General Examination

To do:

The General Exam must be completed by the end of third year Winter Quarter for MCB students and the end of second year Summer Quarter for MSTP/MCB students.

Graduate School General Exam Policies:

NOTE: You must schedule the General Exam online at least three weeks before the exam date. The warrant and other information will be sent via email by Maria within two weeks of you submitting the warrant to the Graduate School. If you have not received this information, please contact the MCB Office.

General Description

Download: General Exam Format

Only a single proposal (formerly known as the 'primary' proposal) is to be prepared. This proposal is explicitly focused on the student's thesis research.This proposal must be in the committee members' hands two (2) weeks prior to the general exam. A copy of this description of the proposal and exam format should be provided to each committee member at the time that the proposal is submitted.  

The proposal should be written by the student. The student’s mentor may provide feedback on the Specific Aims and on a preliminary draft of the Approach. However, it is expected that the final version reflects the student’s ideas.

The written format is similar to that of an NIH R01 grant with a few exceptions described below. There are many resources for examples and advice on R01 grant writing.  For example, the following link from NIAID has samples and advice:

Format of Writtten Proposal

Begin with an abstract of not more than 300 words, which encapsulates the primary goal(s) and motivation of the research, the significance of the research, and the choice of experimental approach in broad, general language. This abstract should be written in the style used on 'page 2' of an NIH proposal, and should be accessible to any molecular-cellular biologist. Technical jargon and acronyms should be avoided. This will be followed with your Specific Aims page (one page) that also highlights the Significance of the problem you are addressing.  The core of the written proposal is your Research Strategy. The Research Strategy should include important Background, and any Preliminary Results you have. The longest part of the Research Strategy will describe your Approach.  Be sure to include possible pitfalls, alternatives, and talk about how you will interpret results. You should design experiments that roughly correspond to the amount of work one person can accomplish in a 3-year time span.

The proposal should use 12-point font, 1-inch margins, and be single spaced with double space between paragraphs.  In general, this should correspond to no more than 10 typed pages including References and figures. We are not strict about page limits, but your committee does not want to read anything longer than this, and may well appreciate something shorter. No “supplemental” material should be supplied.

After handing in the proposal to their committee, the student is encouraged to contact committee members to inquire about possible areas of questioning.