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Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examinations consist of two components, a written examination component and an oral examination component (often referred to as preliminary examination). All students must successfully complete these two parts prior to being admitted to candidacy.

1) Qualifying examinations - written (required):

Students must pass an initial written qualifying examination on the five core courses: STAT 51900, 52500, 52800, 53600 and PBHL B546. The written qualifying examination is offered once a year during a two-day Qualifier Exam Session the week before classes start in August and is administered in two sections – Theoretical Biostatistics and Applied Biostatistics. The preparation and the administration of the qualifying examination is overseen by the Program Graduate Examination Committee. Students are expected to have completed and passed both sections of the written qualifying examination on or before their written qualifier deadline.

  • Deadline for full-time students: The deadline for passing the written qualifying examination for full-time students who enter the program with a master's degree or equivalent is August at the end of their second year; the deadline for full-time students who enter the program without a master's degree is August at the end of their third year.
  • Deadline for part-time students: The deadline for passing the written qualifying examination for part-time students who enter the program with a master's degree or equivalent is August at the end of their third year; the deadline for part-time students who enter the program without a master's degree is August at the end of their fourth year.

If students do not pass both sections of the examination by their written qualifier deadline, they will have their privilege to continue in the program terminated.

A student will have at most two attempts to pass the written examinations. The first attempt must include the entire written examination, i.e. both the Theoretical and Applied sections. If one or both sections are not passed on the first attempt, then a second attempt on or before the deadline is allowed. During the final attempt, the student may only sit for the section(s) not passed in the first attempt.

A student’s first attempt at the qualifying examination will result in one of the following three outcomes:

a. Pass both written sections: The student has demonstrated fundamental understanding of the core material and the examination committee believes he/she will be successful in completing the Ph.D. program.

b. Pass one section: The student has demonstrated fundamental understanding of one section, but lacks adequate understanding of the other section. The student must sit for the section not passed at a future examination session.

c. Fail: The student has failed to demonstrate an adequate understanding of the material from the core courses and thus fails the examination. The student must sit for both sections at a future written examination session.

A student’s second and final attempt at the written qualifying examination will result in one of the following two outcomes:

a. Pass: The student has demonstrated fundamental understanding of the core material and the examination committee believes he/she will be successful in completing the Ph.D. program.

b. Fail: The student has failed to demonstrate an adequate understanding of the material from the core courses and thus fails the examination, with privilege to continue in the program terminated.

Students who failed any part of the written qualifying examinations will be availed, within one month of the announced results, the opportunity to review their graded examinations and appeal their grades if they choose so to do. The Program Directors will not accept for consideration any appeal beyond this one month period.

2) Qualifying examinations - oral (required):

A student becomes eligible to take the oral part of the qualifying examinations after successfully passing the written qualifying examination. This examination consists of an oral presentation on an advanced research topic suggested by the student to the student’s advisory committee, which administers this examination. In preparation for this examination, the student must provide the committee with a paper (10 – 15 pages) outlining the advanced topic to be covered, clearly indicating the scope and depth of the planned research along with relevant references. In the examination, the student is expected to display an in-depth understanding of the chosen subject matter. The committee may ask the student questions which normally will be directed to the subject matter of the research but may, by natural extension, also cover any other relevant topic including the minor subject.

The oral qualifying examinations will normally be completed at the end of course work, before the student embarks on the dissertation. The student must pass this examination before passing on to candidacy.

Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health | 714 N. Senate Avenue, EF 250 | Indianapolis, IN 46202 | Ph: (317) 274-3126 | Fax: (317) 274-3443