Students are required to pass two preliminary exams. One of these exams is a General Prelim and the other a Specialty Prelim. Prior to taking any preliminary exam, students must give the Director of Graduate Studies written notice of their intent to take the exam.
The General Preliminary Examination
The general examination is a three-day, take-home exam, scheduled in the early fall each year, which addresses basic, foundational aspects of sociology. Students must notify the DGS of their intent to take the General Prelim no later than April 30th of the previous spring. The reading list, compiled by the General Prelim Committee, consists in a list of "core" sociology readings, with attention to inequality as a basic social dynamic.
The Specialty Preliminary Examination
The specialty examination is focused within the student's area of concentration. Each student secures two faculty members who are willing to serve on the specialty prelim committee. Under the supervision of these two faculty members, the student writes a paper that critically reviews the literature agreed upon with the committee. In this paper, which must be done no later than a year after passing the General Prelim, students are expected to review a relatively wide body of literature that sets the broader intellectual context for the dissertation proposal. The two-member faculty committee grades the exam.