General Exam

After the third Semester of coursework, students will take the General Exam. The Exam is intended to test students' general knowledge in biomedical sciences, particularly experimental pathology and their ability to define a research problem, develop a hypothesis, and design appropriate experiments to investigate the problem. It will consist of a written and oral component. The written component of the general exam will be in the form of a mock grant proposal (see below). The topic will be chosen by students but must be approved by the Director of the Pathology Graduate Program.

The student's General Exam committee will evaluate both the written and oral component of the examination.  The General Exam committee will consist of five faculty members.  Three of them will be appointed by the Pathology Graduate Committee based on research interests, availability, and need to insure consistency between exams.  The remaining two faculty members will be chosen by the student and his/her mentor.  The Pathology Graduate Committee will review and approve the faculty submission.  The mentor cannot have a participatory role on the committee but can attend the general exam.  Successful completion of the written section will enable the student to continue on to the oral component of the General Exam.  When the student successfully completes both written and oral components of the general exam, the student advances to candidacy. If the student fails the exam, he/she will have only one chance to retake it.

Upon submission to the Graduate College the application must be approved by the Graduate Dean.  The student may not begin the General Examination until their graduate program receives notification that the Graduate Dean has approved their Application for the General Examination.  Any General Examination taken without approval of the Graduate College must be repeated.


Written component: Research Proposal

Specific instructions for the full proposal will be given at the time, but listed below is a summary.

  1. Total length:
    Not to exceed twenty (20) double-spaced pages, excluding bibliography and title page. The approximate allocation of pages for each section is indicated.
    1. Format: 11pt Arial font and 1 inch margins
  2. Parts of the proposal:
    1. Title page - the question, mentor, student's name, date.
    2. Abstract - background, question to be answered, experimental approach. Limit to <250 words.
    3. Specific Aims - a concise description of the overall problem and the questions to be answered.  Limited to 2 pages.
    4. Background and Significance - review of the literature pertaining to the problem with a critical evaluation and identification of gaps the proposal is intended to fill (matched to Specific Aims) and a statement of the importance of the proposed hypothesis/hypotheses to be tested.  (Limit to 4-5 pages).
    5. Preliminary Observations - summary of the key observations that helped define the hypotheses and approaches, which may include unpublished as well as published observations; expected to include key figures or illustrations reproduced from the published literature.  (Limit to 2-6 pages).
    6. Experimental Design and Methods - a detailed discussion of the experimental design, including a succinct presentation of the methods and procedures to be used, and the specific experiments proposed to achieve each specific aim.  Include the form in which the data will be obtained and how they will beinterpreted.  Describe appropriate controls.  Discuss potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed methods/approaches and give alternative approaches for achieving the aims.  (Limit to 10-16 pages).
    7. Bibliography - a list of the relevant literature cited in the text sections to support the statements and objectives of the applications.

Oral Component: Research Proposal

The oral component will consist of a defense of the written research proposal, in which the questions will be wide-ranging.  General knowledge related to the research proposal and previous course work will be important components of this exam.  The student should expect to present a 30-minute presentation (with PowerPoint) at the beginning of the Oral Component.