Competency and Comprehensive Exam Requirements

All PhD students must pass one comprehensive examination in the area of specialization in which they plan to write a dissertation. They must also demonstrate competence in elementary logic. Further details, including study materials, can be found below.

Area Comprehensive Examinations

The areas for which comprehensive exams are currently available are more specific than the areas that govern the distribution of courses. These are the examination areas:

Feminist Philosophy
History of Philosophy
Logic and Foundations of Math
Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy
Philosophy of Mind and Language
Philosophy of Science


Each area committee will decide on the format for the exam in its area and will administer this exam. Possible formats include, 1) having each student write a 4-hour sit-down exam on campus; 2) having each student write a 24-hour take-home exam with or without a short oral exam; and 3) giving each student the option between writing a 4-hour sit-down exam or a 24-hour take-home exam (again, with or without an oral exam). Exams are offered, as demand requires, in October, January, March, and August.  Sample examinations are available from the Graduate Program Assistant, and information about the exams is available from the Chairs of the Area Committees.

Students are expected to pass the comprehensive examination in their intended area of dissertation research by the end of their second year in the PhD program. 

Logic Competency

All students must demonstrate competence in this area and should aim to do in their first year. This requirement can be met, in the first instance, by writing an examination upon entering the program (typically in September). Students who do not wish to do this, or who fail an initial sitting of this examination, will have the opportunity to strengthen their background as needed and write the examination later in their first year. The examination is written, and is administered by the Logic and Foundations of Mathematics Area Committee. Examples of previous examinations are available from the Graduate Program Assistant.

Another option for meeting the logic competency requirement is to attend a specified honours undergraduate course in logic and pass the required course examinations with a strong mark.

Students will receive an exemption from the logic requirement if they can prove to the Chair of the Logic and Foundations of Mathematics Area Committee that they have obtained an “A” grade in a logic course that deals with the topics covered in the exam. These topics coincide with the contents of The Logic Book by M. Bergmann, J. Moor and J. Nelson.

Study Materials & Contacts

Logic Competency Exam (Contact: Chris Viger)
Sample Exam | Study Notes

Philosophy of Science Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Wayne Myrvold)
Reading List | Study Advice
Sittings are held in mid-August, mid-November and mid-February. 

Philosophy of Logic & Mathematics Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Chris Viger)
Sample Exam

Philosophy of Mind & Language Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Rob Stainton)
Mind and Language Exam
Mind Reading List | Mind Sample Exam
Language Reading List | Language Sample Exam

History of Philosophy Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Robert DiSalle)
General Exam Information
Reading Lists:  History  |  Ancient  |  Medieval  |  Early Modern (updated 05-14-2018) | Modern

Moral, Political, and Legal Philosophy Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Dennis Klimchuk)
Reading List and Bibliography  |  Sample Exam

Feminist Philosophy Area Comprehensive Exam (Contact: Helen Fielding
Reading List  |  Sample Exam