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Candidacy & Exams

Preliminary Examination

The purpose of the preliminary examination is to evaluate the ability of students to conduct competent and original analytical research and writing of the caliber necessary to develop and complete a dissertation in the fields associated with public affairs.  The preliminary examination consists of two parts:  a written examination and an oral examination.

All doctoral students must take the preliminary examination upon completing the core classes of the program (8010, 8020, 8030, 8040, 8050, 8060, 8070, and qualitative methods). The preliminary examination is offered only once a year, typically in August, at the start of the fall semester.   

The exact format of the exam and its administration may vary somewhat each year.  Typically, the written portion of the examination is comprised of a written open-book (i.e., take home) test that is designed and evaluated by a committee of at least three faculty members appointed by the Director of the Doctoral Program for this purpose.  After receiving specific written comments from the graders, students will take an oral examination soon after the grading of the written exam, with as many of the grading faculty present as possible.  The oral exam will focus mainly upon the written exam, but students are also responsible for the full range of preliminary exam material in this context. 


A student is admitted (or advanced) to candidacy for the Ph.D. Degree only after he or she has completed all of the requirements for the degree except the dissertation.  Students admitted to candidacy must have successfully passed both their pre-dissertation review and their colloquium.  Upon certification by all members of a student’s dissertation committee that the student has passed the colloquium, the student will be advanced to candidacy.  No student will be permitted to defend his/her dissertation without having attained this status.

For further details please see the PhD Handbook. | Physical Address: 1380 Lawrence St., Ste. 500  Denver, CO  80204 | Mailing Address: University of Colorado Denver, SPA, Campus Box 142, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364 | ph: 303.315.2228 | fax: 303.315.2229 | SPA Website Feedback

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