Depth Exam

The Oral II/Depth Exam is taken by PhD students no earlier than six months before they intend to sit for their dissertation proposal defense. This exam is usually given 12 months after the Oral I /Breadth Exam. This exam is the final requirement before a PhD student receives the MPhil degree and is considered for doctoral candidacy, provided the student has earned the necessary six residence units GSAS requires. Within six months of receiving the MPhil degree, the student sits for the dissertation proposal defense as required by the University. Thus, students should plan the timing of the Oral II/ Depth Exam accordingly. The student downloads the exam form from the DBMI website and brings it to her exam for the chair of the committee to fill out and return to the Graduate Program Manager.

The goal of the exam is to assess the ability of the student to survey the literature in a given research area, synthesize the achievements, identify the gaps, and propose research hypotheses. The student will select a specific problem based on that work (literature synthesis, gaps, research questions) and present a detailed methodology to address the problem. Before an exam is scheduled, the committee should review the student’s work to date and assess the student’s readiness to undertake the exam. The work completed as part of the exam is intended to provide a basis for the doctoral dissertation.

When it is decided by the student’s internal committee (research advisor and two internal members of the department) that the student is ready to undertake the exam, the student is given 30 days to prepare an oral presentation that is given as a public seminar. The student is responsible for scheduling the examination, which should take place in either the PH-20 Conference Room or the 8th Floor Irving Conference Room. In order to ensure that sufficient notice is given regarding the public part of the defense, the student e-mails an abstract to Rosemary Vazquez ( a minimum of three weeks in advance of the examination date. Copies of the slides and the bibliography must be provided to the committee. The exam is two hours, with the first hour given as a public seminar and the second hour taking place as a closed session. In the first hour of the exam, the student describes the literature in a given area, synthesizes the achievements, identifies gaps, proposes research questions, and selects a specific problem, presenting a detailed methodology that addresses the problem. In the second hour, the student’s internal committee meets privately with the student and asks additional questions as needed. The commit- tee members use an assessment form, provided by the department, to evaluate the student’s proposal with the following emphases: description of the literature, synthesis of achievements, gap analysis (60%), research questions (30%), and methods (10%). They decide by consensus whether the student passes, receives honors or retakes the exam. The committee chair is responsible for sending a final copy of the form to the Graduate Program Manager and e-mailing the exam result to the Graduate Program Director.

With successful completion of the Oral II/Depth Exam and the attainment of six residence units, the student is now eligible for the MPhil degree. Students submit an MPhil Degree Application Form downloaded from to the Graduate Program Manager who will submit it to the Office of Dissertations for degree conferral and retain a copy of the form in the student’s file. As noted above, the timing of the Oral II/Depth Exam is important in that it is tied to the timing of the Dissertation Proposal Defense. Once awarded the MPhil degree, the student has six months before s/he must sit for the Dissertation Proposal Defense. Therefore, it is important not to schedule the Oral II/Depth exam prematurely. Schedule it when you are prepared to take your dissertation proposal defense within six months of passing the Oral II/Depth exam as agreed to with your research advisor.

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