Field Examination Guidelines

1.  All students must pass examinations in two recognized fields of the discipline.

2.  The department regularly offers field exams in its clusters of expertise. Presently, this includes:

  • Culture
  • Economy, Inequality, Labor, and Organizations
  • Education
  • Gender and Family Research
  • Global Inequality and Change
  • Immigration
  • Population
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Movements and Political Sociology
  • Social Networks


3.  Every cluster will normally designate at least three courses per two-year period to prepare students for examinations. Students must satisfactorily complete at least two cluster courses before taking the examination, or they must demonstrate competence in the field to the satisfaction of two cluster faculty members. Additionally, clusters may provide reading lists of significant works in their fields beyond those covered in existing seminars. Subject to the approval of the cluster coordinator, student reading lists may be tailored to reflect more individualized programs of study within a given field.

4.  Students may petition the graduate director(s) to take examinations in alternate fields of the discipline, contingent on the agreement of two faculty members to guide the student's preparation and evaluate the exam.

5.  Unless otherwise specified by the cluster coordinator, examinations will be administered on university premises over an eight-hour period including a one-hour break, and students may use hard copies of notes but not books or electronic media. The final product must be presented in a standard word-processed format.

6.  Examinations will normally be comprised of six to eight broad questions, from which students will answer three to four. Cluster faculty will decide on the appropriate number and balance of questions.

7.  In most circumstances, sample questions from previous examinations or other sources will be made available to students to help prepare for examinations. Specific preparation materials will be selected at the discretion of the cluster coordinator.

8.  The cluster coordinator (or designated proctor) and one additional cluster faculty member will evaluate the exam. In the event of a disagreement, a third cluster member will read the exam and adjudicate.

9.  Examinations will be evaluated on an honors pass/pass/partial pass/no pass basis, normally within two weeks of the exam date. The honors pass will be reserved for exceptional performances. The partial pass will be given when at least one question on an exam is answered in satisfactory fashion while at least one other is not. As determined by the examiners, students who do not pass initially may retake the exam (or a question or questions from it, in the case of a partial pass) at any agreed-upon time within a year of the original test date. The evaluators of the exam will provide oral or written feedback to the students within two weeks of the exam date. They will inform graduate directors about the grade. An evaluation of "pass" or better on both field examinations is required for continuation within the graduate program, and for advancement to candidacy.

10.  To satisfy the requirements for one of the two field examinations, students may submit work from three satisfactorily completed courses (or cluster-approved substitutes) to a committee of two faculty members. The work must coalesce around an established cluster in the department or, with the approval of the graduate director(s) and two faculty members, around an alternative recognized field in the discipline. The materials to be submitted will typically include a transcript of completed coursework (with grades), as well as any additional written or other materials required by the evaluators. The submitted materials will be awarded an evaluation of honors pass, pass, partial pass, or no pass, as per (9) above. The evaluation will be communicated to the student orally or in writing within two weeks of submission. The evaluators will also communicate the grade to graduate directors. At the discretion of the evaluators, students receiving "no pass" or "partial pass" evaluations may be allowed to submit additional coursework and/or other materials (as determined by the evaluators) for reconsideration within a period not to exceed one year following the original submission date. In all other respects, the evaluation resulting from this process is treated as identical to that resulting from the formal examination process of (9), including the requirement of "pass" or better evaluations for continuation and/or advancement within the program.

11.  Normally, by the end of their second year, students should start consulting with the respective cluster coordinator and other cluster faculty members about both exams. Students should inform the respective cluster coordinators about their intent to take exams at least one quarter prior to taking the exams.

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