Graduate School Requirements

The student is responsible for all Graduate School requirements whether listed here or not. Field requirements may be more stringent than Graduate School requirements in some instances. Please review the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty for a thorough overview of policies regarding graduate studies at Cornell.

  • Student progression toward an advanced degree is determined not only by the quality of work completed (through faculty evaluations and formal exams), but also the length of time spent in the pursuit of the degree. For research degrees, the Graduate School measures this progress in terms of registration units (RUs). Ph.D. candidates are required to obtain a minimum of six registration units (equivalent to six semesters of study at a satisfactory level). Two of these six RUs are required after the A exam. At least one-half of the RUs earned toward the above requirements must be earned from full-time, academic-year study on the Ithaca campus.
  • All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within seven years of the first registration in the Graduate School.
  • A Ph.D. candidate may be granted a maximum of two residence units for a Master’s degree earned at Cornell or at another institution. To complete this transfer, the Request for Transfer of Registration Units form is required.
  • Students are required to take two examinations: a comprehensive admission to candidacy examination (the “A exam”) after the student has earned at least two residence units, and a final examination after completion of the dissertation (the “B exam”).
  • Students must complete a dissertation.