Proficiency Examination Registration

Fill out the below form to register for the School of Information Studies Proficiency Exam. An Exam ID#, which you will use in place of your name, will be issued to you 1 week prior to the exam. 

Exams questions will be available via D2L to all students taking the proficiency exam. Receipt of the exam is your responsibility. 

  • NOTE: You must have completed or met the following prior to taking the exam: 
    • All required core courses; 
    • Completed 60% of the total coursework or have 12 credit hours remaining in your MLIS program;
    • ALL deficiencies for the program must have been met. 

Registration does not obligate a student to take the exam. (If you are registered to take the exam but decided not to take the exam please notify us at your earliest convenience.) However, once the exam is accessed (viewed, downloaded, printed, etc.) by a student from the SOIS online course management system the student is committed to completing the Proficiency Examination, i.e., access “counts” as a taking of the exam and the student is required to submit answers to two questions per the instructions provided.

See the Proficiency Exam Policy Here>>

Proficiency Examination Registration Form

MLIS Proficiency Exam - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Regulations of the UWM Graduate School require that all candidates for graduate degrees “demonstrate proficiency to integrate the knowledge of that discipline” in which they obtain a degree. The faculty of the School of Information Studies (SOIS) has determined that this requirement be met through successful completion of either a proficiency examination or a thesis. This FAQ deals with the proficiency examination, which consists of a list of approximately 8-12 questions that are distributed at the start of the Examination Period from which students select two questions to answer.

Questions include, but is not limited to, the following areas: Archives and Records Administration, Children’s and Young Adult Literature and Librarianship, Digital Libraries, History of Libraries, Computing, and Recorded Information, Information Architecture, Information Ethics, Information Law and Policy, Information Retrieval, Knowledge Management, Management of Libraries and other Information Organizations, Organization of Information, School Library, Media Technology and Services, Types of Libraries (public, corporate, medical, law, prison, etc. and other information settings).

Questions typically require students to draw upon content from more than one area in order to provide an adequate answer.

Students who have satisfactorily completed the required core courses (minimum grade of B) and, have completed 60% of their total coursework (21 credits for a 36 credit masters, 18 credits for a 30 credit masters) may take the exam. 
Questions are composed by faculty and staff and stress critical thinking or synthesis and connections across topics rather than a repeat of material covered in course work. Examiners may pose questions on emerging trends, unresolved questions or new applications. In short, having knowledge of “A” and “B” the questions prod students to seek “C”. The Proficiency Committee undertakes the responsibility for selecting the final form of the questions.
The answer must be:
  • typed or word processed
  • be a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12 double spaced pages using Times New Roman, 12 point setting, excluding cover page and endnotes.
  • In a consistent citation style, such as MLA, APA, Chicago, etc. Indicate the citation style on the title page.
You are expected to substantially document your answer with reference to relevant scholarly and professional literature in any of the usual citation formats; your references are not counted as part of the minimum and maximum page limits. In addition to content and style, your grade on the examination is also based, in part, on spelling and grammar. Your answer should be exclusively your own work and, you may not consult anyone else on the content, writing, or editing of your answer.

The exam is “take-home” but completed individually. Discussion of the questions or any part of a question with others during the examination period shall be considered grounds for a charge of academic misconduct.

The UWM online course management system (D2L) is used to administer the examination, which includes the distribution of questions, submission of answers and posting of results.

The exam begins (questions are accessible) at noon, Milwaukee time, on the fourth Friday of the semester (fall and spring).

Exams are due at noon, Milwaukee time, on the third Monday after the exam is distributed. This period allows students over two weeks including three weekends to work on the exam.

If you have a disability and require special arrangements for the exam, you must notify in writing the Committee Chair and the UWM Student Accessibility Center at least three weeks prior to the beginning of the exam. Any needed accommodations will be arranged with the advice of the Student Accessibility Center.


Faculty will have approximately 2 weeks to grade the examinations. Every attempt will be made to post the results of the examination the third Friday after the Examination Period ends.

Grading is anonymous in that faculty do not know which student has written a particular answer. Likewise, students do not know which faculty graded their answers. In order to accomplish, this students are assigned and label their answers with a random numeric identifier.

Exams are graded pass/fail. In order to pass the proficiency examination, both answers must receive a passing grade. In cases where a failed grade is given, the examiner shall include substantial reasons for the failing grade.


Students choosing the proficiency examination option must successfully pass the written examination. A student who fails the examination the first time may repeat it once. However, a student who fails the examination may not select the thesis option.

By UWM Graduate School policy, you may take the proficiency examination twice. Thus, if you fail the first time, you may take it again. A student who fails the exam initially will be counseled by the student's faculty mentor. The faculty mentor will advise the student on the reasons for failure with respect to their answers and ways to overcome deficiencies. If you fail the second time, you do not receive a degree.

In addition, you have all the appeal rights detailed under “Appeals of Academic Decisions” detailed in the Graduate School Bulletin. (Available at
Existing appeal procedures and standards apply, however, Step 1 appeals requesting a re-grade of a failed exam (one or both questions) are to the Proficiency Committee sitting as a whole. Where a member of the Proficiency Committee graded the failed question, their place on the committee shall be replaced by an ad hoc member of the SOIS Executive Committee.

A request for a Step 1 appeal must be received by the Chair of the SOIS MLIS Proficiency Committee within 30 working days. The 30 working day period begins on the day the results are posted on the SOIS online course management system (D2L).


Questions typically require not only that students present some general information learned in SOIS courses, but also that they present specific viewpoints, attitudes, and decisions based upon current professional and scholarly thought, practice and literature.

Students are expected to compose a well-organized and clearly articulated answer to the questions as asked, consistent with graduate level standards of composition. Students are asked to develop each argument with supporting information, placing a stress on why the question was answered as it was. References to appropriate and authoritative professional and scholarly sources of information are strongly encouraged. Faculty and Staff who grade the questions in their areas of expertise, seek specific information.

In preparation, students should consult recent scholarly and professional literature. Review your class notes, textbooks, and other readings you may have done during your coursework.
Once the exam period has begun and the questions have been made available, there should be no discussion of the actual questions with others until the exam period is concluded.  Such discussion shall be considered academic misconduct

MLIS Proficiency Exam Dates

The exam begins (questions are distributed) at 12PM (Noon) CST, on the fourth Friday of the semester (Fall and Spring).

Exams are due at 12PM (Noon) CST, on the third Monday after the exam is distributed. This period allows students over two weeks including three weekends to work on the exam.

Dates for Spring 2015

Sign-up Deadline: Friday, February 13, 2015
Exam Period Begins: February 20, 2015 12PM (Noon) CST (Fourth Friday of Fall Semester)
Exam Period Concludes: March 9, 2015 12PM (Noon) CST (Third Monday of Examination Period)

Register for the Exam

Exam Registration Form