Specialty Field Exam

Specialty Field Exam

Each student takes the Specialty Field written (comprehensive) exam in the area he/she has chosen at the end of the second year. The specialty field examination should emphasize the students’ understanding of the major concepts, theories, and findings in their specialty field, and be able to apply this knowledge to the health care field.

The criteria used to evaluate the student’s performance include:

  • A sound understanding of the core knowledge of the field
  • Demonstrated ability to apply the specialty field to the health care field
  • Demonstrate the potential to teach graduate-level classes in health economics, organizations and management, or politics and policy

Health Economics Exam: Students will be accountable for the contents of the entire Handbook of Health Economics (edited by Culyer and Newhouse) for the specialty field exam. Furthermore, the exam requirements consist of core material required of all students and one of five areas chosen by each student. The exam will be based on material covered in the following classes but will be in the context of health issues:

  • Econ 201A and either PH 226B or PH 226E required of all economics students
  • Public Finance – Econ 230 A,B
  • Labor economics – Econ 250 A,B
  • Industrial organization – Either Econ 220AB or Econ 220A and Econ 220C
  • Development/demography – Either Econ 270AB or Econ 270A and Econ 275A
  • Institutional economics – Econ 220A, IDS 270
Organizations and Management Exam: Students will be held responsible for the content of the most recent syllabus of each of the six core courses. However, aside from PH224C and PH224D, students are not required to take these courses. They may select other specialty field courses on the list, but should have the reading lists from all six core courses and make sure they understand the content of these courses.

Population Health Sciences Exam: Students will be held responsible for the content of the most recent syllabus for each of the core specialty field courses.

The Exam Committee

A three-member faculty committee will write each examination and evaluate the students’ performance.  The specialty field faculty leaders (health economics, organizations and management, behavioral and community sciences, and population health) can allow a non-group faculty member to serve on this committee.

Students should meet with their exam committee at least two months before their scheduled date in order to discuss the focus of their study and preparation.  A reading list and question bank will be developed by each exam committee and will be available from the program office.  The questions will be sent directly to the program manager two weeks prior to the exam date. The exam date is scheduled by the program manager.

Examination Procedures

The specialty field exam is to be taken at the completion of the second year of the program.  All students within the same specialty field area will take the same examination at the same time.  The examination is written, four hours in length, in class, and generally requires the student to spend the minimum of one hour on each of three questions.

The program manager will arrange for staff or faculty offices to be used for the exam, one for each student.  Unless there are religious objections, arrangements will be made for a Saturday exam date in order to assure a quiet, undisturbed environment.  An office with a computer will be assigned for use.  Students are not allowed to use their own laptops, nor can they have any personal equipment or items with them during the exam.

The program manager will administer the examination.  Students will be given time (approximately 10 minutes) to familiarize themselves with the keyboard and computer.  At the start of the exam period, students will be given a blank notepad and pen for notes, graphs, etc.  Requests for ergonomic equipment or special consideration during the exam must be made at least two weeks before the scheduled exam in order to be reasonably accommodated.

The time for each student is kept separately since breaks are taken as each individual requires them. Students are encouraged to bring drinks or snacks as needed, but are asked to not talk to each other during the exam period.  At the end of the time period, the program manager will verify that the exam is readable on the flash drive and print out a copy of it for each student to take with him/her.

Grading the Exam

After the exam the program manager will send evaluation forms and a copy of the exam responses to the exam committee.  Each question should have a minimum of two graders.  Exam grades should be returned to the program manager within 2-4 weeks.  Students will be notified of their results in writing.  Graders’ comments are kept anonymous, and a summary sheet with grades and comments for the student will be compiled.

Grading is high pass, pass, low pass, and fail for each question.  A grade for the entire examination is determined by consensus and transmitted from the specialty field chair to the program manager and Program Director.

Students can take the examination only twice. The examining committee decides whether a student needs to re-take a given part (i.e. question) of the exam or the entire exam.  The committee can also decide whether the same question(s) is to be re-taken or can select new questions from the question bank for that specialty exam. Two failures will require that the student be asked to leave the program.