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Security Studies

Security Studies


Kansas State University
101D Calvin Hall
802 Mid-Campus Dr. South
Manhattan, KS 66506

Kansas State University
117D Calvin Hall
802 Mid-Campus Dr. South
Manhattan, KS 66506


Fort Leavenworth
Education Center

Audrey Ayers

PhD Exams

After completing coursework, the PhD student will take comprehensive exams, normally in the first semester after completion of courses. Under exceptional circumstances, students may request taking their comprehensive exams before the end of their coursework. The student's supervisory committee must approve this exception, and students should be aware that taking exams early might hinder their ability to properly prepare.

Necessary Paperwork

Students planning on taking exams in the current semester but who have not yet submitted a Program of Study need to do so immediately. You will not be able to submit the required paperwork for Preliminary Examinations until your Program of Study has been turned in. At least 30 working days prior to the start of your exams you must turn in a Request for Preliminary Examination Ballot. This document is signed by your major professor only. Students should notify the Security Studies administrative assistant (securstu@ksu.edu) if they've obtained the required signatures for their documents and submitted them to the Graduate School. Otherwise, students should email their forms to the Security Studies administrative assistant to obtain the necessary signatures and submit the forms. If you obtain the signatures yourself, please send a copy to the Security Studies administrative assistant to add the forms to your student file.

Both the Program of Study and the Request for Preliminary Examination Ballot are found on the Graduate School's website: http://www.k-state.edu/grad/academics/forms/

The Preliminary Examination Ballot will be e-mailed to your major professor. They will need to bring that ballot to the oral examination so that all examiners can sign the ballot at the completion of your exams. You will then need to obtain the signatures of your supervisory committee members. Once you have a signed ballot, please bring it by to the Department of Political Science (101D Calvin Hall) so a copy can be placed in your student file. The original must be submitted to the Graduate School within one week of the oral examination.

Exam Format

Comprehensive exams in Security Studies entail a written and oral examination, subdivided into a general field and a special field. The written component of the general field examination is one closed-book, 8-hour exam in the History of International Security, and one closed-book, 8-hour exam in the Politics of International Security (usually, these two exams will occur on successive days or two out of three days). An interdisciplinary Exam Committee of KSU Security Studies faculty, which may vary from year to year, will determine the precise format and administer the written general field exam. The student will be allowed to consult the history and political science reading lists in hardcopy form but will not be permitted to have any notes or other resources available during the examination.

  1. Reading List for History of International Security Exam

  2. Reading List for Politics of International Security Exam

Students should regard the reading lists as indispensable tools to help prepare them to be knowledgeable and independent thinkers. However, examiners also may pose questions on important Security Studies issues not specifically included in the readings. A successful exam does not merely summarize the findings of other scholars; it presents clear and well-argued theoretical arguments supported by the literature but rooted in the student's own ideas.

There is no guarantee that future exams will mirror the format of previous exams. Past general field written exams are available through the links below:

Spring 2015 exam questions (word)(pdf) 
Fall 2014 exam questions (word)(pdf)
Spring 2014 exam questions (word)(pdf)
Fall 2013 exam questions (word)(pdf)

The subject of the special field exam is chosen by the student in consultation with his or her PhD adviser and committee. The special field may be geographic in focus (post-Soviet states, Africa, or Latin America, for example) or thematic (civil-military relations, crisis bargaining models, or arms proliferation, for example). The precise format of the special field exam will be determined by the PhD adviser/examiner in consultation with the student's PhD committee.


Exam Procedures

At the beginning of each semester, the Director of the Security Studies Program will request notification from students planning on sitting exams that semester. Written comprehensive examinations will occur in November and April for the Fall and Spring semesters, respectively. The written portion of the general field exams for History and Political Science will take place during the first full week of November/April. The written special field exam (administered by the PhD chair) will take place during the second week of November/April. Each student taking comprehensive exams will coordinate a time and place for oral examinations with their PhD Adviser and the Exam Committee, with oral examinations held before the end of the same semester in which written exams are completed.

The Security Studies Director and administrative staff will arrange the time, location and necessary equipment required to take the general field written exams at a location on the KSU campus. The content of the general field exam will be the same for all students in any given semester, though it may vary from semester to semester, and all students taking comprehensive exams in a particular semester will do so simultaneously. The special field exam, being tailored to individual students, may be offered at different times and locations to be arranged by the student's PhD adviser.

The student will receive distinct grades on the History of International Security written exam, the Politics of International Security written exam, and the special field exam. The possible grades on the written exams are: High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail. Except for the grades, no additional comments about the written exam will be provided to students. A grade of Low Pass or higher is required on all three written exams for the student to proceed to oral examinations. Students who fail any written exam do not proceed to oral examinations and must retake only the failed written exam at the next opportunity. A second failure on any written or oral examination is grounds for dismissal from the program by the Security Studies Director.

Students who pass the written general field exams and the special field exam proceed to an individual oral exam with the same interdisciplinary Exam Committee which designed and evaluated the written components of the general field exams and the PhD advisor who designed and evaluated the special field exam. It is the student’s responsibility to organize a suitable time for the oral exam. Students should start the process of finding an oral exam time prior to written exams, as finding a time when all faculty members are available may require some effort. It is easier to cancel an oral exam in the event that you do not pass a portion of the written exams than to schedule oral exams at the last minute. You should schedule a two-hour block of time for your orals. Once you have a date and time agreeable to all, contact the Administrative Assistant for assistance in reserving a room.

The student will receive one overall grade for their exam efforts. The possible grades are: Distinction, High Pass, Low Pass, and Fail.