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Qualifying Exams (biomedical sciences)

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I was wondering if anyone in the hard sciences would be willing to share their experience with the Qualifying Exam. I understand that QE logistics can vary across programs but I'm just looking to get a general sense of what I should anticipate. Thanks to anyone who shares.  


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I don't know how you would define "hard sciences", but I did my quals and I'm in biophysics.

My quals composed of two sections -- a written proposal in a specific format for a national funding agency (i.e. NiH, NSF, AHA, etc.), and a verbal defense of the written proposal. After writing the proposal, the committee members have 2-4 weeks to review the proposal before your verbal defense. The verbal defense is a public seminar followed by public Q&A, and closed door, committee members-only Q&A.

Since I wrote my own proposal and was funded before my quals, I essentially used the same proposal with minimal edits. My committee was also very easy on me. They asked a few relevant yet simple questions for their curiosity. Hence, my experience of quals was a lot carefree compare to my preliminary exam (written responses to both textbooks and research/application questions, followed by verbal (private) defense).

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