The Aims Of and Procedures For Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations

All Ph.D. students are required to pass two comprehensive examinations: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. The two exams are intended to test the students understanding of the core of economic analysis. Comprehensive exams, although related to the course material, are intended to test a broader understanding of the area. Questions depend on the nature of the area and normally will require the solution of specific problems.

Grading is based, in the case of exams with problems, on the student's ability to apply economic theory and intuition to analyse these problems. Essay questions require ability to critically assess the literature.

General Procedures

1. The comprehensive examinations are normally offered twice each year; once in May and once in August/September.

2. All Economics Ph.D. students must complete ECON 811, 813, 816, 817, and pass the Graduate Methods Review Course before taking the comprehensive examinations.

3. All eligible Economics Ph.D. students are required to take both the Microeconomics and Macroeconomics comprehensive examinations no later than September of their second year in the program. All Eligible Economics Ph.D. students are required to pass both the Microeconomics and the Macroeconomics comprehensive examinations by June of their second year in the program.

4. Each comprehensive examination is set and graded by a committee formed of teaching members of the Department, one of whom will serve as chair. Each committee will normally have between three and five members. The Committee will normally receive input from faculty who have taught the relevant core theory courses in the previous academic year when setting the examination. Committees will normally be struck at least eight weeks prior to the beginning of the examination period.

5. No less than four weeks prior to the beginning of the examination period, the chair of the committee will inform the students about the general nature of the questions and what is to be expected of the students.

6. Each examination is three hours in length, and will be preceded by a half-hour reading period. Numbers will be distributed to students writing comprehensives prior to their first examination. These numbers will be used instead of names for identification purposes on all papers. The Graduate Secretary is responsible for the distribution of these numbers and for keeping the list confidential. The committee members will not be aware of the names corresponding to the numbers until after the written examinations have been marked.

7. The initial marking will be done independently by members of the committee. The committee will then meet and agree on preliminary grades for the written examinations.

8. Final grades will be determined at a meeting of the chairs of the committees and the Coordinator of Graduate Studies. A grade is recorded for each written examination according to the following scheme:


*The grade of GOOD may be qualified with a plus (+) or minus (-). The grade of PASS requires a higher standard of achievement than would be required for a passing grade on a course.*

9. The grade of MARGINAL is not a passing grade. Students who are awarded a grade of MARGINAL on a written examination must either take an oral examination or fail. Each oral examination is conducted by an oral board consisting of at least three members of the Department. Two members of the oral board will normally be members of the committee which set and marked the written examination. A member of the oral board who was not a member of the committee will act as chair. The chair will not be involved in the marking, but may ask questions during the oral exam. The oral board may either raise the grade of MARGINAL to PASS or lower it to FAIL.

10. Oral examinations, when required, will be held as soon as possible after the grades for the written examinations have been recorded. Each student will be given written notice of the composition of the oral board and of the time and date of the oral examination as soon as possible. In exceptional circumstances, a student may request, without prejudice, that the oral be postponed for at most 48 hours. The oral examination is essentially a supplement to the written examination, designed to probe the depth of the student's understanding. However, the examiners are in no way restricted to pursuing questions that were answered (or not answered) on the written examination. Students will be informed of the result of the oral examination immediately upon its completion.

11. Any eligible student who does not pass both comprehensive examinations by June of their second year will be required to withdraw from the program. Failures of comprehensive examinations are not recorded on a student's transcript.

12. All comprehensive examinations, students answers and minutes of the meeting of chairs are kept on file in the Graduate Studies Assistant's office for a minimum period of twelve months.