PiN students are required to take a Preliminary Qualifying Examination (PQE) on or before March 31 of their second year. The PQE is a written and oral examination of a specific research proposal, which students typically write on their proposed dissertation topic. Preliminary data are NOT required for the PQE. The research proposal provides the focus of the PQE, but students are also expected to demonstrate substantial knowledge and understanding in areas of science that relate to their proposal. Examiners may ask questions about actual or hypothetical results and their interpretation in order to probe students’ level of understanding. The examination is oral and will typically last around two hours.
Students are given substantial guidance in preparation for their PQE. The Discipline of Neuroscience first-year course includes a component which trains students in proposal writing. Additionally, students are given many opportunities to practice giving talks before their PQE, including a “PQE Club” in which second-year students enlist the help of more senior students in preparing their oral presentation.