Learning Goals of the Examinations: The primary objective of the Economics Program at The Graduate Center has been to teach the students mastery of the discipline of economics in general, and their own specialization in particular, at a level that would permit them to find employment as professional economists in academia, business, and government. To achieve this end, our graduates are expected to demonstrate:

  1. broad familiarity with economic theory and with statistical and econometric methods;
  2. in-depth knowledge of two fields of specialization chosen among the fields offered by the Economics Program;
  3. ability to design and perform economic research in specialized fields with an original contribution in the field.

First Examination

Learning Goals of the First Exam: The first examination assesses the students written communication skills and the depth and the extent of their mastery of the core of economic theory, and it consists of two sections in each of macroeconomics, microeconomics and econometrics. Students are required to take this examination and succeed in passing it by no later than June of the second full academic year after they entered the program.

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.

​A grade of Pass or Fail is assigned to each question by a committee consisting of at least two graders.  The subject matter in each examination is related, but not confined, to material covered in two semesters and is designed to assess students’ familiarity with the economic theory and the current knowledge of statistical and econometric methods.  

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 in 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:

  1. 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;
  2. Students who have been held back from taking one or more first-year courses because they entered with a gap in their background;
  3. 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;
  4. 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

Learning Goals of the Second Exam: The second exams measure students’ written communication skills and the depth and extent of their mastery of two fields of their choice in Economics, as well as their ability to design and perform original economic research in the field.  The successful completion of the second exam requirements demonstrates that (i) the students have background in the fields’ published literature at a level that would be required to write a dissertation research proposal; (ii) they can apply economic reasoning and principles to the field; (iii) they can complete a scholarly paper in the students’ field of specialization; (iv) they confirm their competence in applying econometric and statistical techniques to conduct scholarly research in economics.

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. A grade of Pass or Fail is assigned to each question by a committee consisting of at least two graders.

  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 Second 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. 

Note: You must have completed two field courses in the examined area of specialty (field) before you can take the written field exam.