NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: EJ805744
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jul-11
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Portfolios Are Replacing Qualifying Exams as a Step on the Road to Dissertations
Wasley, Paula
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n44 pA8 Jul 2008
This article reports that some graduate programs are switching from comprehensive qualifying exams to portfolios compiled by doctoral candidates. Five years ago the graduate program at the University of Kansas' history department was like many others--filled with small cohorts of anxious, fearful procrastinators. Doctoral students were taking an average of eight or nine years to complete their Ph.D.'s, a length of time that, while not that unusual in academe, was hardly ideal for either the students or the faculty members involved. The written qualifying exams that mark the students' passage from course work to dissertation was identified a bottleneck. The exams, taken in a series of four-hour, in-class sessions or as 24-hour take-home tests, were meant to be completed immediately after finishing the initial course work. But many students were putting them off, sometimes for two or three years. So the professors decided that the exams had to go. In their place, each graduate student in history at Kansas now receives a three-ring binder during orientation. The students are instructed to begin filling it, from the start, with documentation of their intellectual endeavors and professional aspirations. Where the students once spent the first years of their graduate work dreading the comprehensive exams, they now amass a large portfolio of materials that include a dissertation prospectus and a 20-page professional essay that lays out how the candidate's major and minor fields of study relate to each other. The switch to portfolios has made students more focused and better prepared for the research demands of the dissertation. It has also accelerated their progress toward doctorates, with a far larger percentage of students on track to receive their Ph.D.'s within five or six years.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Kansas