Preliminary Examinations

Purpose: The Preliminary Examinations exist to provide assurance that all PhD candidates have in-depth knowledge of subject matter closely related to the student’s research topic. It is the responsibility and authority of the Preliminary Examining Committee to determine whether the student is qualified and ready to undertake or continue research and proceed toward the PhD degree.

Format: The Major Professor establishes the format for the Preliminary Examination.

The student should:

  1. Demonstrate competency with fundamentals in areas that required remedial action as a result of the Area Examination.
  2. Demonstrate in-depth knowledge of subject matter related to the thesis topic.
  3. At the Major Professor’s discretion, present a written research proposal containing a research plan for the thesis.

Timeline: The Preliminary Examination for the PhD program, should be completed within one year after passing all of the Area Examinations.

IMPORTANTStudents are not eligible to take the Final Examination (thesis defense) until two (2) full semesters (including summers) have been completed following the Preliminary Exam.  Students must be registered for research (ME69900) for these semesters.

Please see the Grad School calendar for the current semester preliminary exam deadline.  Please remember that all departmental approvals are needed by the deadline, in order for it to be considered complete, so allow enough time for responses to be entered in the system when scheduling.  Please note:  If a student completes the Preliminary Exam after the semester deadline, it is recorded as being completed in the following semester.  (For example, a student completes the prelim on August 9, 2021, after summer semester ended.  The prelim is recorded as being completed in the Fall 2021 semester, in which the student must also be registered for research.  But, the student will also need to be registered for Spring 2022 and Summer 2022, before they can schedule their Final Exam in Fall 2022 semester.)

To schedule a Preliminary Examination, the Graduate School ‘Form 8 - Request for Appointment of the Examining Committee’ must be submitted electronically no less than 3 weeks prior to the Preliminary Exam Date.  The link to the Form 8 can be found under the Plan of Study Generator in myPurdue. The Preliminary Examination Committee only needs 3 members of the graduate faculty to approve.  The Examining Committee members must be the same as the student’s Advisory Committee members. The Preliminary Examination must be fully approved before the last day of the semester to be considered as having been completed in that semester.

Once the student’s Form 8 has been approved, the major professor will receive an email that contains a link where they can electronically complete the exam rubric and identify attending examining committee members, after the preliminary exam has been held. The attending examining committee members will then receive emails with links as to where they can complete the exam rubric and electronically sign. 

(If you have a “special” appointment examining committee member, please contact so that a proxy form can be sent to the them.  They’ll need to complete and return, so the grad office staff can complete the electronic form on their behalf, as they will not have access to the Purdue systems.)

Thesis/Dissertation Office

It is highly recommended that you start working with the thesis/dissertation office as early as possible, so that you don’t require a lot of formatting changes, etc. close to your final defense and deposit.  They provide resources and assist you in the formatting, editing and depositing of your thesis and help make sure you are ready for your defense.  All thesis format reviews are done by this office.

New video series: Everything you need to know about formatting and depositing your thesis

The Purdue Thesis Office has published a series of videos detailing everything you need to know about formatting and depositing your thesis. You can watch the videos here:


ME Graduate Office
516 Northwestern Ave. (4th floor of Wang Hall)
West Lafayette, IN 47906
(765) 494-5730
Virtual office hours available every Tues/Wed/Thurs