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Exam 4
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Prospectus for the PhD Track in Religion and Science through the Graduate Division of Religious Studies at Boston University
(a.k.a. constantly updated, hyperlinked "Green Book")

Exam 1 | Exam 2 | Exam 3 | Exam 4 | Exam 5 | Role of Core Faculty

Overview of SPR Qualifying Examinations

There will be four written qualifying examinations followed by an oral qualifying examination focusing on the previous examination material.

Exam 1: Philosophy of Science Exam

More precisely, the title is History and Philosophy of Science and Religion but nobody will remember that. This is a written, closed book, proctored examination. Four hours will be allowed, with one extra hour for students whose first language is not English. Each exam involves a choice of questions but everyone in a sitting gets the same exam. The reading list for this exam is complex, with some sections being short and required and other sections long and indicative of the material to be mastered by the student.

This exam cannot be customized.

Exam 2: Philosophy of Religion Exam

This involves themes in philosophy of religion, in the broad sense where religion is understood as it is in the field of religious studies. Students are expected to understand historical ideas and arguments to make persuasive arguments in relation to themes in philosophy of religion. Four hours are allowed with one extra hour for students whose first language is not English.

This exam can be customized to suit the emphasis of a students program.

Exam 3: Specialty Exam

This exam is focused on one of the specializations covered in the Religion and Science track. The supported specializations are:

  • Cognitive and Evolutionary Study of Religion
  • Spirituality, Medicine, and Health
  • Psychology of Religion
  • Philosophy and History of Religion-Science Interactions
Students are expected to create their own reading list for this exam in dialogue with their advisors and mentors, though we furnish suggestions for the first three specializations. Four hours are allowed with one extra hour for students whose first language is not English.

Exam 4: Integrative Specialty Exam

This exam is focused on one particular area of the interaction among science, philosophy, and religion; ordinarily this area would be that of the anticipated dissertation. Each student chooses between a closed-book, four-hour examination or a long research paper. In either case, the student must draw up a bibliography customized to the topic in consultation with his or her faculty advisor and tentative dissertation advisors. The student also writes a single-spaced proposal on one side of one page for this exam, explaining the topic and approach. The proposal is evaluated and approved by the entire track faculty. Usually this exam is a literature review, which leads directly to the dissertation prospectus and often becomes incorporated into the dissertation itself.

This examination can be taken only after the first three exams are passed.

Exam 5: Comprehensive Oral Exam

This oral examination is conducted in the presence of at least two core track faculty members; other relevant faculty members are optional. This exam is taken only after the first four exams are passed.

Role of the Core Faculty

The procedures described assume that the core track faculty has both an oversight and an inspirational role. Oversight is important to regularize standards for diverse students and projects, as well as a large and diverse group of associated faculty drawn to work with our students. Both oversight and inspiration are important for fostering and guiding the idiosyncratic projects that emerge. The core faculty meet periodically to handle the obligations that oversight brings (oral exams, evaluation of proposals for the third exam, reading examinations, policy setting, etc.). Inspiration is the fun part.

There are, of course, many other faculty involved in student programs, and in many different ways.

Exam 1 | Exam 2 | Exam 3 | Exam 4 | Exam 5 | Role of Core Faculty

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