Goals for First Year Graduate Students
These goals apply to students entering the program in 2019 and subsequent years. Goals for students in earlier class can be found in the relevant student handbooks.
During your first year, students should complete:
- The three core course sequences
- If necessary, additional math training
- A demonstration of competence in the three core areas
- The spoken English requirements to permit receipt of a Teaching Assistantship in the second year
In their first year, graduate students are required to take the following courses:
- Economics 401 Mathematical Methods for Economic Theory
- Economics 410-1,2,3 Microeconomics
- Economics 411-1,2,3 Macroeconomics
- Economics 480-1,2,3 Econometrics
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 register for three units of Economics 590 on a pass/no pass (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 is advantageous to complete the first eight quarters of high-tuition "residency" as soon as possible.
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 seriously 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).
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:
- By achieving a 3.40 grade point average across all three quarters in a particular area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area;
- By passing the written preliminary examination in an area, the student has demonstrated competence in that area.
- Students who only demonstrate competency in two of the three areas according to one of the above two criteria may nonetheless be determined to have achieved competence in the third area by achieving a 3.00 grade point average (GPA) across all three quarters in that particular area.
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.
- In most circumstances, students will be informed whether they have demonstrated competency in all three areas of study by mid-August.
- An "M.A. Pass" is also obtainable on the written preliminary examinations. It is sufficient for a Masters Degree if the Economics 410, 411 and 480 sequences have been completed with a 3.00 grade point average, but it is not sufficient for staying in the Ph.D. program.
Find past examinations:
- Visit our Preliminary Examinations page to access PDF versions of examinations for recent years.
- A username and password are required. Please contact the Graduate Program Manager if you have forgotten these.
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 whose countries of origin are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States are exempt from demonstrating proficiency in spoken English.
- Students from other countries who scored 26 or higher (out of a possible 30) on the Speaking Section of the TOEFL Internet-based test taken prior to entry to Northwestern will have demonstrated proficiency in spoken English.
- All other students are required to take the Versant English Test which is administered soon after arrival at Northwestern in the weeks prior to the start of the Fall Quarter. Students must score at least 65 (out of a possible 80) on the Versant English Test to be eligible to be a TA.
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:
- Retake the Versant English Test and score 65 or higher (out of a possible 80).
- Retake the Versant English Test and score 63 or 64 on two separate occasions. The tests with these scores need not be consecutive.
- Take the SPEAK test and score 50 or higher (out of a possible 60).
- Enroll in Linguistics 480 The Language of Teaching and Teachers and demonstrate the required level of English proficiency during the face-to-face teaching demonstration required as part of this course.
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