MLIS Proficiency Exam Policy


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

The Examination Period

The exam begins at noon, Milwaukee time, on the fourth Friday of the fall and spring semesters, when the questions are made accessible on the UWM online course management software system (D2L).

Exams are due and are to be posted to D2L site at noon on the third Monday after the exam is distributed. This period allows students over two weeks, including three weekends, to work on the exam.

Registration & Orientation

The registration period for the exam begins on the first Monday of each semester and ends the Monday before the examination period begins. Students who have completed satisfactorily (minimum grade of B) the four required courses and in addition have completed 60% (21 credits for a 36 credit masters, 18 credits for a 30 credit masters) of their total coursework may take the exam.
Proficiency Exam Registration Form

Currently, there is no orientation.


Students select any two questions from a list of approximately 8-12 questions that are distributed at the start of the examination period.

The list includes questions from, 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.

Questions are composed by faculty and staff and stress critical thinking or synthesis and connections across topics rather than repeating material covered in course work. Examiners may pose questions on emerging trends, unresolved questions, new applications, etc. 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.

Answers are to be:

  • a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 12, double spaced pages using Times New Roman, 12 point setting, one-inch margins, and does not include endnotes.
  • A consistent citation style must be used throughout each answer. However, students may use an established citation style of their own choosing, such as MLA, APA, Chicago, Bluebook, etc. Students should indicate the citation style on the title page.

The exam is take-home and is to be completed independently (available through the UWM online course management system - D2L). 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.

Grading, Appeals and Re-takes: 

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.

Exams are graded pass/fail by individual faculty and staff. 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 failing one or both questions will fail the exam.

Students may retake the exam once for a total of two attempts.

Students, who are retaking the exam as a result of failing either one or both questions, must retake the entire exam, i.e., answer two questions.  

Existing appeal procedures and standards apply. However, Step 1 appeals requesting a re-grade of a failed exam (one or both questions) are to be directed to the SOIS 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.

NOTE: Students choosing the proficiency examination option must successfully pass a 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.