Year Three: Th.D. General Exams


Th.D. students are required to take general examinations as follows:

  • Two three hour written examinations in their field of concentration.
  • One three hour written examination in a special topic chosen and defined by the candidate in consultation with faculty members. This special topic may lie within the area of concentration or may engage other fields of disciplines of academic studies.
  • A two-hour oral examination before a committee consisting normally of at least three members of the faculty.

Please note the following special cases:

  • Comparative Religion Th.D. students are required to take, in addition, the Theory and Methods Exam. This exam is required for all Ph.D. students. Students in other fields have opted to take this extremely useful exam on a voluntary basis.
  • Hebrew Bible Th.D. students take their General Exams in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilization --NELC-- Department of Harvard Arts and Sciences. These students must fill out the same forms and keep the program administrators of both the Th.D. program and the NELC program advised of their intent to take Generals.

Please consult “The Recommendations and Rules for the PhD and ThD General Examinations” for additional information.

General exams are usually given in the middle two weeks of October and April. Students taking Spring Generals must file their "Notice of Intent to Take Generals" by an October deadline. Students taking the fall Generals must file their "Notice of intent to Take Generals" by a late March Deadline. The program office will send eligible students a reminder with the "Notice of Intent" form and a reminder of the exact deadline.

Students planning on taking Generals should meet with their advisors to discuss the areas in which they will be examined and the corresponding bibliographies (it's a good idea to begin thinking about and discussing these bibliographies even earlier in your program). Students then return the "Notice of Intent" together with the bibliographies to the Study of Religion Office by the deadline specified. The "Intent" form must be signed by a student's advisor. Each of the bibliographies must be signed by the examiner(s) responsible for that exam. The Director of Th.D. Studies reviews each proposal before approving a student taking Generals.

As you approach your exam, the program administrator will be happy to provide advice, support, and information as needed.

** The Th.D. program progress guidelines specify that all language requirements must be met and all incomplete coursework must be finished before a student is allowed to take general exams.