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Preliminary Qualifying Examinations for Doctoral Candidates

The Preliminary Exam is given once a year early Fall Semester.  Doctoral students are eligible to take the School Psychology Preliminary Qualifying Examinations (SPPQE) if they have: (1) been granted a master’s degree from the University of Utah or earned a master’s degree from another program; (2) filed a doctoral program of study; and (3) informed the chair of their dissertation committee by March 1 of their intent to take the exam that Fall to ensure sufficient time to read all of the issues in the 12-month period from July 1 of the previous year to June 30 of the year of the exam.

Specific dates for the Preliminary are announced by the end of Spring Semester each year. Students who intend to take the examination in the Fall Semester, however, must register at least two weeks before the exam with the SPPQE Coordinator. Students on an approved leave are not permitted to take the SPPQE.

 The Preliminary exam has two sections: (1) a defense of a written document that includes information that pertains to the student’s proposed dissertation project (oral exam given by the core School Psychology faculty), and (2) an oral exam conducted by the School Psychology  faculty on the program’s core course content and one year of issues in three journals (two required school psychology journals, School Psychology Quarterly and  School Psychology Review and one journal selected by the student/approved by the Dissertation Chair that focuses on content that is relevant to the student’s dissertation research. The third journal needs to be selected no later than March 1st of the exam year and all core faculty in School Psychology informed of this journal at that time. Issues of all three journals required for the SPPQE have to have been published between July 1 of the preceding year and June 30 of the exam year.

Two weeks before the exam date, students must submit a document to the Exam Coordinator and other School Psychology faculty a Word document that contains information that contains a draft of their proposed dissertation literature review, a rationale for the proposed dissertation project, and research questions along with a description of proposed dependent measures.  Students also need to provide a table that links their dissertation research questions with the doctoral program’s core competencies (see section of this Handbook that contains information about PhD program competencies).

At the time of the Prelim Exam, students are required to present a 20 to 30 minute Power Point Presentation that: 1) summarizes the scientific literature upon which their proposed dissertation research is based, 2) provides a research or theoretically-based rationale for the proposed research, and 3) describes research questions along with corresponding dependent variable measures. This portion of the examination will occur on the first day of the exam. On Day two, the faculty will conduct an oral examination that will address core course content and one year of issues in three journals (two required, School Psychology Review and School Psychology Quarterly, and one selected by the student and her/his Dissertation Committee Chair. Oral questions for Day 2 of the exam will be developed in advance by the School Psychology faculty with questions drawn from required courses and issues in the three journals. The Chair of the student’s dissertation committee will be responsible for asking their question from the agreed upon journal; however, other faculty will also have the option to ask questions about this journal’s content. The student must commit to their selected journal six months prior to the prelim exam and inform all core School Psychology faculty of the decision.

 The Program Faculty encourages the formation of study groups for the preparation to take the SPPQE. It is important to allot sufficient time for a thorough review of the material. Successful completion of the SPPQE examination requires a passing score on both portions of the exam: 1) written proposal/power point presentation and oral exam by faculty, and 2) oral exam covering the three journals.  A score of 70% or higher on both portions is required to pass the examination. If either the dissertation proposal presentation/defense or the oral exam on course content and journals is not passed, students will be required to retake that portion of the examination at a time scheduled by the School Psychology faculty.

In the event that a student has to retake any portion of the Preliminary examination, the retake must be successfully completed within one year from the original examination date. Students are not allowed to retake the examination a second time; that is, only two exam tries are permitted. The only exception to this policy would be if a student can document significant extenuating circumstances that interfered with his/her performance on the first retake of the exam that resulted in failure. If failure does occur after one retake and there is no documentation of extenuating circumstances, the student will need to meet with the Director of Training and Dissertation Chair to determine her/his eligibility for an alternative degree to the Ph.D. (e.g., Master of Philosophy).

The Program Faculty encourages the formation of study groups in preparation for the SPPQE.

Doctoral students may not hold a dissertation research colloquium until the SPPQE is successfully passed.
Last Updated: 9/9/21