Qualifying (Orals) Exam

Qualifying (Orals) Exam Timeline, Policy and Procedures 2023-2024

General Information

Students must complete at least one semester of any Department Seminars prior to taking their oral examination. This is typically done in the third year of study.

Dissertation Prospectus and Oral Examination
Students are encouraged to begin discussing possible dissertation topics with appropriate faculty members at an early stage. After completing the written field examinations, students choose a faculty member to serve as adviser on developing a dissertation topic involving significant and original research, and to supervise writing of a prospectus. The prospectus describes the research to be conducted, the techniques to be used, and initial findings. Students who cannot find an adviser on their own will be matched with a preliminary adviser at the beginning of the third year of study.

When the prospectus is approved by the faculty adviser, an oral examination is scheduled. The examining committee consists of four faculty members who conduct an oral examination based on the student's areas of specialization and on the dissertation prospectus. A primary function of the oral examination is to aid the student in developing a dissertation and to determine whether the student is sufficiently prepared to complete original research successfully.

Oral exams are generally held during the academic year (September through May). Although you may arrange to take them during the summer, please know that faculty members have no obligation to serve on summer oral exam committees. You must be registered during the semester in which you take your oral exam or, if you take the orals during the summer, you must be registered the semester before or after.

Change effective Fall 2019: The orals committee, without exception, consists of four total members (some students may opt for a 5th member), with a majority of the members being internal (academic representatives) to the Department of Economics. All members of the committee must have Ph.D.s and be members of the Academic Senate. Faculty with joint appointments, without regard to the percent time of the appointment (including 0% FTE), are considered inside members and may also serve in the capacity of the chair. Per Graduate Divsion policy, the Qualifying (Orals) Exam chair of your oral exam committee cannot serve as the Dissertation Chair/Adviser for the same student. The Academic Senate Representatice (ASR) replaced the "outside member" and the role can be served by any academic senate faculty member internal or external to the Economics Department. The chair should be a member of the Economics Department. The QE chair may serve in the dissertation committee as the ASR or an additional inside member. 


Paper work must be submitted at least three weeks prior to the date of the exam.

  1. Go to your student file in Cal Central under "Submit a form," complete the Higher Degree Committees Form to apply for the qualifying exam, or modify your Committee:  How to use the Higher Degree Committees Form- opens in new window. List three fields of research; include your two fields and a non-departmental field along the lines of your outside committee member. NOTE: If you plan to have a committee member that is from outside UC Berkeley, you must submit their name and CV to the Economics Graduate Office (Graduate Advisor) BEFORE you apply to take your Orals exam. The person needs to be approved by Graduate Division.
  2. Submit the Higher Degree Committees Form for Qualifying Exam no less than three weeks prior to the date of your exam.
  3. Confirm the date and time of the exam with all committee members.
  4. Inform the Economics Graduate Office (Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services) of the date and time of the exam once confirmed via email.
  5. Reserve 506 Evans with the administrative assistant in 530 Evans Hall as soon as the date and time is confirmed. Reserve the room for 3 hours, although the exam, in most cases, will only last two hours.
  6. Provide copies of your prospectus to each of your committee members at least one or two weeks prior to your exam.
  7. Approximately one week prior to your exam remind all committee members of the date, time and place.
  8. No later than 24 hours prior to your exam submit email a copy of the most up-to-date version of your prospectus to the Economics Graduate Office for your file. Please have your dissertation advisor send an email with her or his approval of your prospectus tothe Economics Graduate Office (Assistant Director of Graduate Student Services).
  9. After passing the exam, go to your student file in Cal Central under "Submit a form" - Higher Degree Committees Form to apply for Doctoral (dissertation) candidacy. Graduate students who plan to use human subjects in their research must complete the CITI course and upload your certificate of completion prior with your advancement to candidacy application. This certificate must be submitted with the advancement form. **If you are eligible for the Doctoral Completion Fellowship (DCF), be sure to submit your advancement to candidacy form via Cal Central by June 30th of the year in which you pass your orals.