Admission to candidacy for the PhD degree in most doctoral programs entails passing a qualifying examination. In the History Department at BU, this exam is taken in the form of a two-hour long oral examination covering four historical areas. The exam’s oral form tests the student’s knowledge as well as their ability to communicate information on the spot, skills that are central to any career as a scholar, teacher, or researcher. The exam is administered by four faculty members in the Department of History and is normally scheduled before the end of classes during the Fall or Spring semester.
The initial preparation for this examination begins early in a student’s career. Students should choose courses and make personal contacts with faculty members with their oral examinations in mind. They should have a general idea of their examination fields by the time they complete course work, and should then undertake intensive reading in those fields under faculty direction. Each oral examination is unique, for the examination is intended to test the knowledge of a specific student. However, there are certain regulations and norms to which all examinations must conform.