University of California, Riverside

Division of Biomedical Sciences

Qualifying & Dissertation Exams

exams banner

Qualifying Exam Committee

The five-member Qualifying Exam Committee, which may not include the major professor, will be nominated by the student in consultation with the major professor, officially approved by the graduate advisor, and appointed by the graduate dean. One member of the oral qualifying exam committee, not from the biomedical sciences program, will be designated as the outside member. This committee should be nominated at least one month prior to the oral qualifying examination using this form. Once received, the committee is preliminarily approved by the graduate advisor and forwarded to the graduate division for final approval.

Successful completion of the qualifying exam requires approval from four of the five committee members as confirmed by their signatures on the “Report of the Qualifying Examination” form at the time of the exam (exam signature form available from the Student Affairs Office). The chair of the qualifying committee is responsible for the completion and submission of this form to Graduate Student Affairs Officer Alejandra Torres within 24 hours after the exam.

Qualifying Exam

To advance to candidacy for the doctoral degree, each student must successfully complete both parts of a qualifying examination. The student should consult with both their major professor and the chair of the qualifying exam committee about specific format requirements for each part of the exam (written and oral).

Part I will consist of the preparation of a research proposal written in the format of a NIH NRSA fellowship application. This proposal will include a literature review, description of methods and experimental plans. It will outline the student's research program, describe his/her progress to date and delineate the research aims and objectives planned for the dissertation. The written proposal must be approved by the major professor and the cover page must be signed by the major professor before the proposal can be submitted to the qualifying committee for review. The proposal must be submitted to the committee no later than seven days prior to the oral exam and is usually 14 days prior to the exam.

Part II consists of an oral comprehensive examination and defense of the written research proposal administered by a committee of five faculty members, at least one of whom is from outside the graduate program. The format of the exam can vary and is determined by the qualifying exam committee. The student should consult with the chair of his/her committee to determine the format. However, students are often expected to present a 20-40 minute presentation of their written research proposal at the onset of the exam.

There are three possible outcomes for the qualifying exam: (1) pass, (2) fail with retest allowed and (3) fail no retest allowed. A student who does not pass the oral qualifying exam may be dismissed from the program or may be allowed to complete a master's in biomedical sciences degree. The graduate advisors, in consultation with the qualifying exam committee will make the final determination of whether a student may be eligible to complete a master's in biomedical sciences degree.

Following advancement to candidacy, the student will form a dissertation committee that will continue to advise and critique the student’s annual progress. This committee replaces the student’s guidance committee formed prior to completing the qualifying exam. The student's major professor again serves as chair of this committee, which will help guide and evaluate the student's research. While this committee may meet more than once a year, it is mandatory that each student meets with his/her dissertation committee at least once a year. The qualifying exam is distinct and separate from annual guidance committee meetings. Therefore, the qualifying exam cannot substitute for a student’s annual meeting with their guidance/dissertation committee.

Dissertation Exam

A dissertation acceptable to all committee members must be submitted, based upon independent, original research. A dissertation of the research will be prepared and presented in the form prescribed by the graduate division. Workshops sponsored by the graduate division are held to instruct students in the preparation of their dissertation.

Before the dissertation is approved, the student must present his/her research at a thesis defense seminar, which is advertised to the campus community and open to all who wish to attend. Following the seminar the student will answer questions from the committee on the thesis research and on topics within the general field of the thesis research.

The dissertation committee has responsibility for both the content and the style of the dissertation. The dissertation committee certifies that the completed dissertation is satisfactory through the signatures of ALL committee members on the signature page of the completed dissertation. All members of the committee must sign the signature page. They may not have anyone else sign for them (such as a departmental chair or graduate program assistant). After the dissertation committee has approved a dissertation it must be submitted electronically to the graduate division via the ProQuest Server. The final copy must meet UCR's requirements for style, format, and appearance before the degree can be conferred. Information on filing the dissertation and all forms that must be turned in can be found at

More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Division of Biomedical Sciences
UC Riverside School of Medicine
2608 School of Medicine Education Building

Tel: (951) 827-5470

Related Links