Specialization Exam

Starting in February 2014, the Specialization Exam is no longer a program requirement. Students who have already begun this exam may still submit the specialization exam, along with the appropriate condensed dissertation proposal. All other students are encouraged to follow the new dissertation proposal guidelines: https://www.albany.edu/eltl/phd_dissertation_proposal.php

When you have obtained agreement from faculty to serve on your committee, and appointed a chair, you and your committee will set the domains for your Specialization Examination. The Specialization Examination is the vehicle through which you demonstrate an understanding of the methodological and substantive issues in your area of specialization. It is intended to ensure that when the dissertation study is designed, it is current, significant, and theoretically and methodologically sound.

The Specialization Examination consists of two qualifying papers that integrate and critique the theory and research relevant to your dissertation research. One paper focuses on content issues, the second on methodological and related epistemological issues with which scholars in the substantive but narrowly defined domain of inquiry have struggled. These review essays will be comprehensive but selective in the material they include and will form the basis for the dissertation proposal and chapters in the dissertation. For example, the methodology paper will ultimately lead to, but not be the same as, the methods sections of the proposal or dissertation, which will detail a specific set of procedures with appropriate logic.

When can the examination be taken?

The Specialization Examination is scheduled at any time of the academic year upon the combined request of you and your Dissertation Chair.

How is the exam evaluated?

Your Dissertation Committee is responsible for judging the adequacy of the Specialization Examination papers, and the committee’s recommendation is forwarded to the entire faculty for departmental approval. Passing this examination implies that you have a command of your domain of specialization substantial enough to design a productive dissertation study. Approval of the Specialization Examination must be given before you can proceed to your Dissertation Proposal.

What are the criteria for evaluating the exam?

In the Specialization papers you will be expected to identify key theoretical and methodological issues represented in the field, making points clearly and supporting them adequately. Discussion of key issues should be grounded in one or more theoretical frameworks and show evidence of a substantial and critical review of relevant research.

What are my options if I fail?

If you fail the examination, the first option is to resubmit another exam. Before resubmitting the Specialization Exam, however, you must reconvene your Dissertation Committee to agree on the steps to be taken to prepare for resubmitting the exam. You have the ultimate responsibility for determining your preparedness for taking the test. You cannot be prevented from retaking the examination provided that the agreement described above has been made. The Department allows you to take the examination up to three times.

A second option is to appeal the results of the examination. This appeal must be made in writing to the Department Chair, who will bring it before the faculty for review and decision. This decision can be appealed to the Academic Standing Committee of the School of Education and that ruling may be appealed to the Graduate Academic Council. The GAC's ruling is final.