Doctoral Qualifying Examinations
The doctoral qualifying examination in SHBT is jointly administered by the SHBT curriculum committee and student tracking committee. The qualifying exam requires that students progress through a two-step process:
- Demonstrate technical competence in the speech and hearing sciences based on coursework in the core curriculum
- After successful completion of Step 1, pass an oral qualifying exam in a chosen concentration area
SHBT Core component of the Qualifying Exam
The core component of the qualifying exam is based on performance in the six SHBT Core subjects:
- Acoustics of Speech and Hearing
- Biology of the Inner Ear
- Anatomy of Speech and Hearing
- Speech Communication
- Neural Coding and Perception of Sound
- Clinical Aspects of Speech and Hearing
These six subjects are normally taken in the first year of study, and must be taken by the fourth semester.
The most efficient way to pass the core component of the qualifying exam is to demonstrate competence in the core disciplines by earning at least four A's and two B’s in the six core subjects.
Those students not meeting the above criteria may be assigned a remedy at the discretion of the curriculum and student tracking committees. Examples include:
- Retake the course(s) that have not yet been mastered.
- After suitable preparation, retake the final exam and earn a grade indicative of a firm grasp of the subject matter (as specified by instructor).
- After suitable preparation, take an oral exam conducted by the faculty member(s) who taught the course(s) (with a P/F outcome).
- In some cases, earn an 'A' in a more advanced subject.
- If suitable, serve as a teaching assistant for the course or a related course.
Once the student has taken all the required core subjects (but no later than the student's fourth semester), the student tracking committee reviews the student's performance in the core subjects. Continued registration after four semesters of study requires successful completion of the core component or explicit permission from the student tracking committee.
Successful completion of the core component is a prerequisite for taking the oral qualifying exam.
Concentration Area and Oral Qualifying Exam
After completing the core curriculum, students select an area of concentration from among the following:
- Physiology and Neuroscience
- Perception and Cognition
- Signal and Systems Analysis
- Speech and Language
- Speech-Language Pathology
With the exception of those concentrating in Speech-Language Pathology, all students must complete a research project and related coursework beyond the Core Curriculum. The additional coursework normally consists of a coherent set of four graduate courses within the area of concentration. These courses may be chosen from the entire range of subjects offered by Harvard and MIT and may include one of the electives offered by SHBT faculty.
The Speech-Language Pathology concentration is jointly administered by SHBT and the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, and has distinct requirements.
In consultation with a Concentration Area chairperson, students submit a Plan for Concentration Area form to the SHBT Program by June 1 of the second year of registration.
Research progress and mastery of fundamental concepts in the concentration are tested in the Oral Qualifying Exam, which must be taken by the end of the third academic year. In consultation with a Concentration Area chairperson, students submit a Request for Oral Examination form to the SHBT Program by August 31 of the third year of registration.
The Oral Qualifying Exam has two components:
- Preparation of a written description of a research project that makes uses of the tools learned in the concentration courses. This document may be a draft of the future dissertation proposal. Students give an oral presentation of the research in the concentration.
- Questions by the exam committee to probe the student's understanding of his/her concentration and related research.
Possible outcomes are pass, conditional pass (pass after completing a remedial plan and requiring no further examination), oral examination to be continued at a later date, or failed. A continuation allows students to improve their understanding of a specific aspect of the concentration, e.g. by doing additional coursework or serving as teaching assistant in a relevant course.
Passing the Oral Qualifying Exam is a prerequisite to submitting a dissertation proposal