Ph-D- Preliminary Exam

Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis Banner


Main Office

Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis
School of Education
253 Education Building
1000 Bascom Mall
MadisonWI  53706-1326

Tel: 608/262-3106
Fax: 608/265-3135

or by contact form
Facebook Logo
Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand. —Chinese Proverb

ELPA Ph.D. Preliminary Exam

During the fall and spring term, all preliminary PH.D. exams and final oral Ph.D. exams must be scheduled between the first day of the semester though commencement. During summer, preliminary and final oral Ph.D. exams must be scheduled during the eight-week summer session (typically the third Monday in June through the first Friday in August). See the summer timetable for exact dates.

Step #1 Determine if you are ready.

To be eligible for your preliminary exam you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Your Ph.D. program plan needs to have been completed and approved by your advisor and the department. Your program plan should be on file with the department.
  • Your research requirements (research classes) must be completed or will be completed during the semester in which you expect to complete your preliminary exam.
  • You need to be registered for a minimum of 2 graduate credits.
  • The Ph.D. qualifying exam has been passed.
  • You have no grades of incomplete on your record. The Graduate School will not issue a warrant for a student to complete their preliminary exams if a student has an incomplete grade.
  • You have no grades of “P” (progress) in any courses other than research (990).

Step #2 Schedule your exam.

At least three weeks prior to your preliminary exam:

  • Contact your advisor to determine your committee members and the day and time for your exam.
  • Contact Shari Smith, Student Services Coordinator, 253-B Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall, and provide the names of your committee members and the day/time of your exam. A room will be assigned for your exam.

What happens next?

  • Your program plan will be audited to make sure all your course work is complete.
  • The Department will request a warrant from the Graduate School that allows for you to complete your preliminary exam.

Step #3 Submit your proposal.

At least two weeks (determine the exact date for submission with your advisor) prior to your preliminary exam:

  • Submit copies of your proposal to your advisor and committee members.

Step #4 Prepare title page for your preliminary exam.

  • You need to prepare the title page for your Ph.D. proposal. While the title page does not have a specific format, it should look something like this:

    (insert the date of your preliminary exam)
    TITLE: (insert title of proposal)
    CANDIDATE: (insert your name)
    (insert name of major advisor (chair of committee)
    (insert name of second reader)
    (insert name of third reader)

Step #5 Pick up your packet.

On the day of your preliminary exam you will be given a packet that contains:

  • Your record of graduate study (a listing prepared by the Student Services Coordinator).
  • Your warrant.
  • Copies of your program plan.
  • A request for an electronic version of your abstract (to be submitted after your preliminary exam is completed).

Step #6 Return documents to ELPA Student Services Coordinator.

After your preliminary exam is completed:

  • Return your record of graduate study.
  • Return your signed warrant.
  • Return one copy of your signed proposal. Keep one copy for your records and give one copy to your advisor.

I passed. What happens now?

  • Your warrant is signed by the Department Chairperson and return to the Graduate School.
  • You will be given dissertator status the semester immediately following the semester in which you completed your preliminary exam.

What is dissertator status?

  • Dissertator status means you have completed all the requirements for your degree with the exception of your dissertation. Dissertators are required to maintain continuous enrollment (see Graduate School requirement) during the fall/spring semesters. Summers are optional, however, if you are working with your advisor during the summer session, enrollment will also be required for the summer. Dissertators must enroll in 3 credits of 990 (research). You must enroll for 3 credits; no more, no less.
  • After you have dissertator status your tuition decreases significantly. The tuition for dissertator credits is available on the Registrar’s website


You should be extremely proud of yourself...

ELPA certainly is proud of your accomplishments.

© 2014 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System • Please contact the School of Education External Relations Office with questions, issues or comments about this site.