First Year Comprehensive Exam

At the end of the summer of the first year, PMCB students take a written comprehensive exam that tests their ability to think scientifically using concepts covered during the first year of coursework. The comprehensive exam is prepared by the PMCB Examination Committee. The exam is divided into two parts. The first part of the exam gauges the student's ability to read and interpret scientific literature. For this part of the exam, students are provided with four journal articles two weeks prior to the test. The second part of the exam consists of a series of questions requiring essay-style answers that gauge the student's grasp of the core concepts of biochemistry, genetics and cell and developmental biology (CON661-664). Students are tested on their ability to interpret the data, explain methodologies, identify strengths and weaknesses, and integrate the results of the paper into the larger fields of molecular and cell biology. Students who have a combined GPA of 3.5 or greater at the end of Winter Term may request to opt out of  the seated portion of the exam. All students are required to complete the scientific literature review portion. To opt out, student must email the Program Chair and Coordinator prior to May 1st.

2013 Comprehensive Exam Information &  Schedule

Second Year Qualifying Exam

By the end of the second year, and when required classes have been completed, students prepare a written research proposal focused on a topic they select, and distinct from his or her own research. The proposal is written in the style of an NRSA application. A PMCB Departmental Exam Committee consisting of five faculty members then evaluates the written proposal and examines the student orally on the proposal. Three members of the committee are members of the student's intended department and two members are from other departments. In addition, a member of the PMCB steering committee may attend the examination as a non-voting observer. The student is expected to answer questions regarding the scientific background, rationale, and methodologies of the proposal. Upon successful completion of this two-part qualifying exam (written proposal and oral defense), the student is advanced to candidacy in one of the five basic science departments.

Guidelines for the Qualifying Exam
Qualifying exam form