The purpose of the entrance examinations is twofold:
- To provide an opportunity for the student to review the preparatory work in theology upon which more focused doctoral study is based, giving occasion for evaluation of the candidate's readiness to proceed.
- To encourage a broadly based theological competence among all doctoral students that will produce an atmosphere for theological conversation that crosses the boundaries of particular disciplines.
Three-hour entrance examinations are given in six areas:
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- History of Christianity
- Systematic Theology
- Pastoral Care and Counseling
- Congregational Mission and Leadership
Candidates must choose four of the six areas in which to be examined, though they must sit for the examination in their own area of concentration. In addition, those students admitted in church history and systematic theology must also take the exam in systematic theology and church history respectively. All entering students are required to take the full series of entrance examinations prior to the first semester of the first year of residence. Dates are announced by the Office of Graduate Theological Education annually.
Each examination assumes mastery of a stated bibliography. These bibliographies and copies of sample examination questions are available only to accepted applicants and are mailed by the Office of Graduate Theological Education before the exams for individual preparation.
In their evaluation, readers expect the examination to exhibit summary knowledge of the field at the master of divinity or master of arts degree level, not the doctoral level. A passing grade is B or above.
Satisfactory completion of the examinations or their equivalent is determined by the faculty division, with results reported to the Office of Graduate Theological Education.
A student failing to pass the entrance examinations before the first semester of the second year of residence will be subject to dismissal from the program. Retention requires approval of the Graduate Committee. Continuation in the doctoral program is contingent upon successful completion of all required entrance examinations.