Qualifying Examination

Guidelines for Preparation


Frequently Asked Questions...

What is the purpose of the qualifying examination?

The Qualifying Examination is largely a diagnostic instrument used to determine a student’s eligibility for advancing to candidacy. It is designed to assess an aspirant’s knowledge of research, statistics, and core knowledge in their respective fields of study. 

What is the qualifying examination requirement?

The Qualifying Examination is three hours in length and divided into three areas: (1) research, (2) statistics, and (3) core knowledge in the respective field.  The examination is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  Students are expected to arrive at 8:30 a.m. to check in for the examination.  The examination will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m.  Students must bring proper identification (driver’s license or university photo identification). No technology (iPhone, tablets, iPad, etc.) can be brought into the examination room.  No additional resources (internet, USB drives, etc.) can be used during the examination.

How often is the qualifying examination offered?

The Qualifying Examination is offered three times per year. The examination is administered on the first Saturday in October, February, and June.  The examination dates for the 2023-2024 academic year are as follows:   

  • Saturday,  September 16, 2023
  • Saturday, February 3, 2024
  • Saturday, June 1, 2024

How are examinations assessed?

The Qualifying Examination is scored by two reviewers using a rubric developed by the Department of Educational Leadership. Students will receive a pass or fail score based on the rating on the rubric. Students will be evaluated based on exemplary, acceptable, developing, and unacceptable performance. A third reviewer will be asked to score the examination if there is a discrepancy between the two reviewers. Based on the score of the third reviewer, the student will pass or fail the examination. 

When scoring the examination, reviewers evaluate the students’ responses for relevance, scope, and accuracy of content. Students are also expected to produce well-organized, clearly written answers that are relatively free of mechanical errors. Finally, responses will be evaluated based on the appropriate selection of research designs, statistical procedures, and the ability to run appropriate statistical tests.

The student may take the Qualifying Examination a maximum of three (3) times. Depending upon each student’s performance, certain programmatic modifications may be recommended. Successful performance on all sections of the Qualifying Examination entitles the student to advance to candidacy. A third failure of any portion of the examination will result in dismissal of the student from the doctoral program. 

How should I prepare for the examination?

  • The Qualifying Examination is based in part upon the core; students should use course syllabi and bibliographies from those courses as study guides. 
  • The student should understand the various types of quantitative and qualitative research designs.
  • The student should understand how to appropriately select a statistical test based on the research design.
  • The student should understand when to use parametric and nonparametric statistics. Particular attention should be paid to the assumptions of parametric and nonparametric statistics.
  • The student should understand the various levels of data (nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio).
  • The student should know the difference between paired/unpaired and matched/unmatched groups.
  • The student should have an understanding of probability and nonprobability sampling methods.
  • The student should review the guidelines for preparing for the qualifying examination.
  • Review the additional test preparation resources listed below.

When are students eligible to register for the Qualifying Examination?

To be eligible to register for the Qualifying Examination, the student must meet these requirements:

  • Each student must successfully pass (B or better) EDAD 6000, EDAD 7120, and EDAD 7180 before taking the Qualifying Examination.
  • A minimum of twelve (12) credit hours and a maximum of twenty-one (21) credit hours must be completed, with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 maintained. Students who exceed 21 credit hours must provide a letter of justification that states why the examination was not taken prior to attaining 21 credit hours.
  • Each student must complete a Qualifying Examination application one semester prior to the date the student intends to take the examination. A student must get his or her advisor to sign the application.  Please see the Graduate School academic calendar for application deadlines for the Qualifying Examination Application.
  • Students must attach their program of study when submitting their application; it must be signed by the student and their academic advisor.
  • Students must forward their Qualifying Examination application to the department chair for approval. Please send it to both trober25@tnstate.edu and kavant@tnstate.edu.

Additional Test Preparation and Web Resources

Qualifying Examination Test Preparation Document

How to Understand Literature Review

When to use what test

Statistics Decision Tree Use

Guidelines for Preparing for the Qualifying Examination

How to Select Appropriate Statistical Data

Qualifying Exam

Qualifying Exam Study Guide 2024