Core Requirements and the General Examination
Information about core requirements for graduate students, leading up to the General Examination, is available on this page. For information about program requirements after a student has passed their General Examination, visit this page.
Core requirements and timeline
There are two sets of requirements for the Ph.D. degree candidate.
- The Graduate School Requirements consist of: One year in residence, passing the General Examination, submitting an acceptable dissertation, and successfully defending the dissertation in a Final Public Oral Exam.
- The department core requirements consist of: Completing and passing six first-year core courses and six second-year field courses, participating in Directed Research, and passing the third-year paper requirement.
First-year students are required to take ECO 501 and 502 (micro), ECO 503 and 504 (macro) and ECO 517 and 518 (econometrics). The students must pass (C- or better) all six courses and the numerical grades must average 2.5 where numerical grades are calculated as follows:
The department also has a mathematics requirement, which consists of a math camp course (S500) offered in August and September before the start of classes. A placement exam for math camp is given in early August, and some students may test out of the requirement. Placement exams for first-year fall courses are also offered in August, and some students may test out of these core courses.
Second-year students are required to take six field courses for a grade (no auditing), and pass each of these courses with a C minus or better. Up to two of the six courses can be taken outside the Department, but these courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and should be graduate level courses.
Second-year students are also expected to participate in Directed Research (ECO 506, ECO 508). Directed Research is a year-long course designed to train students to produce and present independent research. By the end of the academic year, to pass Directed Research, students will be expected to complete a full draft, confirm a third-year paper advisor, and have outlined two other research proposals. The course is graded pass/fail.
In May of the second year, students take two field examinations to complete the General Examination requirement. A field exam consists of material from at least two, but up to five courses from both semesters. Multiple faculty write the questions for the exams. These field examinations must be passed with a B minus or better. Fields that are commonly offered for General Examinations are macroeconomics, international macroeconomics, international trade, microeconomics, behavioral/experimental, health economics, labor economics, public finance, development, industrial organization, finance, econometrics and political economy.
Conditions for leaving the program
A student will be asked to leave the program if they fail to pass the required coursework, the General Examination, or the third-year paper in a timely manner.
Students normally complete the first-year courses by the end of their first year, the full General Examination by the end of their second year, and the third-year paper after the fall break of their third year. Passing at least four of the first-year courses by the end of May of the first year and all first-year courses by October of the second year is normally considered a necessary condition for continuation in the program. A student who does not complete the General Examination by the end of the second year (May) is required to obtain permission from the Director of Graduate Studies to re-enroll.
Students who have failed one of their first-year courses or who have failed to meet the GPA requirement of 2.5 may be allowed to re-take an exam in September of the second year in order to improve their GPA. The re-enrollment of these students will be on hold until they have met the course requirement. If they fail to improve their GPA after taking the make-up exam(s), these students may be asked to re-take a course, or asked to leave the program.
Students who have failed one or more General Examinations will be allowed to re-take a field exam in either October or January of their third year. The determination of whether these exams will be held in October or January is at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. A student has at most four attempts to pass their two field exams; they may attempt a particular field exam only twice and can sit for at most two exams in any exam period. In the unfortunate case where a student has passed one field exam and failed the other field twice, they will be required to attempt a new field exam in May of the third year for the fourth and final attempt. If a student cannot pass the two field exams in four attempts, they will be asked to leave the program.
A student who is asked to leave the program will be granted a Master’s Degree if he or she has passed the core courses with an average of 2.5 or better and has passed two field (general) examinations or six courses beyond the core with any passing grade.
The General Examination must be completed by May of the third year. However, if the General Examination requirement is not completed by February 1 of the third year, then in order to continue in the program until May the student must present evidence to the Director of Graduate Studies that their third-year paper is progressing in a satisfactory manner.
As noted above, students are expected to complete the program in five years. Note that no student will be recommended by the department for admission for a seventh semester (fourth year) of study unless the department is satisfied that they have made adequate progress during the third year of residence.