Ph.D. Admissions Process

Doctor of Philosophy Admissions

The Office of Ph.D. Studies invites all eligible persons to complete the application as specified in the directions on the Online Application page. Admission to the Ph.D. program is selective and is offered only to students who have demonstrated the intellectual ability, preparation and motivation to perform academically at the highest level. Enrollment in the program is limited to applicants who, in the judgment of the faculty, appear best qualified and most capable of using the resources that the seminary provides. Additional information about Ph.D. programs are below:

Delivery Types of Ph.D. Study Area of Ph.D. Study Cost of Ph.D. Study

Programs at a Glance

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Admission Application Requirements

Admission to the program is competitive. The following prerequisites for admission are for self-screening purposes and only establish the opportunity to apply to the Ph.D. program.
Preference will be given to applicants who have completed the following core courses or their equivalents:

  • New Testament I, II (6hrs.)
  • Old Testament I, II (6hrs.)
  • Greek I, II (6-9hrs.)*
  • Hebrew I, II (6-9hrs.)*
  • Doctrine Survey I, II (6hrs.)
  • Church History I, II (3-6hrs.)**
  • Hermeneutics (3hrs.)
  • Baptist History (3hrs.)***

* Biblical language expectations depend on applicant’s given area of study
**Applicants must have studied the Patristic, Medieval, Reformation and Modern eras.
***Baptist History is required for applicants pursuing Historical Theology

Admission Application Consideration

Competitive applications demonstrate a further specialization in their desired area of study. It is the student’s responsibility to distinguish himself or herself in the following areas:

    • Approved MDiv or research MA*
    • G.P.A. (3.5 and above)
    • Acceptable GRE score
    • References
  • Writing sample (4-6k words including footnotes)
  • Personal Statement
  • Major Professor Evaluation
  • Entrance Exam

*Approved Master of Divinity degree or research Master of Arts degree are the same field in which one wishes to pursue doctoral studies as long as that degree and its prerequisites meet MDiv equivalence. Typically, SEBTS research masters degrees meet this requirement.

Application Process Step by Step



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Frequently Asked Questions

Can the GRE be waived?

We require all our applicants to take the GRE and submit their score as part of the application process.

Where can I find information about the GRE?

Information about this test is available at

Which GRE test is required?

The General Test is what we require. The General test has 3 scored sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing

How do I send GRE scores to SEBTS?

When you take the exam, you’ll be asked what schools you want the scores sent to. You should be able to search for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary or use the school code for SEBTS - 5620.

Do I need to worry about the math section of the test?

We do not evaluate the Quantitative Reasoning section of the test. Some applicants just skip that section and receive a “NS” which means “No Score.”

What scores do you look for in the other sections?

A median score for Verbal Reasoning is 155 and a median score for writing is 4.0

When do I need to take the GRE?

We recommend taking the exam as soon as possible, since it can take 4-6 weeks for us to receive scores.

How long does it take to get the GRE scores once the test is taken?

Scores are typically received 4-6 weeks after the test has been taken.

Can I submit an old test score?

You may submit a score that is no more than two years old.

What is the committee looking for in my writing sample?

We ask applicants to submit a 4,000 – 6,000 words (including footnotes), thesis driven writing sample.

  • This sample should have been written at the graduate level of study.
  • We prefer the paper to be in your chosen area of study.
  • We are looking for papers that demonstrate a proper use of primary and secondary sources, and display research and argumentation suitable for PhD level studies.

Does my writing sample have to be previously graded?

It does not, though, if you do use a previously graded paper, be sure to incorporate your professor’s feedback into your final draft.

What if my best writing sample is greater than 6,000 words?

We encourage you to edit the paper down to try to get under 6,000 words. We don’t actually count the number of words, but if we notice that your writing sample is more pages than it should be, we’ll ask you to submit a different sample.

May I use just a chapter from my thesis then for my writing sample?

You may be able to do so, but it will take some effort on your part as we require a stand-alone paper that has a thesis, clear argumentation, and a conclusion. Typically pulling a chapter from your thesis will not meet all those requirements because you refer to earlier arguments or push others off until later which your paper judge won’t be able to see.

What transcripts are required?

Official transcripts from ALL schools that you have previously attended post high school are required.

Does that mean if I have an MBA, a M. Ed, a law degree or another degree that is not theologically related that I need to request that transcript be sent also?

Yes, it does.

Why are transcripts required?

Besides being an accreditation requirement, transcripts are required so that we may confirm that you have the coursework necessary to be successful in our program, and that you will be able to handle the rigor of doctoral level work.

What is MDiv Equivalency?

To meet MDiv Equivalency, applicants must have completed 60 credit hours of study with at least 49 credit hours completed at the graduate level. In addition, the following courses must be completed.

  • NT Survey I, II (6hrs.) ​​Doctrine Survey I, II (6hrs.)
  • OT Survey I, II (6hrs.) ​​Church History I, II (3-6hrs.)**
  • Greek I, II (6-9hrs.)* ​​Hermeneutics (3hrs.)
  • Hebrew I, II (6-9hrs.)* ​Baptist History (3hrs.)***

* Biblical language expectations depend on applicant’s given Area of Study
**Applicants must have studied the Patristic, Medieval, Reformation and Modern eras.
***Baptist History is required for applicants pursuing Historical Theology and Theological Studies: Historical Theology
These courses can be completed at the undergraduate level. We will accept a maximum of 27 credit hours from the undergraduate level.

After that explanation, I am not sure whether I have all the coursework required? How can I check?

We are happy to look over your transcripts and evaluate them to confirm that you meet our MDiv Equivalency requirements. You can email unofficial transcripts to

If I need additional coursework, do I have to stop the application process?

Every situation is unique. However, most applicants with 1-2 required courses can proceed through the application process while completing their leveling work.

Do I have to take the courses that I am missing from SEBTS?

You are welcome to take the coursework from any accredited institution.

Will my GPA from my undergraduate degree be considered?

No, we only look at all your “Graduate” level work to determine whether your GPA is 3.5 or above.

Will my MBA or other graduate degrees that have no theological coursework beconsidered in my overall GPA?

Yes, ALL graduate level work is considered when calculating an applicant’s GPA. We expect an applicant to have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5 on ALL previous master’s level work.

What are my options if my GPA is too low?

If you just missed the mark but have required leveling work to complete, you may be able to bring your GPA up that way. If you don’t have required leveling work, or your GPA is far below the 3.5 mark, we recommend pursuing the ThM program as a way of continuing into PhD work.

Can I submit my application before finishing my current degree?

Yes, you can send us an unofficial transcript for the admissions process. If you are admitted to the program, you will be granted an acceptance that is contingent on the completion of your current degree. Once your degree is conferred, please request an official transcript to be forwarded to us.
NOTE: It take several weeks after graduation for transcripts to show the degree was conferred. So, confirm that the institution has had time to confer the degree on your transcript before requesting it be sent to us.

Where do I submit my transcripts?

Please submit official transcripts directly to the Office of PhD Studies. If your institution sends transcripts electronically, please have them sent to

What is the address of the PhD office?

Office of PhD Studies
SEBTS: Patterson Hall 204
P.O. Box 1889
244 N. Wingate Street
Wake Forest, NC 27588-1889

Logistics Questions For the on Campus Exam

Will the test be administered on a computer?

Yes. Applicants will take their exams in Microsoft Word

When I come to campus, where should I park?

Please park in the area highlighted in green around Patterson Hall (building 11) in this map. When you arrive, please assemble with other test takers in the lobby of Patterson, where your host for the test will greet you. If you do not have a parking pass, please request one from your host.

Is there somewhere to eat in the lunch break?

Magnolia Kitchen is housed in the Ledford Center (building 10 on the campus map). Depending on the time on the time of year you can order the scheduled meal for the day or place a made-to-order. Due to Covid restrictions, it’s recommended that you any made-to-order prior to sitting for part 1 of the exam. If you would rather bring a lunch, you can still sit in the dining area in the Ledford center to eat. There are also numerous restaurants within a short drive/walk.

Can I eat or drink during the exam?

Yes, but please be courteous, and don’t bring items which might be a distraction (whether by smell or sound) to your fellow applicants.

How significant is the entrance exam in the overall evaluation of my application?

Significant. Students must show themselves proficient in the entrance exam in order to be admitted to the program. A high GPA, high GRE, or stellar writing sample will not outweigh a sub-par entrance exam score.

Where will the test be held?

The exams will be held in the computer lab located on the first floor of Patterson Hall (Room 108). Please arrive in the front lobby of Patterson Hall 15 minutes early to take the exam.

What is the schedule for the day?

8:30am-8:45am Arrive on campus
9am-12 noon Part 1 of the entrance exam
12pm-1pm Lunch
1pm-4pm Part 2 of the entrance exam
4pm-6pm PhD Director Interviews

If I do not live close, what lodging is available in the area?

Southeastern will give you up to 2 nights free accommodations. We encourage you to take advantage of the second night to sign up for a tour. If you are unable to take the tour but would still like to take advantage of the accommodations, please email with your name and test date to request accommodations. There are a limited number of rooms available, so please sign up quickly.

If accommodations on campus are full, there are hotels with discounted rates near campus if you reference SEBTS.

Do I need to bring anything with me the day of the test?

We supply the computers and we have pencils and paper if you want to jot down a quick outline before you answer an essay.

What should I wear?

We recommend that you dress comfortably but not sloppily. We also recommend dressing in layers as the testing room can be chilly.

Questions about the exam itself

How long is the exam?

The exam has two, three-hour portions for a total of six-hours. If you are testing in a Biblical Studies Area, there is also a two-hour translation portion in addition to the six-hour question portion. You will test on two consecutive days.

Can I bring any notes or resources with me to the exam?

No. Just you, and the Holy Spirit.

Who evaluates the exam?

Exams are evaluated by two Southeastern faculty members in the concentration into which you are applying.

How will exams be evaluated?

The three criteria given to evaluators are available at the top of your entrance exam study guide.

Examiners will also give an overall evaluation for whether they believe an applicant is prepared to begin PhD studies.

Will the evaluators know whose exams they are evaluating?

No. All evaluations are blind. Evaluators will only see your assigned testing code, which you receive at the beginning of your exam.

Will questions be identical to those on the entrance exam study guide?

Yes. Questions are pulled verbatim from the study guides.

Will I be able to choose which questions I answer?

You will have some choice, but not complete choice. You may get something like “Answer two of these three questions” or “Answer the first question, and one of the following two questions.”

Do I need to be prepared to answer all the questions on the study guide?

Yes. You should be prepared to give thorough answers to all of the questions on the study guide.

How many questions will I answer in the exam?

You will answer two questions in each three-hour session, for a total of four questions.

How much should I write for each question?

That’s a hard question. It depends on how concise your writing is, and how fast you can type. You should be prepared to write for 90 or so minutes for each question.

Helpful Hints for Exam Prep

  • Read each question carefully and be sure to answer exactly what it asks.
    • Some questions are argument oriented and require you to take a position. For those questions, make sure you stake a claim, and have a clear thesis.
    • Other questions are more of a “data dump,” which gives you the opportunity to show that you know the relevant scholarship in your field.
    • Some are a mixture. Pay close attention to what is being asked of you.
  • Recognize that there isn’t always a direct relationship between the reading list and the exam questions
    • The reading list is a list of books the Faculty believe anyone who enters a PhD in that concentration should have read.
    • The question list are the questions the Faculty believe anyone who enters a PhD in that concentration should be able to answer.
    • The two are not necessarily related.
  • Applicants should plan to engage texts not listed on the reading list in order to demonstrate knowledge of relevant scholarship.
  • Manage your time carefully.
    • You should evenly divide your three hours between the two questions, which means you should plan to spend a full 90 minutes on each of the questions.
      • Finishing early is often a sign of ill-preparedness.
    • You will be evaluated on writing and mechanics, so be sure to leave time to proofreadyour work.
  • Give yourself a test run on one question to get a feel for how much content you can write down in 90 minutes. You might be surprised at how quickly that time flies.
  • There are a few different preparation styles for successful applicants.
    • Some applicants write out all of their answers ahead of time.
    • Other applicants prepare in depth outlines, but don’t write out each answer ahead of time.
    • In either case, the most successful applicants walk through the door knowing precisely what they will write for each question.
  • Give yourself time to revise your answers prior to the exam.
    • Most applicants need at least a week or two to memorize their answers and revise their original drafts.
    • This time for revision is important because it gives you time to recognize holes in your argumentation, and places where you need to find additional sources.

What is the role of the Major Professor?

Your Major Professor will serve as a guide throughout your entire doctoral experience. Alongside the Office of PhD Studies, your Major Professor will provide assistance as to which seminars to register for and aid in determining the research language(s) you will need to show proficiency in. During the year of mentorship, the professor will meet with you on a regular basis to help fill gaps in your knowledge, prepare you for comprehensive exams, and preparing a prospectus. They will continue to guide you through to the completion of your dissertation.

How do you choose a Major Professor? How do I find out who may serve in that role?

Choosing a Major Professor is your responsibility and something that should not be taken lightly. The professor you choose is somebody you will be working with during your entire time in the doctoral program. You are welcome to talk with us in the office and we will make suggestions as to who may serve in that role. Professors enjoy hearing from applicants such as yourself and typically want to set up a time where you can either have a phone conversation or talk over Zoom or Teams.

Once a Major Professor agrees to serve in that role, what are the next steps?

Once you have determined who you wish to work with and the professor has agreed, you will be able to enter the professor’s name in the application and send him/her the Major Professor Evaluation to complete. When the professor completes the form, then we know that you all have spoken, and he/she is willing to work with you if you are accepted.


How many personal references are required?

There are a total of 5 personal references (2 academic references, 1 pastor reference, and 2 character references).

Who can serve as my academic references?

Professors who can provide information regarding your ability to do high level academic research. It is suggested that one of the academic references be from a professor in the area of study you are pursuing. Your Major Professor MAY NOT serve as an academic reference.

I have been out of school for a long time, and I am not sure any of my previous professors would remember me. Who do I ask in this case?

We suggest that you select individuals that know how you respond in an academic type setting. Once you arrive at a few individuals, we would ask that you email or call us so that we can talk about your choices, prior to you requesting they complete the reference.

Who can serve as a pastor reference?

Any non-family member who serves as your pastor and who has known you for at least 1 year. If you currently serve as pastor of a church, we ask that if the church has other pastors on staff, that one of them complete this form on your behalf. If you are the only pastor on staff, then choose a pastor to complete the form whom you consider to be a mentor, whether formally or informally.

Who can serve as character references?

Any non-family member who has known you for at least 2 years.


What is the Church Recommendation and who should I ask to complete this form?

The Church Recommendation confirms that the church you entered is where your current membership is held. The form also asks whether your church cooperates and is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This form can be completed by the pastor, but oftentimes an Administrative Assistant, Church Clerk or Church Secretary completes this form.

Who completes the Major Professor Evaluation?

You will need to select a Major Professor, a professor from SEBTS who will work alongside you as you move through our program. You will need to meet with and get a tentative agreement from a potential Major Professor before you enter their information on your application.

How do I find a professor to serve in the role of Major Professor if I am not attending SEBTS?

If you are looking for someone to serve as your Major Professor and do not know where to begin, we provide a Major Professor Directory upon request. The directory lists professors who can serve in that role, what areas of study they can oversee, what their areas of expertise are and how to contact them. They enjoy hearing from applicants such as yourself and typically set up a time where you can either have a phone conversation or talk over Zoom or Teams.

Can my Major Professor also serve as an Academic Reference?

Your Major Professor may NOT serve as one of your academic references. Major Professors are required to complete a separate evaluation that serves as their recommendation.

What should my spouse include in their statement?

Your spouse should write about 250 words. It should include a testimony of your spouse’s conversion experience and sincere commitment to Jesus Christ, and a statement of his/her commitment to support you in the pursuit of your studies.

International students must complete two different application processes, one academic and one legal. Academically, acceptance is based on the admissions portfolio (i.e. application, references, entrance exam, TOEFL exam, etc.). Legally, acceptance is based on the result of the international paperwork (i.e. visa, I-20, etc.). An international student must be accepted academically AND legally before he/she will receive a student visa and a formal letter officially accepting him/her into the Ph.D. program as an international student. In addition, international students are required to pay a deposit before being issued an I-20. The deposit is currently $2,500 for a single student and $3,500 for a married student.