Tulane Home Tulane Shield logo linking to site home page

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying (Preliminary) Examination for Admission to Candidacy for the PhD Degree should be held before the end of a student's 5th semester in residence (as stipulated on the current BMS Tracking Sheet). 

The philosophy of the qualifying examination is to examine the student, not only for their broader knowledge of the field of pharmacology, but also for his/her conceptualizing ability and their aptitude for integrating knowledge from various fields of study.

Prior to the Qualifying Exam

  • The student will prepare a full NIH-style grant application on a problem related to his/her thesis work. Alternatively, with the approval of their thesis committee, a student can prepare a research grant application in another area of pharmacology unrelated to their thesis work.
  • It is expected that the student will prepare the grant application independently with minimal input from the adviser or pharmacology faculty.
  • The student must turn in to the Director of Graduate Studies a completed "Qualifying Exam Readiness Checklist" indicating the following have taken place:
    1. The PhD Thesis adviser's approval that the student is ready of their qualifying exam.
    2. A copy of the grant proposal has been turned into the departmental office at least 10 days before the date of the qualifying exam.
    3. Assurance that all thesis committee members can attend the qualifying exam.
  • Submitting a completed Readiness Checklist to the Director of Graduate Studies is a mandatory prerequisite for proceeding with the qualifying exam.
Oral Defense Protocol

  • The student’s thesis adviser presides over this oral preliminary examination in defense of the grant application. The defense begins with a ~30 minute oral presentation by the student summarizing the background, statement of the problem, specific aims, experimental design, results (or expected results), significance, and limitations/pitfalls. Graduate students and outside guests are welcomed to listen to the oral presentation component of the qualifying exam, but may not attend the remainder of the exam.
  • Following the student presentation, the student’s credentials shall be presented and a summary of his/her progress shall be presented by the adviser.
  • The first round of questions shall be asked by the student’s thesis committee, in rotation, according to the order set by the student’s adviser. A second round of questions may be posed by the thesis committee followed by the rest of the faculty. The questions should be of a conceptual nature and directed toward the defense of the grant application. The student shall then withdraw, and the results of the examination shall be deliberated upon by those present. The examination period assigned to any one faculty member shall be no longer than 10 minutes in the first round. It is recommended that the oral examination shall not be longer than 2 hours.
  • The Pharmacology faculty and thesis committee members will vote on the recommendation for admission to candidacy for the PhD.  A quorum for the preliminary examination will not be less than eight voting faculty made up of the thesis committee and other members of the pharmacology faculty who are present.
  • At least 75% of the faculty present must vote to pass the preliminary examination in order for the student to be admitted to candidacy. In calculation of the number of faculty members that constitutes 75% of those present, a fraction of a faculty member equal to or greater than 0.5 is to be rounded off to the next whole number.
  • Hypothetically, a student could fail the oral examination and be requested to retake it. The student shall then be informed of the results by his/her adviser.
After The Qualifying Exam

  • After the student has passed his/her preliminary examination, the department chairman will submit a "Preliminary Examination form" and an "Admission to Candidacy for the PhD Degree form" to the Dean of the BMS Graduate Program recommending that the student be admitted to candidacy. These forms need to be signed by department chairman & all members of the thesis committee.
  • The student should then present a departmental seminar on their intended thesis research topic, prior to writing a prospectus outlining his/her PhD problem.
  • The prospectus must be approved by each member of the thesis committee and the department chairman. The prospectus should be approximately three double-spaced typewritten pages in length.
  • Three copies of this prospectus and one copy of a 200-word summary will be submitted to the Dean of the BMS Graduate Program, along with the form recommending that he/she be admitted to candidacy.
  • A second seminar must be presented to the pharmacology department prior to the time of the PhD thesis defense.