Skip to main content

Goals for First Year Graduate Students

These goals apply to students entering the program in 2013 and subsequent years. Goals for students in the class of 2012 can be found here.

During your first year, students should complete:

  1. The three core course sequences
  2. If necessary, additional math training
  3. A demonstration of competence in the three core areas
  4. The spoken English requirements to permit receipt of a Teaching Assistantship in the second year

Core Course Requirements

In their first year, graduate students are required to take the following courses:

You do not formally register for Economics 401 which is held prior to the start of the Fall Quarter. For the other courses you must register for a letter grade.

During the Summer Quarter at the end of your first year, students receiving a University Fellowship will register for three units of Economics 590 on a pass/no credit (P/N) basis to maintain their full-time student status. Students who are not receiving University Fellowships need not register in the Summer Quarter for either University or immigration purposes.  However, students with external funding that provide for summer tuition are advised to register in the summer as it advantageous to complete the first eight quarters of high-tuition "residency" as soon as possible.

Additional Math Training

Registering for Economics 410, 411 and 480 each quarter is sufficient for you to be regarded as a full time student. However, we recommend that students who have not taken math through real analysis before entering Northwestern should serious consider taking an additional math course. For those who feel they need to take an additional course to improve their mathematical skills, the Department strongly recommends taking the Math Department's undergraduate Real Analysis course (Math 320-1) as a fourth course in the fall quarter. This course continues in the winter and spring quarters. This is a matter to discuss with your Advisor. Students with stronger mathematical backgrounds might consider the graduate level Analysis (Math 410-1,2,3). Some students have found that the optimization classes in the Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences Department (such as MECS 560-1) are useful. You can elect to take these courses using the pass/no credit (P/N) option, providing the course allows this option.

Demonstrate Competence in the Three Core Areas

In order to be admitted to the second year of the Ph.D. program, students must demonstrate that they have achieved competence in the three core areas of study: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and econometrics.

You can demonstrate competence in several ways:

  1. By achieving a 3.60 grade point average across all three quarters in a particular area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area;
  2. By passing the written preliminary examination in an area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area.
  3. Students who demonstrate competency in only one or two areas according to one of the above two criteria may nonetheless be determined to have achieved competence in all areas based on an overall evaluation of their performance in course work and preliminary examinations in all areas. Strong mastery of at least one area (as evidenced by course work and/or the area preliminary examination) will be treated as a positive factor in such an evaluation.

Preliminary examinations

The written preliminary examinations are held in mid- to late-July at the end of the student's first year. (Students cannot attempt the preliminary examinations in the summer prior to their admission to the program.) Dates for the current year preliminary examinations are given in the Graduate Connection newsletter.

Examination results:

Find past examinations: 

Language Requirement

The primary source of funding for graduate students in the second through fifth years is as a Teaching Assistant (TA).To serve as a TA, students must demonstrate proficiency in spoken English.  This can occur in a number of ways:

Students who fail to pass the test will receive information on English as a Second Language (ESL) programs offered by the Graduate School.  Students then have several options to demonstrate proficiency in spoken English:

Please take meeting the language requirement seriously. If the Department has not received notification of  satisfactory demonstration of proficiency by July 31, at the end of the first year, the student cannot be funded as a Teaching Assistant in their second year. This is a rigid Graduate School requirement, beyond the Department's control. The Department has a policy of not asking for waivers of this requirement. Otherwise qualified students have been denied Teaching Assistant funding in the past because they have not passed the language requirement.

Even students who are expecting to receive outside funding in their second year (for example, from a foreign government) are advised to meet this requirement as soon as possible during the first year. Outside funding rarely lasts for a student's full career at Northwestern, and passing the language requirement is a prerequisite for asking for Departmental financial aid in future years. Moreover, the University has a policy that students' must serve as a Teaching Assistant for at least one quarter during their time at Northwestern.

Back to top