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Graduate Program: PhD Program: General Examination

PhD General Examination

The purpose of the General Examination is to enable the Supervisory Committee to assess whether the student’s background of study and preparation is sufficient to merit commencement of a dissertation. Passing the General Exam means the student is formally a PhD Candidate. When the Graduate School approves candidacy, a student is identified and designated as a candidate for the appropriate doctoral degree and is awarded a candidate certificate. After achieving candidate status, a student ordinarily devotes his or her time primarily to doctoral writing of the dissertation, and preparing for the Final Exam.

IMPORTANT: The General Examination can be scheduled only after the student has met all program requirements except the writing of the dissertation. Also, students may not take the General Examination and Final Examination in the same quarter.

Non-thesis MS/Non-terminal MS
The master’s thesis can be waived for students who have taken and passed all the Ph.D. qualifying examinations at a level appropriate for Ph.D. students. In place of the 18 credits of BIOST 700 and the 8 credits of BIOST 536 and BIOST 537, the student must take and pass all required coursework for the Ph.D. degree, including BIOST 533, BIOST 570, STAT 581, STAT 582, STAT 583, and, depending on their pathway, BIOST 571 and BIOST 572, or BIOST 550, BIOST 551, and BIOST 552. In addition to the above listed coursework, students must take BIOST 590 (consulting), 6 quarters of BIOST 580 or 581 (Seminar) and 6 credits from elective List 2 (Biology or Public Health Emphasis). Minimum 3.0 grade in each of the required courses and 2.7 minimum in elective courses. The requirements listed above are in compliance with UW Graduate School requirements for awarding a non-terminal MS to students continuing on to obtain a Ph.D. NOTE: It takes Graduation and Academic Records about four months to mail out the diploma. If you still have not received the diploma, please contact them directly.


Graduate School regulations on conduct of General Examinations
Official Biostatistics Department General Exam Guidelines
Short Proposal Information Sheet (see item #2 under "Process")

The General Examination can be scheduled only after the student has met all program requirements except writing the dissertation. Click here for Standard Pathway or click here for StatGen Pathway to ensure you have fulfilled the requirements.

  • Student emails Short Proposal to the GPA ( for posting on Portal. The Short Proposal must be posted for at least ONE WEEK before the Faculty Meeting. (Please give the GPA 3-5 business days to get the Short Proposal posted.)
  • Dissertation Advisor contacts Cathy Greenbaum ( to be put on the agenda for the appropriate Faculty Meeting (copy the GPA). Note: During the summer, the Dissertation Advisor submits a written presentation to the GPA. The GPA posts this document along with the Short Proposal. Faculty then review and approve or deny the Short Proposal via an online process.
  • Once Short Proposal has been approved by faculty, the student proceeds with scheduling the General Exam by filling out the on-line application for the General Exam at the Graduate School website and submits it at least three weeks before the General Exam is to be scheduled. This action requires the committee members’ approval for date, time and location, and will take prior planning on the part of the student.
  • Student reserves a room for the General Exam and reserves an LCD projector if needed. If any members of the committee will be participating via audio or video conference, student contacts Cathy Greenbaum ( 2-3 weeks in advance of the General Exam to make arrangements for the appropriate equipment.
  • Student tells the Biostatistics Events Calendar editor, Sandra Coke ( to announce the General Exam presentation. To do so student sends Sandra:

    Student Name
    Date, Time, and Room Location
    Presentation Title
    PhD Committee Members noting the committee chair and GSR.

    The deadline for Biostatistics Events Calendar announcements is 12:00 PM on Thursday of the week prior to the actual week of your exam.

  • Prior to your General Exam, student retrieves warrant (contact the GPA to find out when it will be available).
  • After the exam, the faculty advisor (not the student) sends or gives the original, signed warrant to the GPA. (Note: warrants are processed at the department level. Do not send them to the Graduate School.) Be sure the Graduate School Representative (GSR) sends the GSR report directly to the Graduate School.
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