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Learning Assessment

Graduate education at Cornell is diverse, cross-disciplinary, and dynamic.  While specific learning goals reside within the many academic programs, a set of overarching outcomes characterizes the graduate educational experience.

The maintenance of academic quality resides primarily with graduate field faculty and directors of graduate study, working through the Special Committee – the group of faculty providing primary advisement and academic oversight for each graduate student.

Faculty assess student performance through a variety of direct and indirect measures; these include:

  • the assignment of registration units, which record student progress semiannually;
  • official milestones such as qualifying exams (Q exams), administered early in an academic program, admission to candidacy exams (A exams) which assess breadth and depth in the discipline, the defense of the thesis (B exams); and
  • public presentations of scholarly work.

The Graduate School leadership works closely with field faculty in establishing and articulating goals, objectives, and rubrics through which the aims of graduate education can be met. Graduate education learning outcomes are communicated to students at the field and program level on websites, in annual student orientations, and by the Special Committee.

Monitoring time-to-degree and supporting faculty mentoring and student teaching are additional ways in which the Graduate School seeks to establish and uphold standards.