First and Second Examinations

The examinations test students' knowledge and benchmark students' progress. All students must complete a first and second examination to complete the program.

First Examination

The First Examination calls on mastery of student’s foundational knowledge of the core content areas of Social Policy, Research Methods, Statistics, and Organizational Theory and Change. The requirements for the First Examination require students to pass with a minimum grade of “B” the following courses:

  • SSW 76000-Methods of Data Analysis or recommendation by the Executive Officer for a more advanced course in research methods and analysis offered in any social science or public health doctoral program  
  • SSW 71000-Social Welfare Policy and Planning;
  • SSW 75000-Development of Practice Knowledge in Social Work;
  • SSW 76100-Advanced Statistical Analysis or recommendation by the Executive Officer for a more advanced course in research methods or analysis offered in any social science or public health doctoral program
  • SSW 70100-Program Design and Administration I; and
  • SSW 75100-Methods of Quantitative Research.

Students must meet these requirements within four semesters of matriculation.

Second Examination

The Second Examination tests a student’s ability to develop a research proposal. The student should demonstrate the capacity to identify a problem, support the significance of that problem, generate questions appropriate for inquiry, review the pertinent literature in a complete but parsimonious way, develop research questions, and formulate a research methodology to explore those questions. The research design should include how, who, and what would be asked/gathered, and the approach to data analysis. The examination should demonstrate the student has developed skills in conceptualization, problem/question formulation, and developing a research methodology.

View the Second Examination Assessment Outline.

Students are eligible to submit the Second Examination after they have successfully completed all required courses and six elective courses or 45 credits that put them at Level Two. They must be registered for the semester they submit the examination and may not have any holds on their registration. Ideally, students submit the Examination in April of their Sixth Semester. The Administrative Program Officer (APO) announces the due date for the April submission in January. A timely submission insures that the three-person examination committee will read the document and meet for the oral portion of the examination by the end of the Spring semester. The faculty is not available to sit for the oral portion of the Second Examination from mid-June through the third week in August. Submissions received after the due date are not guaranteed faculty review until the following semester. 

The Examination consists of a written document and a 90 minute oral examination with three members of the doctoral faculty. Students submit an electronic copy of the Second Examination to the APO by the April deadline. If any member of the examination committee requests a hard copy, the student must provide it. When submitting the examination, students may request one faculty member of their choice to serve on the examination committee. The Executive Officer (EO) will make every effort to honor the request depending on that faculty member’s availability. Otherwise, the EO will assign three faculty members to serve on the examination committee. The APO will schedule all examinations and make any special arrangements for accommodating students or faculty members who cannot be on campus for the oral examination.

The purpose of the Second Examination is to determine whether or not a student is ready to move to Level Three or candidacy. The written material and oral presentation and discussion must give evidence that a student can critically evaluate knowledge about a social problem, frame a research question, and design a study to explore that question.

There are two possible outcomes for the Second Examination, Pass or Fail. If the student fails the Second Examination on the first attempt, they may resubmit a revised examination. The outcomes for the resubmission are Pass or Fail. Failure to pass the Examination a second time results in separation from the Program. Students are required to pass the Examination within 10 semesters of their matriculation (excluding leaves of absence) to move to Level 3. 

Upon passing the Second Examination, the student advances to Level Three and can begin the formal process of identifying a Dissertation Committee Chair and committee members. Students decide which faculty members they will approach, and faculty members may accept or decline the role as chair for that dissertation. Students may consider preparing a précis describing their ideas for dissertation research for faculty members they may approach to serve as their dissertation chair or committee members.