Junior Qualifying Exam

All students must take the Junior Qualifying Examination before entering their senior year. Ordinarily, the exam is taken in the second semester of the student’s junior year. Students are eligible to take the exam in our department only if they have already completed five units in Psychology, at least two of which are core courses. (Note: Interdisciplinary programs generally require taking a Qual from each participating discipline or a single special qualifying examination prepared by the two departments.)

Qual dates are typically held as follows:
February Qual
To qualify for senior status to attend fall semester of the following academic year.
- Held during the first weekend in February
September Qual
To qualify for senior status to attend spring semester of the current academic year.
- Held during the last weekend in September

Students taking the Junior Qualifying Examination in psychology are asked to summarize and evaluate a research article, and to design research that will answer a question suggested by the research article.  The goals of the qualifying exam are varied: to evaluate a student’s mastery of psychology; to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in student preparation for advanced study or thesis work in psychology; to assist students in unifying their knowledge of a major field; and to assist the department in assessing the effectiveness of our own program.

To aid in the definition and evaluation of these goals, we have developed a set of learning competencies, as outlined in the table below . With respect to assessment, each exam is assigned to two faculty readers who initially grade the exam separately. Both readers provide extensive comments and then meet to discuss and determine the final grade of the exam (pass, revise and resubmit, or fail). The exam is assessed according to the learning objectives outlined in the table below. After all exams have been graded, the department meets to discuss student performance.


Competencies students must possess to pass the junior qualifying examination.

Qual dates
Competency Area Specific Learning Objective

Knowledge Base in Psychology

Demonstrate broad understanding of subject area and working knowledge of appropriate terminology

Identify alternative interpretations in target articles

Apply ethical standards to evaluate psychological science and practice

Research Skills & Critical Thinking

Deconstruct and evaluate an empirical article

Understand statistical results in target article

Generate an innovative and integrative extension to target article

Demonstrate ability to develop cogent, testable hypotheses

Demonstrate an ability to formulate logical experimental designs

Apply ethical standards to proposed research

Articulate appropriate comparisons based on design

Identify strengths & weaknesses in proposed design

Articulate generalizability of findings for diverse set of populations (human or non-human)

Revise/resubmits: respond appropriately to constructive feedback

Communication: Written Expression

Demonstrate proofreading

Refine clear & concise scientific writing style

Critically analyze existing literature

Present arguments using a logical structure

Convey coherent ideas to non-experts

Strike an appropriate balance between too much and too little detail

Demonstrate application of APA style or scientific equivalent