Exams Upon completion of the first six core courses – SWRK 803, 811, 852, and 855, and SOCI 535 and 536 (or an approved equivalent sequence of statistics courses) –all students must take a preliminary exam. Passing all sections of the exam is a prerequisite for continuation in the program. After completing the required coursework and passing the preliminary exams, the student defends his or her dissertation proposal. After the successful defense of the dissertation proposal, a student becomes a candidate for the PhD degree. A defense of the dissertation is the final examination. Passing this defense completes the requirements for the degree.