Qualifying Exam Regulations

Policies regarding Doctoral Qualifying Exams and Service on Advanced Degree Committees

QE Report Form: Report on Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy

Committee and Student Attendance at the Qualifying Examination

It is the responsibility of all committee members to be in attendance for the entire qualifying examination. Unanticipated or unavoidable absence will be explained in detail by the Chair in the report on the outcome of the examination, and a specific plan for completion of the examination within 72 hours by all members of the committee will be detailed. 

In the event that the Chair is absent, the remaining members of the committee shall suspend the examination after waiting a reasonable time, and after attempting to contact the Chair. In this case, the Chair will report the results as ‘No Exam’ and explain the circumstances in detail. The examination shall then be rescheduled and conducted in the same manner and format as intended for the original examination.

If a student is not present at the time of the scheduled Qualifying Examination, both the committee chair and the student must submit written reports explaining the circumstances to Graduate Studies. The Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council will review the case, and rule on whether the student’s absence constitutes a failed examination or if a rescheduled examination should take place.

Adjourning the Qualifying Examination in Process

Under unusual and extenuating circumstances, as determined by the committee, the committee may suspend the qualifying examination in process, and may request that the exam be considered a ‘No Exam.’ If the committee wishes to suspend the exam, the chair must return the Report on Qualifying Examination indicating ‘No Exam’ along with an explanation to Graduate Studies.

Evaluation Procedure

The members should endeavor to reach a unanimous decision as to the qualifications of the student for successful completion of a doctoral program. They should include in their evaluations of the student such factors as relevant portions of the academic record, performance on specific parts of the examination, and an overall evaluation of the student's performance and potential for scholarly research as indicated during the examination.

Unanimous Decision

A committee, having reached a unanimous decision, shall inform the student of its decision.  If a unanimous decision takes the form of ‘not pass’ or ‘fail’, the Chair must include in their report a specific statement, agreed to by all members of the committee, explaining its decision, and must inform the student of the decision. See results section below for more information on required statements.  The decision of a unanimous committee may be changed only for cause, e.g. procedural error or probable bias.

Split Decision

If after deliberation, the committee is unable to reach a unanimous decision concerning a pass, not pass, or fail, the chair shall inform the student that the committee is divided.  Chairs of divided committees must inform the student that the majority and minority are making recommendations, that the recommendations will be subject to further review, and that the Administrative Committee of the Graduate Council or its designee will make the decision as to future action. The chair must notify the Dean of Graduate Studies that the Committee is divided and shall forward to the Dean separate reports from the majority and minority of the committee with their specific evaluations of the student's performance on the examination and recommendations for further action by the Administrative Committee. The Administrative Committee may, at its discretion, request individual statements from members of the examining committee and will consider a written statement from the student if one is submitted. While the deliberations of the examining committee are confidential, student records, such as written reports from committee members, are available to the student by law.

Results of the Qualifying Exam

Results of the Qualifying Exam committee vote should be reported using the ‘Report on Qualification Examination for Admission to Candidacy’ form attached to the Chair’s QE approval email from Graduate Studies.  Report forms should be returned to the student’s Senior Academic Advisor at Graduate Studies by the QE Chair or the Program Coordinator (not the student).  Any report other than ‘Pass’ must be accompanied by additional documentation.  All decisions must be communicated to the student following committee deliberation.

Pass: The committee unanimously decides the student passed the examination with at least satisfactory scholarship.  No conditions or additional requirements may accompany this decision.

Not Pass: The committee unanimously decides the student passed some portion(s) of the examination and failed others. In the case of a ‘Not Pass’ decision, the chair of the committee must inform the student verbally and write a statement to the student, with a copy sent to Graduate Studies along with the exam report, assessing the student’s performance on each subject area covered during the examination. The statement must specify if the committee will re-examine the student on all topics or only on those not passed in the first exam. The committee must determine and provide a detailed explanation of the second exam format (e.g. a written paper, rewriting the proposal, retaking all or a portion of the oral exam) and provide the student a detailed timeline.  

Fail: The committee unanimously agrees the student failed the entire examination.  In this instance, the committee can either: recommend the student takes a second and final examination on all exam topics or; does not recommend reexamination, leading to a recommendation of the student’s disqualification from the degree objective.  In either decision, the chair must notify the student verbally and write a statement to the student, with a copy sent to Graduate Studies along with the exam report, assessing the student’s performance and deficiencies in the examination. If the committee recommends reexamination, they must also provide the student with a list of written suggestions for improvement and a deadline by which to retake the Qualifying Exam.  If the committee does not recommend reexamination, they must provide Graduate Studies with a written explanation of reasons the student is not suitable for candidacy. 

The Qualifying Examination can be a stressful experience for the student, especially in the case of a ‘Not Pass’ or ‘Fail’ result. Consider whether the student might benefit from consultation with other faculty and staff advisors or with a mental health professional (530-752-2349); see Mental Health and Counseling Services.

Reporting the Results of the Second Qualifying Examination

After a second exam a decision of ‘Not Pass’ is not allowed – only a decision of ‘Pass’ or ‘Fail’ will be recognized.  Only one retake of the qualifying exam is allowed. In the case of a decision of ‘Fail’, the student will be notified verbally, and the report form must be submitted to Graduate Studies along with written evaluation of the student’s performance and deficiencies of the second examination.  


If the chair or committee members have questions or concerns prior to or after the Qualifying Exam, contact the Graduate Studies Senior Academic Advisors (gradservices@ucdavis.edu).

If after reviewing the Qualifying Exam regulations, questions remain during exam proceedings, immediately contact the Graduate Studies office during business hours, (530)-752-0650, to discuss the situation with a Senior Academic Advisor.