Examinations

Following Duke University policy, there are three examinations during the doctoral program:

  1. Qualifying Examination – administered after the first year to test the student’s basic technical skills and potential for research.
  2. Preliminary Examination – administered after the second year to test the student’s research capabilities.
  3. Final Examination – typically administered in the student’s fifth year to assess the student’s dissertation.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination in operations management consists of two components: a written examination and a summer literature review project.

At the end of the first year, a written examination covering the topics in the required courses will be administered.  Students who achieve excellent performance in required courses may, at the discretion of the doctoral committee, be exempted from the exam.  To be considered for exemption a student must:

  • Achieve a combined GPA of 3.5 or higher in required courses.
  • Receive no more than one B grade (or equivalent to a 3.0 grade point score), and no grade lower than a B (3.0 grade point), in required courses.

Students who do not meet the above criteria will be automatically required to take a written qualifying exam; however, even students who meet the above criteria may be asked to take an exam if the committee concludes that there is not sufficient evidence of exemplary technical ability.  Specifically, the doctoral committee will review the performance of students eligible for exemption at the end of the first academic year, and will decide whether to exempt each student, have them take the written exam, or defer the decision until a future term after additional coursework has been completed. Students who are not exempted will, in most cases, take the exam in summer following the conclusion of their first year.

The exam will cover some subset of the topics covered in the required courses, possibly including material from linear programming, advanced optimization, microeconomics, stochastic models, and the Fuqua OM course material; the precise topics are determined by the OM faculty in response to the needs of each particular student, and the students taking the exam will be notified in advance of the subjects to be covered.  Satisfactory performance on the written exam is required; poor performance may lead the faculty to require additional coursework, to retake the exam, or to depart the program.

In addition, at the end of the first summer, the student will submit a detailed literature review of a proposed research topic.  The review must be at least 10 pages in length (double spaced, 12 point font), and should include the history of developments in the proposed area of study, recent advances on the topic, and a preliminary proposal of interesting research opportunities on the topic.  The literature review will be completed under the supervision of a faculty member chosen by the student at the start of the summer.

A brief proposal (no more than two pages) for this literature review is submitted to the doctoral coordinator at the end of the spring semester of the first year; see the Expectations section for more information on this proposal.  The literature review itself will be read by the doctoral committee, who will offer comments on the quality of the review as well as the potential of the research opportunities identified in the review.  The doctoral committee will also review the student’s first year course grades, paying particular attention to essential courses in operations management, and the student’s performance on the written examination (if applicable), to assess the student’s overall performance in the doctoral program.

Preliminary Examination

The official preliminary examination in the OM doctoral program takes place at the start of the third year.  At this time, the student will submit a completed research paper that is, at minimum, 25 pages in length (double spaced, 12 point font).  This paper should be written in a style suitable for submission to a journal (i.e., with an introduction, literature review, model and analysis, and conclusion).  The paper should be completed under the supervision of a faculty member chosen by the student, and need not be a continuation of the literature review submitted the previous year (although we expect that most students will continue with the same topic).

A brief proposal (no more than two pages) for this research paper is submitted to the doctoral coordinator at the end of the spring semester of the second year; see the Expectations section for more information on this proposal. The student will present the completed paper in front of a committee of four faculty members, consisting of the OM doctoral coordinator, the student’s advisor, one additional OM faculty member, and one faculty member from outside the OM area.  The committee will offer comments on the quality of the work as well as the potential of the research to be published in a top journal. In addition, they will review the student’s second year course grades, paying particular attention to essential courses in operations management, and assess the student’s overall performance in the doctoral program, taking all of this information into account when determining whether the student passes the preliminary examination.

If the committee determines that the student has not shown sufficient potential to succeed in research based on the student’s grades and the research project, they may give the student a failing grade on the preliminary examination, ask the student to take additional courses, or ask the student to repeat the requirement by the end of the student’s third year in the doctoral program (i.e., to submit a revised paper and make a second presentation).  To proceed to the dissertation phase of the doctoral program, the student must successfully pass this preliminary examination once.

Final Examination

The final examination is a comprehensive presentation of the student’s dissertation (i.e., a “dissertation defense”), typically made in the spring of the student’s fifth year.  At this stage, faculty assess whether the student has shown sufficient mastery of methodology and research to submit their dissertation and be granted a Ph.D. from Duke University.  The final examination and subsequent submission of the dissertation are the final stages in the doctoral program.