Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination consists of a written research proposal and oral defense of that written proposal.  The proposal is based on your proposed dissertation research and is evaluated by your Certification Committee.  The purpose of this examination is to: (1) evaluate your understanding of relevant background material; (2) evaluate whether you have mapped out a sound approach to an important and answerable question; (3) present your ideas in a clear and logical fashion in written document and oral presentation; and (4) can answer question in a straight-forward and compelling way.

Scheduling your Preliminary Examination

    1. Poll Certification Committee members regarding availability.
      1. Your Preliminary Examination must be held by August 31st of your second academic year. All Certification Committee members are required to attend this meeting.
      2. Ask a committee member to serve as your meeting’s chairperson (this cannot be your mentor).
      3. Reserve a meeting room for 2 hours. Preliminary Examinations typically last 60 to 90 minutes.
      4. Complete the appropriate sections of  the Preliminary Examination Meeting form and save an electronic version.
    2. Notify Program Coordinator of the date of your Preliminary Examination and request your Preliminary Examination Warrant by May 15th by submitting the Preliminary Examination Warrant Request form.

Preparing for your Preliminary Examination & Day of Examination

    1. For detailed instructions and pointers, review the Cancer Biology Graduate Program Handbook.
    2. Written Proposal.
      1. Write the initial draft of your proposal and ask for feedback from mentor.
      2. Writing in an iterative process. Be prepared for more than one round of feedback from mentor.
    3. Oral Presentation.
      1. Create a 20-minute oral presentation.
      2. Practice your 20-minute presentation with your mentor and lab members and incorporate feedback into new presentation.
    4. Sharing your meeting materials with your committee members.
      1. Distribute your written proposal, a completed copy of the Preliminary Examination Meeting form, and meeting information to all committee members at least 10 days prior to your meeting.
      2. Send a meeting reminder a day before your meeting to all committee members.
      3. Bring a printed copy of your completed Preliminary Examination Meeting form and your Preliminary Examination Warrant (your Program Coordinator will provide you with a copy of this) for the meeting chairperson to complete.

Following your Preliminary Examination

    1. Return your completed and signed Preliminary Examination Meeting form and Preliminary Examination Warrant.


You are required to have your Preliminary Examination scheduled by May 15th of your second academic year and notify the Program Coordinator by requesting your Preliminary Examination Warrant request:  Your Preliminary Examination must be held by August 31st of your second academic year.

Failure to submit required information will result with an academic hold being placed on your account and could result in late enrollment fees of up to $100 and delayed payroll.