ALT Preliminary Examination
Doctoral candidates in Applied Linguistics and Technology must take the preliminary examination, which is composed of two parts -- the preliminary written exam and the preliminary oral exam.
The preliminary examination may be taken during the student's final semester of course work or just after the student finishes course work and is ready to concentrate on the dissertation. The student will submit two pieces of work to the POS committee: a dissertation proposal and pilot study. The POS committee will then set examination questions that will move the student along in thinking about the dissertation research, addressing areas not fully covered in the dissertation proposal or pilot study. The student will have 21 days to write answers to these questions. Once the student has passed the preliminary written examination, an oral defense of the proposal will then take place.
If for any reason a student wishes to request a change in the procedure for the preliminary examination, the student must write a memo to the Director of Graduate Education before the second Tuesday of the semester in which the exam is to be taken specifying the request and providing a rationale for it. The Director of Graduate Education will decide whether or not the request will be granted.
Before taking the preliminary examination, the student and POS committee should discuss what procedures will be in place should a failure occur for all or any parts of the written or the oral examinations. Upon successfully completing the written and oral parts of the preliminary examination, the student will be “ABD” and ready to pursue work on the dissertation.
Purpose and nature
The preliminary examination helps students to begin work on the dissertation. Although the examination will contain both written and oral components, its format could vary rather widely. Because the preliminary examination questions as well as its administration and evaluation are the responsibility of the POS committee, each student will work closely with their committee to develop a dissertation proposal and conduct a pilot study.
Students must meet the requirements outlined in the Preliminary Examination Requirements section in order to take their prelims.
1) Preliminary written examination
Dissertation proposal and pilot study
The Dissertation Proposal should reflect standard format for applied linguistics research proposals, including the following:
a. Cover page with your name, contact information, and the names of your POS committee members.
b. Proposed schedule of work including a realistic assessment of how long it will take for completion of each of the major parts of the research and writing.
c. List of all references cited in the text using APA style.
The Pilot Study must be specifically focused on the research proposal for the dissertation. The study should provide a demonstration for the student and POS committee of the type of research and results the student is proposing. It may be done in a course or as an independent study with the major professor. In principle, the study done for the portfolio could be the pilot study for the dissertation, but we do not necessarily encourage this. It should follow standard format for applied linguistics research reports, including an introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.
Students should work closely with their POS committee to ensure that the dissertation proposal and pilot study are of acceptable quality to form the basis of the preliminary examination. When these requirements have been met to the satisfaction of the student's POS Committee, the major professor will submit a signed and dated memo so indicating, to the Graduate English Office.
Each preliminary written examination is constructed by the student’s POS committee and is based on the individual student’s dissertation proposal and pilot study. Students are expected to talk with POS committee members about these projects and about issues that might be topics for exam questions. The POS chair will solicit questions from POS committee members and construct the exam. The exam will consist of three questions and candidates must answer all three questions.
These steps are then followed:
Scheduling the exam
The dates on which the exam will be administered will be set by the student and the POS committee. After discussing possible dates with their POS chair and members of the POS committee, the student must contact the Graduate English Office to schedule the exam giving at least three (3) business days advance notice of the date of the exam. Students should be aware when scheduling the preliminary written examination that exams may begin only when classes are in session and that the Graduate English Office will be closed over University Holidays. Students should also keep in mind that most faculty members are B-base and will not be available during either University Holidays or the summer to read and evaluate exams.
Taking the exam
Students will obtain the exam from the Graduate English Office and return the completed exam to the same office. Students will have 21 days to answer the exam questions; this allows for the inclusion of three weekends in the exam period depending on the date of the exam and the day of the week the exam is distributed to the student. Once the examination questions have been set by the POS committee, students may address clarification questions to the POS committee through the major professor; the POS committee will respond as a committee, not as individual members.
When taking the preliminary written examination, students may not receive any help from anyone. In order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, students taking the exam should not discuss the content of exam questions while the exam is in progress.
The questions for the preliminary written examination are set by agreement of the student’s POS committee. All members of the POS committee will read the exam and all must pass it for the student to pass the preliminary written examination.
When the student hands in the answers to the examination questions, the POS committee will evaluate the exam as soon as possible to determine whether the exam passes. Ideally, this will occur within two weeks of the student’s completing the exam. The POS chair is responsible for scheduling the evaluation meeting and ensuring that all POS committee members are present, either in person or via distance participation.
The written preliminary examination will be evaluated and voted on by the five faculty members of the POS committee. Passing the written preliminary examination requires that all five POS committee members vote to pass the exam.
The POS chair will write a letter to the student indicating a pass or fail of the examination as well as pass along the POS committee’s commentary to the student. The POS chair will file a copy of this letter with the Graduate English Office. If an exam does not pass, the student will be required to take a second, different exam on the same dissertation proposal and pilot project at a later date determined by the student and the POS committee. In the case of a failing exam, the POS chair will write commentary that identifies problems with the student’s exam and offers the student advice in preparing to take the second exam. The POS committee will approve and sign this letter, and the POS chair will file a copy of the letter with the Graduate English Office.
Students must pass the preliminary written examination before taking the preliminary oral examination. If a student fails to pass the preliminary written examination a second time, he or she will be dropped from the ALT Ph.D. program.
Grievances regarding the preliminary written examination
Students who believe that they have legitimate reasons to appeal the decision of the POS committee may follow the grievance procedure outlined in the Graduate College Handbook under "Grievances Related to Scholarly and Professional Competence."
2) Preliminary oral examination
The preliminary oral examination, as the second part of the preliminary examination, helps students prepare for dissertation work in a specific research area of their choosing. Upon successfully completing the preliminary oral examination, the student will be "ABD" and ready to pursue work on the dissertation.
Request for Preliminary Oral Examination form
Obtain a Request for Preliminary Oral Examination form from the Graduate English Office, 227 Ross Hall (this form is not downloadable). Because this form will specify the date and time of the Preliminary Oral Examination, it should be filed only after the student has removed all incompletes (except 699 research credits), completed all required course work (excluding 699 research credits), and taken and passed the preliminary written examination. It must be submitted to the Graduate College at least two weeks before the exam is scheduled. Reserving a meeting room is the student’s responsibility and can be done through the department’s online reservation system.
It is essential that the Request for Preliminary Oral Examination form be filed in a timely manner. The student and POS committee may not hold the exam unless the Request for Preliminary Oral Examination form has been filed and approved by the Graduate College.
Report of Preliminary Oral Examination form
The Graduate College will send the Report of Preliminary Oral Examination form to the Graduate English Office (this form is not downloadable). The Graduate Secretary will prepare this form and forward it to the chair of your POS committee (major professor).
The Graduate College copy (white) of the Report of Preliminary Oral Examination form must be submitted to the Graduate College immediately after the exam. Doing so is the student's responsibility. The department copy (pink) should be turned into the Graduate English Office, 227 Ross Hall.
Final oral examination
The final oral examination will be the defense of the dissertation. For information on graduation and the final oral examination, go to http://engl.iastate.edu/resources/graduate-studies/posmanual/general/graduation/.