Qualifying Exam for a PhD in Anthropology

Published: July 10th, 2017

Category: Documents and Resources

When a PhD student has finished most of the coursework and developed a plan for dissertation fieldwork, the committee administers a qualifying examination consisting of both written and oral components. The length and timing of the written portion of the exam are agreed upon between the student and the committee.

The student must also orally defend the written answers submitted for the exam and present the dissertation research proposal. An oral defense is organized no sooner than two weeks and no later than 60 days after the exam. After the student passes the qualifying exam and the supervisory committee has approved the plan for dissertation fieldwork, the student is officially a PhD candidate and may use the informal appellation ABD, “all but dissertation.”

All members of the supervisory committee must sign the appropriate form (obtained from the Graduate Program Assistant) for the student to meet the requirements of the examination. If the paperwork is not signed, turned in, and processed, the exam will not count.

The qualifying oral examination may be conducted using video and/or telecommunications. However, the student and chair or co-chair must be in the same physical location on campus. All other members may participate from remote sites via technological means.

Students must be registered for at least 3 hours (2 in summer) of ANG 7979 Advanced Research during the term of the qualifying exam.


  • The qualifying exams should be taken after completing most of the coursework.
  • The student should register for at least 3 hours of ANG 7979 during the term the qualifying exams are taken.
  • The format is agreed on between the student and the committee.
  • The questions are chosen by the committee.
  • Some committee members (but not the chair) may participate in the oral portion by conference call, if desired.
  • The qualifying exams are not official until the committee has signed the form obtained from the Graduate Program Assistant and she has processed the form.

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