General Exam


The purpose of the general examination is to assess the breadth and depth of the student’s knowledge and critical analysis of major areas in the information field.  The examination is also used to evaluate the student’s potential to complete a doctoral dissertation successfully, including the development of the student’s independent intellectual voice.

With the advice of the chair of the supervisory committee, students are encouraged to take the general examination within one year of the completion of course work, but must take it within two calendar years of the completion of that work. 


Students are eligible to take the general exam when they:

  • Complete the coursework and practica components of the Ph.D. program
  • Register as a graduate student for the quarter that the examination is taken and candidacy is conferred


The examination includes both a written and oral component.  Preparation for the examination includes the construction of reading lists for the examination, as well as reading, reflection, and discussions with colleagues and faculty members.

For the general examination, the student is required to develop a specific area of interest that is approved by the supervisory committee.  The specific area of interest will be articulated in the student’s statement of interest as well as the submitted reading list. The specific area of interest will likely form the basis for the student’s dissertation.

In the general examination, the student will demonstrate an ability (1) to discuss theoretical, methodological, and technological aspects of the student’s specific area of interest and (2) to integrate and synthesize knowledge.

The general examination is to be completed by the candidate in conformance with the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code and the Student Academic Responsibility Statement.  In brief: do not ask for or accept help on any general exam question.  Those taking the general examination should refrain from sharing general examination questions or answers until after the examination is completed.

More Information

General exam policy and procedure
General Exam scheduling (through MyGrad)