Preliminary Exam

The rotation talk and preliminary exam are tools used to assess the organizational and conceptual abilities of the student in the context of his/her practical experience in the laboratory. The IGG faculty expect that each student will show evidence of his/her knowledge of immunological concepts that are consistent with his/her level in the program. The rotation talk and preliminary exam are administered by members of the IGG Student Affairs Committee. Both experiences serve as forums for faculty to evaluate the student’s knowledge of immunology, but they are different in terms of the depth of expertise required of the student.


Passing the Preliminary Exam is one of the major requirements for IGG students to advance to degree candidacy. The exam follows the student’s third rotation. PhD students take the exam in the spring of their second year; MD/PhD students take the exam in the spring of their first year as PhD students. The timing of the exam for VMD/PhD students varies as it depends on the semester during which the student began doctoral study.

Components of the Exam

The Preliminary Exam has three components: 1) a paper describing the research that is the basis for the exam; 2) a public, oral presentation; and 3) a closed oral examination before the committee.

The written work should be five pages in length including references with these formatting restrictions:

  • Font size – Arial, 11 point or Times New Roman, 12 point
  • Margins – 0.5 inches
  • Spacing – single, double or other spacing is fine.

The paper should take the form of a short manuscript similar to a JI Cutting Edge article or a JEM Brief Definitive Report (BDR). The paper should include relevant background and rationale for the hypothesis presented, a discussion of the systems used, the results, and discussion and brief future directions. The paper is due to the IGG coordinator one week before the date of the exam. You can view the write-ups of more advanced students on IGG’s Canvas page.

The public oral presentation should parallel the written paper. It is not required that the exact same data be presented but similar data should be discussed. The presentation is expected to be 25-30 minutes in duration. The examination will follow the presentation and will be based on the data presented during the formal talk—do not bring additional slides; the committee will not look at them. 

Rotation Supervisor Participation

It is expected that your rotation supervisor/PI will discuss with you and provide guidance on both your write-up and your presentation. We hope that s/he will discuss with you an outline of your proposal and review your written work. It is also expected that your PI will observe practices of your presentation. 

Results and Notification

You will receive feedback about your write-up and oral presentation at the conclusion of the examination. Within several weeks, you will receive notification of the Executive Committee’s decision regarding candidacy.