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Chemistry and Chemical Biology Exams

Preliminary Exams

All students in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology group are required to pass a written preminary examination that tests undergraduate-level understanding of the fundamental concepts in the field. This exam is administered twice each year, at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. Students may elect to take the exam for the first time at the start of either their first or second semester in residence.

Separate exams are offered in physical chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Only one exam needs to be passed, and students may elect to take any one of the exams, regardless of emphasis track. 

The exam may be taken each time it is offered, and it must be passed no later than the start of the fourth semester (a maximum of four attempts). Students who have not passed the exam by the start of the fourth semester will be recommended for dismissal to the Dean of the Graduate Division unless they successfully petition the Academic Policy Committee for an extension.

Comprehensive Exams

A Chemical and Chemical Biology group student who has been in residence for at least two semesters, is in good academic standing, and has passed the preliminary exam may petition the Admissions Committee to pursue a terminal M.S. degree. For the Plan II option only, a Comprehensive Oral Examination is administered by a faculty committee that tests the student's understanding of the main concepts in the field at the graduate level.

Applicable Graduate Division Forms

Qualifying Exams

All students in the Chemistry and Chemical Biology Ph.D. program are required to pass an oral qualifying examination before advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Students are expected to take and pass the qualifying examination during their second year of graduate study unless they successfully petition the Educational Policy Committee to take it at a specific later date. The qualifying examination may not be scheduled until the preliminary examination has been passed and at least three 6 of the required non-seminar graduate courses have been completed. The intent of this examination is to ascertain the breadth of a student’s comprehension of fundamental facts and principles that apply in his or her major field of study. It will also determine the student’s ability to think critically about the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. Accordingly, the examination should be focused on the student’s field of research but may and should venture into other areas of scholarship that underlie or impinge on the thesis topic.

The date of the examination is arranged between the student and the committee chairperson. At least one week prior to the examination date, the student will provide to the committee a written document (typically five to ten pages) that describes his or her research topic, summarizes progress to date, and outlines what he or she proposes to do, why it is relevant, and what will be learned. The committee conducts the examination, and immediately thereafter submits the results of the examination to the Dean of the Graduate Division. A unanimous decision is required for a “Pass”.

A student who has not passed the examination may repeat the qualifying examination after a preparation time of no less than three and no more than nine months. The examination must be held by the same committee except that members may be replaced, with the approval of the Group Chair and the Dean of the Graduate Division, for cause such as extended absence from the campus. Students who fail to pass the examination on the second attempt will be recommended for dismissal to the Dean of the Graduate Division unless they successfully petition the Academic Policy Committee for an exception.

Applicable Graduate Division Forms