Qualifying and Field Exams

The Economics Department offers three different types of qualifying exams. Master's students are required to take one comprehensive applied micro/macro theory exam in order to qualify for degree conferral. Doctoral students are required to take preliminary exams in microeconomics and macroeconomics, as well as field exams in the two fields of their choice in order to qualify for advancement to candidacy.

Qualifying exams are generally held during the two weeks prior to the first day of classes for the fall and spring semesters. The exact dates may vary and are usually set 12 weeks before the beginning of each semester. The deadline to register for field exams is six weeks prior to the date of the 1st scheduled exam. Students may register for comprehensive and preliminary exams up until the week before the date of the first scheduled exam.

Qualifying exams are only offered to current graduate students in the economics department. All students must pass the required courses prior to registering for qualifying exams. Students taking theory exams (micro and macro) must pass the micro and macro course sequences (core courses) prior to taking the exams. Students taking field exams must pass at least two courses in each of their fields and must have passed both theory exams prior to taking the exams. Any exceptions must be approved by the Director of Economics Graduate Programs.

A student must be active in the university system to be allowed to sit for the exams.

PhD STUDENTS: Students have two attempts at each exam. Consult the PhD section for more information on the consequences of failing exams.

MA STUDENTS (ON-CAMPUS): Students have multiple attempts at the comprehensive exam. Consult the MA section for more information on the consequences of failing exams.

STUDENTS ON FUNDING: Students in receipt of department funding must attempt the preliminary exams before the start of their third semester in the economics program, unless notified to the contrary by the Director of Economics Graduate Programs.

Each exam is a 3-hour, closed book exam administered online using Blackboard functions. You may use a calculator, but computing devices that store or access alphabetical text are prohibited. Strict candidate anonymity will be maintained through the grading process. It is expected that students adhere to Mason's Honor Code as it relates to academic integrity.

Appealing Exam Results

In general, qualifying and field exam results are not subject to appeal. Only in exceptional cases, as determined by the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP), will a review of an exam be undertaken. All appeal requests must be submitted, in writing, to the DGP by emailing at econgrad@gmu.edu . The request must detail the exceptional circumstances motivating the appeal request. The DGP will review the appeal request and make a determination as to whether to recommend that the exam committee review the exam.


Last updated:  12/20/21