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First Examination

The First Examination consists of three sections, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics, and is designed to demonstrate the student’s ability to use and apply what he or she has learned in the six core courses. To complete the First Examination successfully, students must pass written examinations in all three areas, but may have the written exam in the third area waived if they have an average grade of at least B in its respective course sequence. Under one alternative, for example, a student would be regarded as having passed the First Examination if he/she has passed the core examinations in Microeconomics and Econometrics and obtained a B average in Macroeconomics I and II in the first semester he or she enrolled in these courses.

First-year students are required to take at least two of the three areas of the First Examination in the month of June following their first year of enrollment in the Program.  In case the student is passing one area of the First Examination on the strength of grades obtained in course work, this area cannot count as one of the two areas that must be taken.  Exceptions (similar to those stated in the next paragraphs) to this policy may be granted by the Executive Officer.

*For students who entered the program before Fall 2015*

  •  Core examinations will be scheduled twice a year, in June and January.

  • Students are permitted two attempts at core examinations in the three areas. If the student fails in his/her first attempt, the second attempt must be completed by no later than the end of the June which follows the second year of study in the program.  All attempts at core examinations (at most two in each of the three areas) must be completed by the end of the June, which follows the second full year of study.

*For students who entered the program on or after Fall 2015*

  • First Examination exams are held in the months of June and August.  For each area, a June/August cycle is counted as a single offering of the First Examination: the August exam is a re-take of the June exam, such that, in order to participate in the August exam, the student must have first taken the June exam.

  • For each area, a student is allowed two attempts to pass a given area of the First Examination.  Thus, if a student fails to pass an area in the June/August cycle after their first year of enrollment in the Program, he/she will be able to participate in the June/August exam cycle after their second year of enrollment in the Program.  If a student fails the June exam after their first year and skips the August re-take exam, the first attempt at the First Examination of the given area is completed; the June exam in the second year is the beginning of the second attempt and will under no circumstance count as a deferred re-take of the June exam of the first year.

Students normally are required to complete all core examinations within 23 months after entering the program. There are four possible exceptions to this rule for: (i) Students who enter in the Spring Semester (and cannot therefore start the Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Econometrics course sequence until the following September); these students will be subject to the same time limits as students who arrive in the following September; (ii) Students who have been held back from taking one or more first-year courses because they entered with a gap in their background ; (iii) Students who suffer illness or other health problem during the academic year. At the discretion of the Executive Officer, they may be allowed to reduce their course-loads and thereby extend the maximum period to take First Examination; (iv) Certain students who hold full-time employment may take reduced course-loads, provided these students receive written permission from the Executive Officer in advance of starting the first year. Students in this category will be permitted to postpone a core examination in the area which has been postponed until the first scheduled examination date after they have completed the required course sequence in that area. It shall be understood that the criterion for granting this last employment-related exception is that the student be of exceptional quality and/or have experience that is valuable to the Economics Program.
Failure to keep up with the normal course load during the first year for any reason shall not be considered appropriate grounds for this exception.
Copies of old examinations are available from the Assistant Program Officer. Note that if a student appears for a First or Second Examination and does not hand in his or her examination book, he or she will fail the examination. There is, however, no penalty for signing up for an examination and then failing to appear for it. 

Second Examination

The Second Examination consists of three parts: 

(1) A written comprehensive examinations in one Advanced Field of Study selected by the studentThe examination component may not necessarily be course specific but will test the student’s knowledge of current trends in the field and his or her ability to synthesize and apply the work done in the field.  Reading and understanding beyond individual course requirements are necessary to complete the examination successfully.

(2) The completion of another two-course field sequence with a minimum of the grade B in each course.

(3) The completion of the course Research Methods and Writing in Economics with at least a grade of B.  The paper which is written and presented in this course will be inserted in the student’s file. 

Part (2) of the Sencond Examination may be replaced with a written comprehensive examination in a second Advanced Field of Study. 

As implied by its title, the Second Examination follows the First Examination. The standard practice at The Graduate Center is that students must have passed the First Examination before they are permitted to take the Second Examination.

The student should complete the written examination component of the Second Examination, at the very latest, the next day in which the second examination component is offered after the end of the semester in which he or she completed the 60-credit requirement.

A student may fail the written examination component of the Second Examination once but must pass it on his or her second attempt.  If approved by the Executive Officer, the student who has failed in a second attempt may attempt a different field written examination component after having completed the two-course sequence in that field. 

Last updated: April 16, 2019