Preliminary Exam

The primary purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine if the student has acquired the specialized knowledge necessary for their proposed dissertation research. The preliminary exam is part of the Graduate School requirements for the Ph.D. Degree.


Preferably by the end of the fourth semester, but certainly by the end of the fifth semester, students must pass an oral preliminary examination to establish candidacy for the Ph.D.

Two weeks prior to the exam, students must present to their committee members a written dissertation proposal. Prior to the oral examination, the student shall give a public seminar describing the dissertation proposal. Optimally the public presentation should occur immediately before the oral defense, but in any case, subject to the approval of the dissertation advisor, there should be a delay of no more than 2 months between the “public” defense talk and the oral examination.

Exam Format

The oral exam itself will be both specific and wide-ranging and is open to any member of the graduate faculty in addition to the dissertation committee. That is, it will cover the specific research areas addressed in the student’s proposal, but it will also test both the student’s depth of knowledge in his or her area of specialty and the student’s breadth of knowledge in evolutionary anthropology as a whole.