Readiness Assessment

The Readiness Assessment (RA) exam assesses your preparedness to advance in your program and begin in ENE research. Successful completion of the exam is an indicator of the breadth and depth of your fundamental knowledge applied to a potential area of research in the field and a demonstration of your ability to synthesize ideas, review literature, and critically evaluate topics related to your research. It involves both a take-­home portion (two weeks to complete) and an oral exam (occurring one to two weeks after the takeā€home work is submitted).

Readiness Assessment Milestones

Important milestones associated with the Readiness Assessment exam are identified at PhD Timeline and Milestones.

Preparing for the RA Exam

Before taking the RA, make sure that you have completed the prerequisites for starting dissertation research. (Note: The timing of your enrollment in these courses is ultimately at the discretion of your Graduate Advisory Committee.) The RA typically occurs between 12 and 18 months of full-time enrollment in the program.

Preparing for the RA begins with a discussion between you and your major professor (i.e., thesis advisor) and proceeds through the following steps:

  • Prepare a draft Plan of Study (POS) and identify a Graduate Advisory Committee of at least three members (the majority being ENE faculty as well as graduate faculty). Note: A draft POS is recommended by the end of your second semester.
  • Schedule a meeting with your Graduate Advisory Committee to:
    • Review and discuss your Plan of Study (POS).
    • Show and discuss various elements from your “portfolio in progress” to demonstrate evidence of your readiness. Note: Refer to the Readiness Assessment rubric when discussing your “portfolio in progress.”
    • Discuss a general dissertation direction (e.g. research interests, goals).
    • Provide time for the committee to determine if you are ready, and begin discussion and agree upon the process for identifying an appropriate and relevant topic as well as the individualized task questions. To keep the RA manageable and relevant, task questions will fall within an appropriate, pre-­determined topic area that is discussed and selected in advance by your Graduate Advisory Committee.
    • Work with your committee to schedule the take-­home portion and oral exam. This is to ensure there are no substantive conflicts with course-­related or assistantship-related requirements (such as project deadlines or coursework exams), or with the availability of faculty. In addition, each semester has official holiday(s) that are to be taken into consideration. The default duration of the take-home portion is two weeks, but can be as long as three weeks at the discretion of your committee. 
  • With confirmation from your major professor, inform the Graduate Coordinator at least two weeks before the RA take-­home portion start date of your intent to take the RA and the agreed-upon dates for the take-­home and oral exams.
  • Your Graduate Advisory Committee agrees upon an appropriate and relevant topic as well as the individualized task questions. A copy of the topic and individualized questions must be sent to the Graduate Coordinator as documentation.
  • The day before your RA start date is the latest possible date for you to opt out of the RA process without penalty. You may not opt out of taking the RA after you receive the task, unless there is significant cause for an exception (e.g., health problem, family emergency, etc.).

Nature and Assessment of the RA

On the first day of the RA take-­home portion of the assessment, your major professor sends you a description of the topic area and a list of the questions developed by your Graduate Advisory Committee. Develop and submit written responses to a total of three questions/prompts. One required question (or prompt) will be concerned with a literature review, and a second will focus on methods/methodology. You must also respond to a third question/prompt that they will select from at least two additional options in the areas of theory, unexplored opportunities, and/or applications (see below).

1.  Required:  Literature Review
2.  Required:  Methods/Methodology
3.  Select any one of 2+ options:  Theory, Unexplored Opportunities, Applications

The RA is an individual assessment that should reflect your own thinking; however, it is likely that you will have questions during the RA period. Clarification questions regarding the assigned task should be directed towards your major professor, who may seek guidance from other members of your committee. Requests to borrow resources that may not be readily available (e.g., books, articles) are also acceptable. The Graduate Advisory Committee must discuss the conversations you may have during the RA period, come to a decision, and communicate this decision to you. This includes whom you may talk to (e.g., allowed only to converse with committee members, not allowed to converse with committee members, and/or allowed to converse with other faculty, staff, and students) and how they might document any conversations (e.g., as an appendix to the written portion of the RA). When engaging in conversations during the RA period, you must clearly communicate that these conversations are related to your RA.

At the end of the complete two-­week take-­home portion of the RA, you must submit your written responses to your Graduate Advisory Committee and the Graduate Coordinator. While there is no predetermined, definitive length for the written portion of the RA, one suggestion for total length is 30-­40 pages, double-­spaced. Advisory committees are encouraged to make their expectations explicit.

During the 90-­minute oral exam, you will present a summary of answers/responses to questions posed and respond to questions from your Graduate Advisory Committee.

At the end of the oral exam, you will be excused from the room so that your committee can determine the outcome of the RA. Each member of the Advisory Committee will have an assessment rubric to complete. The assessment rubric addresses four dimensions of “readiness”:

  • Quality of Written and Oral Communication
  • Breadth and Depth of Literature
  • Methods Expertise
  • Synthesize Knowledge
  • Argumentation

Once your Advisory Committee reaches an outcome, they will invite you to re-­enter the room and will communicate the RA outcome. There are four potential outcomes: pass, revise and resubmit, recommend re-­taking the RA, and recommend not continuing in the program. It is expected that any discussion regarding leaving the program or re-­taking the RA will involve extensive discussion based on your capabilities and goals.

All completed forms must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator for documentation by the last day of the term in which the RA was taken.

Appeals process: From the Graduate School Manual:
Decisions “must be appealed within the relevant department, rather than through the grade appeals system or to the Graduate Council. The initial appeal must be filed with the department head charged with supervising the relevant graduate program. The appeal must be in writing, must specify the grounds for the appeal, and must be filed within 30 days after the issuance of the disputed decision. Upon receipt of such appeal, the department head shall appoint a committee to hear the appeal and to make a determination. Unless the student appeals further to the department head, the appeal committee's decision shall be final. In the event a student chooses to appeal [specifically] to the department head, such appeal must be in writing and must be delivered to the department head within 10 days of the issuance of the appeal committee's determination. For those matters so appealed to the department head, the decision of the department head shall be final.”

Readiness Assessment Rubrics

A copy of the rubric is available here.

Reminder: You must submit all completed forms to the Graduate Coordinator for documentation by the last day of the term in which the RA was taken.

Last Updated: November 19, 2021