General Examination



The general examination for the Ph.D in Public Health has multiple objectives.  It demonstrates your acquisition of public health knowledge, analytic skills and critical thinking ability, while also reflecting your unique background and goals. In this respect, the general exam serves an educational, not simply an assessment, function for the student. Those who successfully complete general examination requirements are deemed ready to engage in independent dissertation research.


General Examination Committee Composition and Responsibilities

The General Examination Committee is comprised of a student’s Advisory Committee, (your major advisor will be the Committee Chair) and 2 committee members (these 2 members can be faculty outside the public health department but must be a part of UConn) who are responsible for the content and the conduct of the General Exam.  Storrs requires no fewer than 5 faculty members.

Your major advisor manages the General Examination procedures, soliciting questions from committee members, scheduling phases of the exam, receiving grades and evaluations from the faculty, chairing the oral exam, and signing forms that report the outcome of the exam to the Graduate School. While student input to the process may be sought, it is the major advisor that determines how the examination will occur and be evaluated.


Format of the General Examination

The major advisor and General Examination Committee have wide latitude over the format and content of the exam. The exam may take a variety of forms regarding time to completion, format (i.e., proctored, take home) and may include but not be limited to papers, special projects, take-home exams, and other types of written examination.   There must be an oral defense of the General Exam. Preparation of a research proposal is an option for the General Exam but strict care should be taken that it does not replicate the intended dissertation topic. If a research proposal is selected as the format, the Program strongly encourages that the exam also include a section testing acquisition of foundational and specialized knowledge. Grades are Pass, Conditional Pass, Fail, and Pass with Honors.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Swede regarding options employed in the past. Current PhD students who have had reached this milestone also are suggested as sources of ideas on the format.

For recommended procedures for completing the General Examination, be sure to read the Graduate Catalog (page 18) for details on what should be done for the General Exam.


The student submits a formal written proposal to your major advisor outlining suggested areas to be covered by the exam, the methods to be used, and timeline. For the process to work optimally, you need to interact with your major advisor on a frequent basis, seeking verbal advice with regard to content and scheduling of proposal submission and the resulting general exam.

  1. The major advisor presents this proposal to the General Examination committee who approves, approves with modification or rejects the student’s proposal.
  2. As needed, the student changes the proposals to reflect modifications required by the committee and obtains required signatures for placement in student’s academic file. This can be done by an email approving the proposal or by just signing the proposal.
  3. The major advisor and committee develop a standardized evaluation sheet for grading the exam.
  4. Once all components of the written exam are passed, the major advisor schedules the oral examination.
  5. When the entire examination has been completed to the satisfaction of the Advisory Committee (i.e. PASS has been earned), the names of all Public Health faculty members who participated in the examination are listed on the Report of the General Exam form  and a copy of the completed General Examination is appended to it. This written record may take the form of essay responses, a literature review, a proposal, a project or other product, depending on the form of the examination.
  6. A copy of the Graduate School form and written record of the exam itself is kept in our office and sent to the Graduate School for their files. All completed General Examinations will be available for review by Public Health faculty.