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.  The examination 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, divided into three areas:  (1) research  (2) statistics, and (3) core knowledge in 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) with them. 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. This pass or fail score will be based upon rating scored on the rubric. Students will be evaluated based upon exemplary, acceptable, developing, and unacceptable performance. If there is a discrepancy between the two reviewers, a third reviewer will be asked to score the examination. Based upon 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.  It is also expected that students produce well-organized, clearly written answers that are relatively free of mechanical errors.  Finally, responses will be evaluated based upon 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 have an understanding of the various types of quantitative and qualitative research designs.
  • The student should have an understanding of how to appropriately select a statistical test based upon the research design.
  • The student should have an understanding of when to use parametric and nonparametric statistics.  Particular attention should be placed on knowing the assumptions of parametric and nonparametric statistics.
  • The student should have an understanding of the various levels of data (nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio).
  • The student should know the difference between paired/unpaired groups 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.
  • When submitting their application, students must attach their program of study; 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