head or chair may permit a second examination. A third examination is not permitted.


The Dean of the Graduate College appoints the committee upon receipt of the Committee Recommendation Form.  The completed form must arrive in the Graduate College at least three (3) weeks prior to the date of the preliminary examination.  Once the Graduate College approves the committee, an Examination Report form and cover letter is sent to the program to report the result.  Changes to the committee may be requested before the exam occurs using the Request Change of Student Name on Thesis, Thesis Title, or Committee Member(s) Form.

The results of the examination should be submitted to the Graduate College within forty-eight (48) hours of the completion of the exam. If the result was “pass with conditions,” the exact conditions and time-frame to complete the conditions must be specified on the Examination Report, and the chariperson must notify the Graduate College in writing as soon as the condtions have been completed. The Examination Report must be signed by all members of the Committee. Once the student has passed the examination, the Dean of the Graduate College will notify the student’s program that s/he has been admitted to candidacy.

Students who do not complete the degree requirements within five (5) years of passing the preliminary examination must retake the examination; programs may specify a shorter time period. Combined programs leading to two degrees may require additional study beyond the period normally involved for completing requirements for the PhD degree; and may require an extension of the 5 year rule.

Exams & Defense Forms