Biodefense PhD Qualifying Exam

At the conclusion of their course work, students will take a written qualifying examination. This exam is based on the student’s course work and on the reading lists prepared for the biodefense core and each field of specialization. The purpose of the qualifying exam is to determine if the student is ready to engage in dissertation research. The exam must be completed before the student takes dissertation proposal or dissertation guidance courses.  

Students will take two day-long exams, one in biodefense and one in the student’s area of emphasis. The office publishes two dates, usually one week apart. The categories of science and policy will be on one date and the exam on the student’s field of specialization will be given on a separate date. Students planning to take their comps during a given cycle must be available for both dates. Students who cannot make both dates must postpone until the next offering.  

At least one month prior to the first exam date, students planning on taking the qualifying exams must submit to PhD Student Services an exam application and a completed Degree Plan approved by their advisor. The purpose is to verify that all course requirements have been completed. Students do not need to be registered for credits in order to take a PhD Qualifying Exam. However, students who are unregistered may lose their Mason library privileges. 

Exam questions will be constructed so that students can use information gleaned from coursework and published work to demonstrate a rational thought process in the service of problem-solving, providing evidence and logical justifications for their conclusions. 

To prepare for the Qualifying Exam, students are advised to review lecture notes, assigned readings and other material from the biodefense courses they have taken. In addition, students should consult the texts listed in the biodefense reading list. The reading list is available on the Schar School PhD Student organization on Blackboard. A list of questions from previous Qualifying Exams is also available.

Each day of the exam is made up of an 8-hour session on Blackboard. The exam will be open book and note but no collaboration is allowed. You must sign and submit an honor statement with your completed exam. All submissions will be run through a plagiarism check software program. 

All sources are permitted, including use of the internet, provided they are documented. Citations of sources and the sparing use of short quotations of published material and coursework are encouraged when 1) they support the student's independent line of argument, analysis, and justification; and 2) when these are properly cited. When you include quotations or paraphrases of written material or lectures, be sure to cite your sources using a recognized citation format such as APA, Chicago Manual of Style, or MLA.

Exams are graded by the field committee appointed by the program director. Through its deliberations, the committee reaches a single result for each answer and, then, a single result for the exam overall. All answers much achieve a PASS or higher for a grade of PASS for the overall exam. The committee will render a single grade for each question and for the exam overall: FAIL, PASS or HIGH PASS. Any question that is failed must be re-taken and passed at the next exam cycle in order to pass the exam. Any question area that is failed may be re-taken no more than once. Failing a question area twice means that the overall exam is failed and that the student is terminated from the program.

Qualifying Exam Resources
Biodefense PhD Qualifying Exam Information
Biodefense PhD Reading List

Biodefense Core Exam
Qualifying Exam Spring 2019 – Core
Qualifying Exam January 2019 – Core
Qualifying Exam January 2017 – Core
Qualifying Exam Spring 2015 – Core

International Security Exam
Qualifying Exam Spring 2019 – International Security
Qualifying Exam January 2019 – International Security
Qualifying Exam January 2017 – International Security

Technology & WMD Exam
Qualifying Exam January 2017 – Technology & WMD

Terrorism & Homeland Security Exam
Qualifying Exam January 2019 – Terrorism & Homeland Security
Qualifying Exam January 2017 – Terrorism & Homeland Security
Qualifying Exam Spring 2015 – Terrorism and Homeland Security