Field (Comprehensive) Exams

Field (Comprehensive) Exams

All graduate students must take written qualifying examinations in two fields of specialization. Students prepare for these examinations in the second year by completing graduate courses offered in their chosen fields.

Fields Available in the Economics Department:

  • Advanced Economic Theory
  • Comparative Economics
  • Development Economics
  • Econometrics
  • Economic Demography
  • Economic History
  • Economics of Institutions
  • Finance
  • Financial Economics
  • Industrial Organization
  • International Economics
  • Labor Economics
  • Law and Economics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Mathematical Economics
  • Political Economics
  • Psychology and Economics
  • Public Finance


Alternative fields offered by another department or designed by the student may be substituted for one of the fields above, if approved by the Graduate Committee. Alternative fields may include Education and Economics, Health Economics, Resource Economics, Urban and Regional Economics or City and Regional Planning.

Field exams are normally taken in the summer after the second year of study and are held the one to two weeks prior to the start of instruction for the Fall and Spring semesters. The fields of Finance and Development are conducted by Haas and Agricultural and Resource Economics respectively and are scheduled at alternate times which are usually announced in the field courses. If you plan to take the Finance Field Exam in June you will need to add your name to the sign up sheet for external field exams circulated by the Grad Advisor early in the Spring semester. The Graduate Advisor will also share the list with the exam coordinator in Haas to add you the Business exam roster as well as with the ARE coordinator. Students must sit for at least one field exam conducted by the Economics department.

In order to fulfill the field requirement students must earn a grade of "Pass" or better on both exams. It is department policy that students be prepared in at least one applied field to avoid narrow specialization at this stage of their careers.

An alternative field such as Education and Economics, Health Economics, Law and Economics, Resource Economics, Urban and Regional Economics or City and Regional Planning, offered by another department or designed by the student, if approved by the Graduate Committee Chair, may be substituted for one of the fields listed below.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, August field exams will be held on August 14, 16, 18, 2023. The sign up sheet for August fields will be available online from early- February until March 1st.  January 2024 field exams are January 10th OR 15th. The sign-up sheet for January fields will be available online from mid September until mid October of the Fall semester and confirmed dates will be. For the 2024-2025 academic year, August field exams will be held on August 12, 14, 16, 2024. January 2025 is TBD.

Copies of past exams are available online. (Past Field Exams)

Signing up for a field exam is a commitment by the student not to be taken lightly. If a cancellation is necessary, please inform the Graduate Advisor in writing via email no later than a week before the exam.

As of January 24, 2019 students are required to take and pass required field courses with a B- or better in order to take the field exam. Students will not be allowed to take a field exam without having taken the required courses by the faculty of the respective fields. 

Please note the comprehensive course list below may change from year to year or term by term, for current students preparing for their field exams please refer to the PhD handbook for the current course sequences in the PhD student handbook, Econ students and candidates please contact if you do not yet have access. 

Advanced Economic Theory Financial Economics
Comparative Economics International Economics
Development Economics* Industrial Organization
Econometrics Labor Economics
Economic Demography Macroeconomics
Economic History Political Economics
Economics of Institutions Psychology and Economics
Finance * Public Finance

Advanced Economic Theory

Courses: Complete two of the following courses: 206, 207A, 207B , 209A, 209B  (207B is not offered every year) 
Faculty:  Ahn, Anderson, Goldman, Hermalin, Kariv, Morgan, Rabin, Shannon

The Advanced Economic Theory field exam is typically composed of sections corresponding to which of these courses had been taught the previous year. Students are required to answer at least two sections, with students able to choose based on what they have taken.
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Comparative Economics

Courses: 260A, 260B, 260C
Faculty:  Gorodnichenko, Roland

This new field that has evolved from the study of transition economies analyzes the institutions of the market economy in a comparative perspective. One analyzes the difference of common law and civil law systems, the difference between bank-oriented versus stock-market oriented systems, the difference between political systems (dictatorship and democracy, different forms of democracy such as presidential and parliamentary regimes, the impact of different electoral rules, ...), the impact of different cultures leading to different social norms. One analyzes also the evolution of institutions and the dynamics of institutional change: how does change from less to more efficient institutional change happen? How may such change be blocked for prolonged periods of time? How should reform programs be designed to overcome political constraints in institutional change?
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Development Economics* (EXTERNAL)

Courses: 270A, 270B, 270C 
Faculty:  Bardhan, Finan, Gorodnichenko, Graham, Ligon, Magruder, Miguel, Rodriguez-Clare, Sadoulet

Development Economics is the study of economic issues in the less developed countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The three graduate field courses (270A, 270B, 270C) cover both theoretical and empirical aspects of development. The field is exceptionally broad, encompassing the study of: macroeconomic growth, productivity, and technological change; the microeconomic decisions of individuals, households, and firms in poor countries; the measurement of poverty and inequality; human resource investments; and institutional, political economy, and public policy issues in less developed countries. The Development field exam is conducted by the Ag Econ department and the dates of the exam are announced in the field courses.
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Courses: 241A, 241B 
Faculty:  Graham, Jansson, Powell, Pouzo

The Econometrics field is covered by two courses, Econ 241A and 241B, which focus on such theoretical topics as approximating distributions for estimators and test statistics and modeling particular features of data generating processes. 241A emphasizes cross-sectional applications whereas 241B studies time series methods.
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Economic Demography

Courses: 275A, DEMOG 210
Faculty:  R. Lee, Wachter

Economic Demography studies the economic causes and consequences of demographic behavior and population growth and structure, at both the micro and macro levels. Topics receiving recent research and policy attention include the rapid change in marriage, divorce and the family in recent decades; population aging and its implications for Social Security and Medicare; retirement behavior; the economic consequences of immigration for the receiving country, including the effect on the earnings of natives, the wage-assimilation of immigrant workers, and whether immigration eases fiscal pressures or makes them worse; population and economic development issues; the economics of health related behaviors and mortality; the role of population change in economic history; and economics of the household. There is some overlap with topics covered in labor economics, public finance, and economic development. The requirement for the field is Economic Demography, cross-listed as Economics/Demography c275A, offered every Spring and Demography 210, Demographic Methods: Rates and Structures, offered every Fall term.
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Economic History

Courses: 210A, 210B, 210C, 299 (Independent Study)
Faculty:  DeLong, Eichengreen, Olney, C. Romer

Economic history is the study of the economy in the past. The field seeks to understand how the economy functioned in different eras and to explain why key economic events, such as the Great Depression and the Industrial Revolution, occurred. Because one of the most fundamental economic developments over time has been improvements in the standard of living, economic history inevitably tends to focus on the sources of economic growth. It also investigates the economic causes and consequences of historical events and institutions, such as war, colonization, and slavery. Economic historians use a variety of research techniques, ranging from narrative analysis of archival records to empirical studies of large microeconomic datasets, to analyze these issues.
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Economics of Institutions

Courses: 206A, 224, BA 279A
Faculty:  Hermalin, Roland, Tadelis

The field of institutions studies the way in which institutions affect the operation of markets and economies and the way economics affects the design and function of institutions. It is both an empirical and theoretical field, which overlaps with industrial organization in economics and aspects of sociology, social psychology, law, political science, and the business fields of strategy and organization. Consequently, institutions has one of the broadest "tool kits," utilzing tools from the new institutional economics, transactions cost economics, game theory, and contract theory for theoretical analysis and a variety of econometric and experimental methods for empirical analysis. Required courses for the field: Econ 206 and Econ 224. For the field exam, students can answer questions drawn from two of the three courses, Econ 206, Econ 224, and BA 279A.
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Finance* (EXTERNAL)

Courses: BA 239A, 239B, 239C, 239D
Faculty:  Anderson, Craine and Faculty of the Haas Business School Finance Group

The Finance field exam is a subset of the exam given to Ph.D. students in the Finance program in the Haas Business School, so it is given at the same time as the Haas exam. Economics students are required to answer questions based on the four Ph.D. classes in Finance listed above.
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Financial Economics

Courses: ECON 234A, ECON 234C, ECON 290C, BA239A, BA239B, BA239C, BA239D
Faculty: Anderson, Malmendier, Obstfeld, D. Romer

The field of Financial Economics studies the economic function of financial markets. Among its topics are classical asset pricing and factor models, dynamic equilibrium asset pricing, household finance, risk-sharing and consumption smoothing, market microstructure, behavioral finance, corporate finance (agency problems, executive compensation, corporate investment decisions, mergers & acquisitions, capital structure choices including IPOs, SEOs, dividends, and repurchases), law and finance, empirical puzzles in financial economics and proposed solutions. Econ 234A covers asset pricing theory in discrete time, with special emphasis on the relationship between consumption and finance. Econ 234C covers theoretical and empirical research on financial decision-making in firms. To complete the field exam, students need to answer questions drawn from these two classes. Students may choose to substitute one of BA 239A, BA 239B, BA 239C or BA 239D for one of these two classes if approved in advance by the instructors of Econ 234A and Econ 234C.

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Industrial Organization

Courses: 220A, 220B, 220C (two of the three courses must be completed)
Faculty:  Farrell, Gilbert, Hall, Handel, Hermalin, Katz, Kawai, Morgan, Shapiro

Industrial Organization studies the behavior and performance of firms in imperfectly competitive markets. Three graduate courses (220A, 220B, and 220C) cover theoretical, empirical and regulation components of the field. Econ 220A covers theoretical studies of market structure and performance, emphasizing modern tools of game theory. Econ 220B covers regulation and antitrust policy, and 220C covers empirical methods in industrial organization: the use of econometric analysis and data both for descriptive purposes and to test the predictions of economic theories. Applications include demand estimation, analyzing price and quantity competition, and dynamic models of industry structure.
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International Economics

Courses: 280A, 280B*, 280C*, 280D (thoroughly read description below) 
Faculty:  Faber, Gaubert, Gourinchas, Obstfeld, Rodriguez-Clare

International Economics focuses on the causes and consequences of flows of goods, people, ideas and capital within and across countries. The "real" side of the subject, covered in Economics 280A and 280D, centers on the determinants of trade flows within and across countries, the aggregate gains from trade and the effects on income distribution, the effects and determinants of commercial policy, and the linkages between trade, economic georgraphy, and economic development. The "monetary" side of International Economics, covered in Economics 280B and 280C, studies international borrowing and lending, international financial markets, the roles of currencies, exchange rates, and macroeconomic policies in world trade, and macroeconomic policy interactions among sovereign governments. 

If the four courses listed above are offered during their second year in the PhD program, students need to take at least three courses. If only three courses are offered, students must take at least two courses, with the requirement that this includes at least one course among 280A and 280D, and one course among 280B and 280C. If only two courses are offered then students need to take both courses. 

*Note: In some years, 280B or 280C may be replaced by 236B. The preceding requirements apply by making the obvious substitution. If in doubt, check with faculty and the Graduate Office in advance to ensure 236B fulfills the field requirements. In addition, if completing the International AND Macroeconomics fields, 236B can be used to fulfill both fields. There will be no duplicate questions in either field exam. 
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Labor Economics

Courses: 250A, 250B, 250C, 244 
Faculty:  Card, Graham, Kline, Moretti, Reich, Rothstein, Walters
Labor Economics is the study of individual and firm behavior, including labor market outcomes, education, income support programs, and many other topics in empirical microeconomics. The three graduate field courses (250A, 250B, 250C) cover the main theoretical structures and empirical methods used in the field.
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Courses: 236A, 236B, 236D. 210C (two of the three courses are required) 
Faculty:  DeLong, Gorodnichenko, Gourinchas, Nakamura, Obstfeld, Rodriguez-Clare, C. Romer, D. Romer, Schoefer, Steinsson

Macroeconomics is the study of issues related to the economy as a whole. Among its topics are long-run economic growth, differences in average incomes across countries, business cycles, inflation, unemployment, and monetary and fiscal policy. Macroeconomists use a wide range of theoretical and empirical tools to address those topics, including calibration and simulation, formal econometrics, and studies of historical evidence. Macroeconomists at Berkeley have recently used these tools to study the optimal rate of inflation, the term structure of interest rates, causes and consequences of the recent speedup in productivity growth, how individual consumption is determined, why some countries are so much richer than others, why health spending as a share of GDP is rising so rapidly, and how monetary policy affects output and inflation.

Note: If completing International AND Macroeconomics fields, 236B can be used to fulfill both fields. There will be no duplicate questions in either field exam. 
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Political Economics

Courses: 215A, 215B, 299 (Independent Study) 
Faculty:  Dal Bo, Finan, Miguel, Roland

Political Economics studies political institutions using economic tools. Models of political institutions use mostly game theoretic tools. Political economics goes beyond traditional welfare economics by analyzing how economic policy is decided rather than how it should be decided. It goes beyond simplistic visions of public choice by viewing government not as a homogenous political agent but rather as institutions within which different political and economic agents interact. Political institutions and constitutions provide rules of the game which allow to define in a non arbitrary way extensive form games and the role of various political agents. Economic policy equilibria are then derived for various political institutions, allowing to understand the role of particular electoral rules, legislative procedures, budgetary rules and others. One studies the effect of political institutions on the size of government, the composition of public goods, the political business cycle, etc.. A more recent empirical literature has started to test various theories of the effect of political institutions.
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Psychology and Economics

Courses: 219A, 219B, 236D (two of the three courses are required)
Faculty:  DellaVigna, Kariv, Malmendier, Taubinsky

Psychology and Economics applies findings from psychology and other social sciences to economics. The focus of the field is on improving our understanding of economic decisions studied also in fields such as labor economics, public economics, industrial organization, finance, and development. The emphasis, therefore, is not on psychology per se, but rather on its economic implications. Examples of topics in the field include: (i) present-biased preferences, with applications to consumption and savings/borrowing and procrastination; (ii) reference-dependent preferences, with applications to labor supply and behavior toward risk; (iii) social preferences, with applications to charitable contributions and worker compensation and workplace relations; (iv) non-rational beliefs, with applications to managerial behavior and financial decisions; and (v) limited attention, with applications to consumption, political, and financial choices. Students in the field should be familiar with both modeling techniques and empirical methods. Given the importance of applications, students are expected to choose an applied field (i.e. not theory or econometrics) as a second field.

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Public Finance

Courses: 230A, 230B (complete both courses)
Faculty:  Auerbach, Hoynes, Saez, Walker, Yagan, Zucman

Public Finance is the study of taxation, public expenditures and public choice, and the effects of public policy on the behavior of households and firms. The two field courses, 230A and 230B, cover the theory of taxation and public expenditures at the federal, state and local levels, and consider in greater detail the institutional aspects of important taxes, such as individual and corporate income taxes, and important public expenditures, such as education, retirement and health care.