Preliminary Examinations

All Ph.D. students must pass preliminary (also known as comprehensive) examinations in two fields after taking at least three political science courses in each. Students should consult with their faculty adviser about courses that will best provide a foundation for passing the field exams. 

Ph.D. preliminary examinations are held the week following final examinations in the spring term of the second year. Typically, students take the preliminary examinations at the end of their second year in the program and take examinations in both of their fields during the same week.  Students with exceptional qualifications will be permitted to take an exam in one of their fields after their first year in the Ph.D. program. 

Preliminary examinations provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate professional competence in the analysis and discussion of a representative set of questions in the field as well as relevant methodological issues. Each exam will be six hours long.  

Students who fail the preliminary examination, either on the basis of the written alone or on the basis of the written in conjunction with an oral, may be permitted to take the failed examination a second time, if the GEC approves. Make-up examinations are usually given in December, but students may be permitted to petition the GEC for a different date. A second failure is considered final.

In addition to passing an examination in two fields, students must also display competence in a third field, either a general or, with approval of the adviser, a specialized field.  The third field can be satisfied by taking three courses in  one of the four main subfields (American politics, international relations, comparative politics, or political theory)  or by taking three courses related to a specialized field, one of which may be an advanced language course. The courses that comprise the third field do not  necessarily have to be political science courses. 

Doctoral students who have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. except the dissertation may apply to be granted a Masters of Arts Degree.

University of Pennsylvania
208 S. 37th Street, Room 217
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6215
Phone: (215) 898-7641

Anne Norton Chair
Matthew Levendusky Graduate Chair
Marc Meredith Undergraduate Chair