Doctoral Examinations

General Exams

The General Exam is the dissertation prospectus defense and tests the substantive knowledge and methodology related to the proposed dissertation research. The intention of the oral defense of the dissertation prospectus is to assess a student’s preparation to commence the data collection and writing of their dissertation. The Supervisory Committee will pose specific questions on the student’s chosen methodology and their substantive knowledge of their dissertation research topic on the basis of their final prospectus draft, which will be submitted at least three weeks prior to the defense. The general defense will be graded on a Pass/Failure/High Pass basis.

Please note: your entire Supervisory Committee is responsible for administering your General Exam.

General Exams can take place at any time during spring quarter of year 2. However, students must submit their prospectuses to their committees, and cc the GPA, no later than Friday of the 7th week of the quarter. They must complete their oral exam no later than Friday of the 10th week of the quarter.


At least four members of the committee, including the Chair and GSR, must be present at the General Exam. Students are advised that it is their responsibility to ensure that the designated members of their committees, particularly the Chair and GSR, are available physically for the general exam. If they cannot be present, students should substitute or rotate in other members well in advance, including the Chair and GSR. The GSR must be physically present for the exam, while other members are allowed to video conference in. For complete rules about video conferencing, please see The Graduate School’s policies. You should inform the GPA if anyone needs to video conference so they can arrange any necessary logistics.


The student should prepare and deliver a 20-30-minute presentation of their prospectus at the start of the exam. The committee will then question the student on the research question and methods proposed in the prospectus. The committee will also provide advice on the execution of the dissertation research and development of the dissertation itself.

The Chair will bring the warrant to the exam and, providing the committee approves the prospectus, will ask all committee members to sign the warrant. The Chair will then return the warrant to the GPA so they can record the results in MyGrad.


If the student fails the General Exam, they have up to two more chances to pass the exam, but the Jackson School will consider them to be in unsatisfactory progress status. JSIS will recommend to the Graduate School that the student be put on probation and the student will not receive funding from JSIS during the subsequent year. If the student does not pass the General Exam on their third try, taken no later than winter quarter of the third year, they will be dropped from the program.

Alternatively, if only some aspects of the prospectus are concerning to the Supervisory Committee, they can decide to pass the student, but require revisions. In this case, the revisions will be clearly specified and a deadline for submission of revisions to the Chair will be given.


Once the student fulfills all curricular requirements as described in the scheduling process and successfully passes the General Exam and the GPA receives the signed warrant from the committee, the student is eligible for doctoral candidacy status (Ph.C.). Three days after the last day of the quarter in which the General Exam was passed, the GPA will recommend the student receive candidacy status using the MyGrad portal. When the Graduate School approves candidacy, the student is identified and designated as a Candidate and is awarded a candidate certificate, arriving approximately four months after the end of the quarter.


Jackson School doctoral students are advised that the General Exam can only be scheduled if the student has (a) completed 60 credits, (b) received numerical grades in at least 18 credits of course work at the UW; (c) successfully passed all JSIS program requirements as designated on the Schedule; and (d) received the approval of the Supervisory Committee Chair as fully prepared to proceed to the General Exam stage.

To ensure the student has completed these requirements, they are required to meet with the GPA at the start of spring quarter of their second year. Once the student has confirmed they have successfully completed all requirements, they can start the process of scheduling their exam.

Ph.D. students are responsible for scheduling their General Exam in consultation with their committee and the GPA. Once Ph.D. students and their committee agree on a date and time, the student should request the GPA arrange a room for the exam. Once a room is reserved, the student must then request a General Exam using their MyGrad Program portal. General Exams should be requested at least three weeks before the exam is scheduled. The GPA will ensure that the warrant is in the Chair’s box before the exam.

General Exam
Task Deadline
Submit Prospectus to Committee and GPA 5:00 p.m. on Friday of the 7th week of spring quarter
Schedule General Exam in MyGrad Program 5:00 p.m. on Friday of the 7th week of spring quarter
Complete General Exam 5:00 p.m. on Friday of the 10th week of spring quarter
GPA Recommends Candidacy to Graduate School 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday after last week of spring quarter