Written Qualifying Examination

The Written Qualifying Examination, a requirement of the Postdoctoral Master's Degree Program, demonstrates your ability to integrate and synthesize the core competencies of the program.

You are eligible for the Written Qualifying Examination after your research proposal packet has been submitted to and approved by the CCaTS Master's and Certificate Programs Executive Committee, and within six months of completion of the following courses. To be eligible to take the exam, your GPA for these six required courses must be 3.0 or higher.

  • CTSC 5010: Clinical Research Proposal Development (spring, fall).
  • CTSC 5370: Introduction to Epidemiology (summer, winter).
  • CTSC 5390: Advanced Applied Epidemiologic Methods (fall).
  • CTSC 5600: Introduction to Statistics in Clinical and Translational Research (summer, winter).
  • CTSC 5602: Introduction to Utilizing Statistical Software in Clinical and Translational Research (summer, spring).
  • CTSC 5610: Statistics in Clinical and Translational Research: Linear Regression Concepts, Interpretation, and Statistical Software (fall).

Scheduling your exam

The exam is typically offered the third Tuesday of January, April and September. Discuss a proposed exam date with your education coordinator/specialist as you map your plan toward graduation. Approximately three months prior to your planned exam date — after all grades for the exam required courses have been posted — verify with your Education Coordinator/Specialist that you are officially registered for the exam. If you need to change your exam date, notify your education coordinator/specialist immediately.

Note: Exams are limited to 15 scholars a session.

Approximately one month prior to the exam date, registered scholars are provided with the exam guidelines and a copy of a previous exam to review.

Exam details

The CCaTS Master's and Certificate Programs Executive Committee has approved these requirements for the Written Qualifying Examination:

  • The exam is administered remotely on a computer. Use of physical books and handwritten or printed notes is permitted. You are not permitted to search the internet or access electronic notes. Any class notes you want to use must be printed. Be sure your exam environment is free of distractions. The use of smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices is prohibited during the exam.
  • You have six hours to complete the exam, with three hours devoted to each of the two exercises:
    • One session involves reviewing a journal article according to the Journal of the American Medical Association's "Users' Guides to the Medical Literature."
    • One session involves a hypothetical clinical problem. You are asked to define the research question and outline a research design that addresses this question.
  • The Written Qualifying Examination may not be taken more than twice. In alignment with Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences policy — log in to the Mayo Clinic network to access — failing the exam twice results in dismissal from the Postdoctoral Master's Degree Program.


Members of the CCaTS Written Qualifying Examination Subcommittee review the exams and provide written evaluations. Exam results take up to eight weeks to receive. The CCaTS Education Coordinator will notify you of your exam results.

At the discretion of the exam chair, CCaTS may require you to take an oral exam after the Written Qualifying Examination. A 30-minute oral exam would then take place within three weeks with multiple faculty members from the CCaTS Written Qualifying Examination Subcommittee. The intent of this oral exam is to determine whether you have sufficiently mastered the core material, and it will not necessarily focus exclusively on the written examination.

CCaTS will determine your exam grade based on the written and oral exams and forward it to Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Grade categories are:

  • High pass.
  • Pass.
  • Fail.

If you receive a failing grade on your exam — or the combined results of your written exam and subsequent oral exam, if applicable — you will meet with your mentor to develop a plan of remediation that addresses areas of deficiency and send it to your education coordinator/specialist.

CCaTS requires you to retake the exam after the period of remediation. It must be retaken within one year of the original exam date.