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International & Transcultural Studies
Teachers College, Columbia University
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International & Transcultural Studies

Students > Information for Doctoral Students

Information for Doctoral Students

The Department Examination

When to Take the Exams

Students are advised to take the department exam the semester after they have successfully completed both ITSF 4090: Issues and Institutions in International Educational Development and ITSF 4091: Comparative Education.  Topics and readings in the core classes are guidelines, and exam reviewers expect students to have read more broadly in the field. Every student has TWO opportunities to take the department examination; if a student does NOT pass the first time, he/she can retake once.  If a student also does NOT pass the retake examination, he/she can no longer continue in the IED or CIE doctoral program.

The department exam is offered twice during the academic year, once in October and once in February.  It is a three-hour morning exam that can be taken on the computer or hand-written.  Deadline to apply to take the department examination is the first Friday of the Fall semester for the October exam and the first Friday of the Spring semester for the February exam.

Students can obtain an Application for the Ed.D. or Ph.D. Doctoral Certification Examination from the Office of Doctoral Studies (ODS) (153 Horace Mann).  Students should fill out this application and have it signed by their advisor prior to the application deadline.  It is highly recommended that before a student returns an application (or any other paperwork) to the ODS he/she brings a copy of it to the IED/CIE Program Assistant for his/her student file.  Please take your time in filling out the application and do so correctly.  The Program Assistant would be happy to review any application or paperwork before it is returned it to the ODS.

If you are ONLY taking the department exam in any one semester, ONLY fill out SECTION I.

Please note the following when filling out SECTION I.

  • Question 1: Your department name is:  ITS - International & Transcultural Studies.
  • Question 2: Your program name is EITHER: International Education Development OR Comparative International Education
  • Question 3: Your examination is ONLY a retake if you did NOT pass the first time.
  • Question 4: If you are ONLY taking the department examination, check AM.  If you are taking both the department exam and the specialization exam in the SAME semester, check BOTH - this is not recommended.
  • Question 5: ONLY the advisor can approve an extra hour for a department exam which is normally given to students with documented disabilities or to students whose first language is not English.  A memo from the advisor must be included with the application.   The department exam can NOT be take-home.  It must be taken at Teachers College; therefore, do NOT check "DEPT."  If you require particular services, please check "S/A" and contact Mr. Richard Keller, Services for Students with Disabilities located in 162 Thorndike Hall, (212) 678-3689.
Students with disabilities:

It is highly recommended that you inform your advisor of your situation at the START of your doctoral studies, and not first when filling out an exam application.  Students can NOT expect a memo from their advisor immediately.  Please provide documentation of your disability to your advisor from the Services for Students with Disabilities Office.

Computer Information: If you do NOT mark anything in this section, you will be hand-writing your exam.  Please ONLY choose to handwrite your exam if you have exceptionally neat handwriting. It is to your disadvantage if exam reviewers can NOT read your handwriting!

If you decide to cancel taking the exam at some point between filing your application and the exam date, please alert the Program Assistant first and then the ODS (attention: Aida Christian).

Layout of the Department Examination

There are four questions and you CHOOSE ONE. For the question you choose, be sure to sufficiently:

  1. Explain the concepts/perspectives addressed in the question.
  2. Present relevant studies and names and dates of scholars in the field that relate to the question.
  3. Critically reflect on the usefulness of the concepts/perspectives addressed in the question.

An average exam is 8-12 pages in length. The student must show critical, reflective thought and analysis.

Department Exam Preparation

Please ask the Program Assistant for past department exam questions from which to study as well as the most recent syllabi for ITSF 4090 and ITSF 4091.

Every student needs to know his/her most successful approach to studying. The following are recommendations that many students have found particularly useful in preparing for the department exam:

  1. Create a small (3-4 people) study group.  You can obtain a list of names and email addresses of other doctoral students taking the exam from the Program Assistant.  It is recommended that you form study groups with students who have taken different sections of ITSF 4090/91 than you.
  2. Decide with your study group members when you will meet and how you will divide the re-reading of the course material.  Study groups begin to meet 6 weeks prior to exam OR during the summer/winter breaks or semester before the exam.
  3. Contact doctoral students who have successfully passed the department exam for their advice on how to study for the exam.  You can obtain a list of names and email addresses of these doctoral students from the Program Assistant.
  4. Take at least 2 practice exams under the same conditions in which you will take the exam.  Create exam questions with your study group and take mock-exams at the same time and in a similar environment as the actual exam.  Review each other's exams.  This will allow you to best gauge how to split up your 3-hour period in appropriate time increments, for example: review of questions, outline, writing, and revising/editing.
  5. Sleep, eat, and rest well.

The Day of the Department Exam

Applicants should be in their assigned rooms at 8:45am for the AM session, which starts at 9:00 a.m. and lasts until 12:00 p.m. A dictionary - electronic or hard copy - is allowed during the examination.  Earplugs are also allowed as is blank paper and a pen/pencil. Food/drink is not allowed in the lab.

The ODS does not notify students of room assignments. Room assignments are available:

  • on bulletin boards in 153 Horace Mann (ODS) and opposite 148 Horace Mann one week before the exam date.
  • on the day of the exam at the Information Desk 1 st floor Main Hall (212) 678-3777 and the Thorndike Lobby-Security desk.

If taking the exam on the computer, bring ONE (1) blank formatted disk.

After the exam, students are invited to the IED/CIE Program Office (374 GDH) for a celebration!

Please keep in mind:

Past exam questions will NOT reappear on future exams. Questions will be of similar genres but will not be identical in content.