Following the campus guidelines for Coronavirus all UC Davis classes, lectures, seminars, labs and discussion sections will move to virtual instruction and remain virtual through the end of Summer Session 2021, including final exams. Given this, the department’s administrative functions have moved to remote work conditions. To contact staff members of the department via e-mail or phone, please go to our administrative staff contact page.  We anticipate a return to campus for Fall 2021.


Department of Economics
Department of Economics

Graduate Program

Graduate Handbook

If you are a continuing student and want to consult an older version of the graduate handbook choose one of the following: 1998-1999, 1999-2000, 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2003-2004, 2004-2005, 2005-2006.

There are 29 permanent faculty members and approximately 95 graduate students in the Department of Economics. The department's objective is to balance the size of the program to permit the offering of a full complement of courses while retaining the informal, personal guidance of graduate students that has been a hallmark of the program since its establishment in 1964.

Although the department offers both MA and PhD degrees, the emphasis is on the PhD program. Prospective students must apply to the PhD program and admission is to the PhD program only. Students have the option of obtaining an MA degree enroute to the PhD or they can choose to leave the graduate program with an MA degree at the end of the first year, provided that they have fulfilled the necessary requirements (see below).

The following detailed list of requirements for the Ph.D. degree and satisfactory progress along the way have been developed with the goals of both successful job placement and timely completion of the Ph.D. degree. The preliminary exams in microeconomics and macroeconomics are completed at the end of the first year and remaining required coursework is completed at the end of the second year. The third year is devoted to development of a thesis prospectus (explained below), aided by attendance and participation in the many department seminars and workshops and interaction with relevant faculty. Once the oral qualifying exam, based on the thesis prospectus, is passed, the remainder of the time is devoted to writing of the thesis and further development as a scholar through seminar attendance and participation.


Graduate Advising

Each graduate student is assigned a graduate adviser who provides assistance in planning a program of study and in other matters. In addition, each PhD student selects an Interim Adviser after completion of the preliminary examinations, and a thesis committee upon advancement to candidacy.

The Graduate Studies Committee is composed of the graduate program chair, two other faculty members, and three graduate students. While the faculty members administer the program, the entire committee is responsible for the consideration of policy. A student who wishes to fulfill degree requirements in a manner other than described in this Handbook must submit a request in writing to the graduate program chair. Inquiries may be addressed to the graduate program coordinator, Marilyn Dexter.

Before The First Year Begins

Pre-admission requirements: Students admitted to the graduate program in economics are normally expected to have completed an undergraduate degree in economics. (The minimum requirement is intermediate microeconomics and macroeconomics plus two upper division courses in economics.) Entering students are also expected to have completed two courses in college statistics (at least one at the upper division level) and one year of calculus prior to admission. They are also expected to have completed a course in linear algebra. This basic mathematical preparation is critical to a successful first year.

GRE scores for applicants: Applications to the graduate program in the Economics department at UC Davis will NOT BE CONSIDERED if:

  1. The GRE Verbal score is less than 60% (for international students: if it is less than 30%)
  2. OR
  3. The GRE Quantitative score is less than 70%
  4. Additional requirement for international students:
  5. The TOEFL score must be at least 600 points (or 250 if computer based TOEFL) or total score of 60, counting only the 3 sections of reading, listening, and writing, if IBT TOEFL (Internet based TOEFL).

September lectures in mathematical methods: The department offers an intensive series of Lectures in Mathematical Methods beginning after Labor Day (early September). These lectures focus on differential calculus and linear algebra, building upon rather than sufficing for the undergraduate preparation described above. The lectures emphasize the specific tools used in the required first-year micro, macro, and econometrics courses, and all students in these courses will be assumed to have mastered the material covered in the September lectures. Therefore, while these lectures are informally structured (registration and the payment of fees are not required), all students—including those with extensive coursework in mathematics—should attend.

The First Year In The Graduate Program

Every first-year student, no matter what his/her degree objective, is required to take the following courses:

  1. Microeconomic Theory: Economics 200A (Fall Quarter), 200B (Winter Quarter) and 200C (Spring Quarter), or successful completion of the Microeconomic Theory preliminary exam.
  2. Macroeconomic Theory: Economics 200D (Winter Quarter) and 200E (Spring Quarter), or successful completion of the Macroeconomic Theory preliminary exam.
  3. Econometrics: Economics 239 (Fall Quarter), Economics 240A (Winter Quarter) and Economics 240B (Spring Quarter).

In addition to these first year courses, all PhD students must, by the Winter Quarter of the third year, satisfy the following requirement. (Often the elective in the first quarter is used to satisfy this requirement):

Economic History/History of Economic Thought: one course selected from Economics 201A, 201B, 210A, 210B or 210C, passed with a grade of B or better, or successful completion of a comprehensive or preliminary examination in Economic History.

Core theory prelims: All first-year students must pass written preliminary examinations ("prelims") in Microeconomic Theory (covering Economics 200A,B,C) and in Macroeconomic Theory (covering Economics 200D,E). The core theory prelims should be taken in late June/early July immediately following the first year.

Prelims are "closed book" and are graded on a 0-4 numerical scale as follows:

  • Fail (0-1.79)
  • Pass at the MA Level (1.80-1.99)
  • Pass at the PhD Level (2.00-2.99)
  • Good (3.0-3.99)
  • Excellent (4.00-5.00)

Grades of 3.0 or above reflect unusually good performance; grades of 4.0 or above (indicating truly distinguished performance) are quite rare. All exams are graded by two (or, if necessary, three) faculty members. Students may read the examiners’ comments by contacting the graduate program coordinator.

Retaking core theory prelims and time limits: To allow for instances in which a core theory prelim is not passed at the first attempt (or for unusual situations beyond the student’s control), the exams may also be administered in September. Students may re-take each exam not more than once, that is, only two attempts are allowed for each exam.

The FIRST YEAR course schedule is thus as follows:
Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter June/July
Economics 200A Economics 200B Economics 200C micro prelim
Economics 239 Economics 200D Economics 200E macro prelim
Elective Economics 240A Economics 240B

The elective should be at the graduate level in economics (or agricultural economics) or at the upper division or graduate level in mathematics or statistics. It is often used to fulfill the requirement in Economic History/History of Economic Thought.

Students who are Teaching Assistants during the Fall Quarter are allowed to postpone taking the elective until the second or third year (thus limiting themselves to Ecn 200A and Ecn 239); to fulfill the unit requirements for a full time student they can enroll in Ecn 299 with the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee.

Registration requirements

Students must register for a minimum of 12 units per Quarter, including Individual Study (Economics 299) where appropriate.

At The End Of The First Year
  1. A student who has completed the first-year courses (Ecn 239, Ecn 200A,B,C,D,E, Ecn 240A,B) with a GPA of at least 3.0, and passed both micro and macro prelims can obtain an MA degree. Applying for a Master's degree does not preclude remaining in the PhD program, as long as the requirements for good standing in the PhD program are met (see point 2 below).

    (Thus the MA degree is through the university's Plan II (examination) only: students are required to take 36 units of graduate courses in Economics and to pass written preliminary examinations in microeconomics and macroeconomics.)

    Note that a student who already has a Master's degree in economics from another university will not be able to obtain a second Master's degree in Economics from UC Davis.
  2. In order to remain in the PhD program at the end of the first year, the student must meet the following requirements: completion of the first-year courses (Ecn 239, Ecn 200A,B,C,D,E, Ecn 240A,B) with a letter grade of B- or better in each course, a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25 and a grade of "pass at the PhD level" or better in both micro and macro prelims.

    If the first-year cumulative GPA is below 3.25 (but above 3.0) and the student has passed both micro and macro prelims with a grade of "pass at the PhD level" or better and each first-year course was passed with a letter grade of B- or better, he/she may petition the graduate program chair to remain in the PhD program. After a review of the student’s complete record, the student will be given a specific number of quarters (typically one) to increase the GPA to at least 3.25. If the cumulative GPA remains below 3.25 after that time, the Graduate Studies Committee may recommend that the student be dismissed from the graduate program with an MA degree.
  3. A student who, before the beginning of the second year, fails to meet the requirements listed under point 2 above must leave the graduate program. This requirement may be waived on petition to the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee if the student can prove adequate grounds. If the student fulfills the requirements listed under point 1, he/she can leave with an MA degree.

The PhD Program After The First Year

The PhD degree requirements after successful completion of the first year are:
  • (a) preliminary examinations in two elective fields of specialization, plus two additional courses in a third elective field, in the second year,
  • (b) submission of a paper or in-depth literature review by the end of the Summer following completion of the second year,
  • (c) an oral PhD qualifying examination by May 15th of the third year,
  • (d) regular seminar attendance,
  • (e) at least one seminar or workshop presentation by April 30th of the fourth year,
  • (f) the thesis, and
  • (g) a total minimum residency of at least two years.

A student may elect to take at most one course per quarter outside of economics on an S/U basis (in addition to any courses normally graded on an S/U basis) provided that it does not fulfill any degree requirements. Many students use the S/U option when taking optional courses outside economics (such as Math 127A,B,C). (It is stated in the General Catalog that "the grade of S is awarded to graduate students for work in graduate courses that otherwise would receive a grade of B- or better and for work in undergraduate courses that otherwise would receive a grade of C- or better".) Students may take courses within economics on a S/U basis once they have advanced to candidacy for the PhD.

A student may satisfy the requirements as listed in any single Graduate Handbook in effect while registered in the graduate program, as long as registration is continuous.

Course Scheduling For Phd Students In The Second Year

In the second year the student completes all course requirements and prelims while attending seminars for at least one quarter:

Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter June/July
Field Course Field Course Field Course field prelim
Field Course Field Course Field Course field prelim
Write-Off Course Write-Off Course Elective

The order in which the write-off courses and the elective are taken is immaterial (e.g. the student could take the elective in Fall and the write-off courses in Winter and Spring).

The normal course-load is three courses per quarter. If one of the fields consists of only two courses, the student can choose to take any other graduate-level economics course in the remaining quarter.

If one of the fields in which the student is interested in is not offered in the student's second year, the student can petition the graduate program chair to postpone taking that field to the third year. The petition must be in writing at least one week before the beginning of Fall Quarter.

Students are required to submit by the September 30 following completion of two years of graduate work a paper or in-depth literature review on a topic of their choice, preferably in the area of one of the two fields. The paper/survey should be approximately 20-pages (double spacing, 12 pts), show a clear understanding of the topic chosen and possibly contain the seeds of the student’s future research project. It is evaluated by a committee of two faculty members. The grading is on a pass/fail scale. A paper submitted as part of the requirements for one of the field courses, cannot be resubmitted unless it incorporates a substantial amount of new material.

After the second year, students are primarily involved in thesis research and, consequently, attend seminars on a regular basis. Courses will consist of electives, Ecn 207 (Contemporary Economics Seminar), and Individual Study (Economics 299) as appropriate. To foster the development of a thesis topic, the department has adopted the following policy on seminar attendance:

  1. Every graduate student (third-year and above) is required to attend at least 5 seminars every Quarter or enroll in Ecn 207 when offered (typically Fall and Spring quarters). It is highly encouraged that students satisfy the seminar requirement by enrolling in ECN 207. (For more on the seminar requirement and obtaining ECN 299 units, click here.)
  2. Student presentation in a seminar or brown bag (i.e. informal workshop series) counts toward meeting the above requirement.
  3. Failure to meet this requirement will result in a grade of Unsatisfactory (or No Pass) in Economics 299.
  4. The above requirement of 5 seminars per quarter is the absolute minimum. Students are strongly encouraged to attend more than the minimum. (Seminar attendance is strongly recommended for first and second year students.)

A student pursuing thesis research full-time should aim to complete the degree by the end of the fourth year.

Students are expected to complete their degree within the "normative time" of five years.

Students Specializing in Mathematical Economics or Econometrics

Students who plan to write a thesis in Economic Theory should take course work in real analysis (Math 127A,B,C). Real analysis is very useful in Economics 203A,B,C and is helpful, more generally, in building the mathematical sophistication necessary to do modern microeconomic theory and theoretical econometrics.

Students who plan to write a thesis in theoretical econometrics should take Statistics 131A,B,C and 230. Statistics 131A and one upper division course in statistics (such as Statistics 131B) will be accepted in lieu of Economics 239.

In both cases, scheduling considerations will be important, and it is critical that students discuss their plans with an instructor in the field.

A. Fields of Specialization

Each student must qualify in three of the following fields of specialization:
  • Advanced Economic Theory (203A,B,C)
  • Econometrics (240C,D,E)
  • Economic Development, available only as a write-off field (any two courses from 215A,C,D)
  • Economics of Growth (270A,B,C)
  • Economic History (210A,B,C)
  • Economy, Justice & Society (209A,B,C)
  • Industrial Organization (221A,B,C)
  • International Trade (260A,C,E)
  • International Macroeconomics (260B,D)
  • International Economics (260A,B,C) [Note: a student taking a prelim in International Economics cannot also take a prelim exam in International Trade or in International Macroeconomics. On the other hand, it is possible to take a prelim in International Trade and also a prelim in International Macroeconomics]
  • Labor Economics (230B,250A,B)
  • Monetary Economics (235A,B,C; or, for those not taking International Macroeconomics as a field, 235A,B and 260B).
  • Public Economics (230A,B,C)

Elective field prelims: All courses in the elective fields must be passed with a letter grade of B- or better. Of the three elective fields, two must be passed by written prelims, which are based on the material in the courses listed in parentheses. These elective prelims are taken in late June/early July immediately following the completion of the second year.

Retaking elective prelims and time limits: To allow for instances in which a prelim is not passed at the first attempt the exams may also be administered in September only for students needing a second chance after a Spring failure. Students may sit for each elective prelim no more than twice, and no student will be allowed to take field prelims in more than three elective fields. In all cases, retakes must be completed not later than the Spring following the initial failure.

The failure of a prelim in a field will not prejudice the selection of that field as a write-off field. A student who fails any PhD prelim (other than the core theory prelims) may be asked to leave the program with an MA degree (provided that the requirements for an MA degree have been fulfilled).

Economics write-off fields: The third ("write-off") field may be completed by passing with a letter grade of B- or better two graduate courses in that field. These two courses must be in addition to those used to satisfy the core economic history/history of economic thought requirement and must not be a component of the subject matter for the two prelims. Subject to that constraint, History of Economic Thought (201A,B) satisfies the write-off requirement.

Alternative write-off fields: Students may also satisfy the write-off field requirement by choosing courses to suit a specific interest in economics or in a related discipline, subject to the written approval of the chair of the Graduate Studies Committee prior to taking the relevant coursework. In recent years course sequences in the Graduate School of Management (Management 275A,B: Capital Markets and Corporate Finance), in the Law School (Contracts; Antitrust), in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and in the Department of Mathematics have been approved as write-off fields. (Because of registration restrictions and differences in the academic calendar, special arrangements must be made to take law courses.)

B. Initiating Thesis Research

The department takes particular interest in helping students initiate thesis research, and several programs are available to students.

Seminar and "brown-bag" attendance is critical to obtaining thesis ideas, maintaining contact with faculty members, and seeing how research presentations are made. Seminar series are offered throughout the year in economic theory, applied microeconomics, macro/international and economic history, featuring presentations by faculty, students, and outside speakers. Students are expected to attend these seminars according to the following rules:

  1. Every graduate student, with the exception of first-year and second-year students, is required to attend Ecn 207 (Contemporary Economics Seminar) or at least 5 seminars of his/her choice every Quarter.
  2. If a graduate student gives a seminar or a brown bag presentation he/she can count it towards the above requirement.
  3. The seminar organizer will circulate a sheet of paper to be signed by the graduate students who attended the seminar. Hence, it is the responsibility of the student to notify the seminar organizer of his/her attendance.
  4. If a student (again, with the exception of first and second year students) is enrolled in a 299 in a given quarter and he/she has not attended at least 5 seminars during that quarter, then he/she will get a grade of Unsatisfactory (or No Pass) in that 299.
  5. The above requirement of 5 seminars per quarter is the absolute minimum. Students are strongly encouraged to attend more than the minimum. Seminar attendance is strongly recommended also to first and second year students.

(For more on the seminar requirement and obtaining Ecn 299 units, click here.)

An interim adviser will assist the student in formulating a research agenda, preparing for seminar or workshop presentations, and writing the thesis prospectus. The Interim Adviser need not necessarily serve later on the thesis committee, and a new Interim Adviser may be substituted if the direction of the student’s research changes. Each student should select an Interim Adviser no later than the January 15 following completion of the last prelim. Students finding it difficult to select an Interim Adviser should consult with the graduate program chair for assistance.

Seminar and workshop presentations are excellent ways to receive feedback and to gain experience in making presentations. As thesis research develops, the student should schedule a presentation in the appropriate seminar series. Each student is required to make at least one presentation (see below).

C. The Oral Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy

The thesis prospectus: The Interim Adviser helps the student prepare the thesis prospectus, which should be approximately 20 double-spaced pages in 12 point fonts. The prospectus should outline clearly the intellectual content of a central chapter of the thesis by including (1) a clear exposition of the problem and a statement of what is new in the proposed research, (2) an indication that the student has read the literature enough to know whether the proposal is really new, and what significant problems are likely to be encountered, (3) a discussion of the relevant methodologies, and (4) a confirmation of the availability of usable data (if relevant). Approximately three pages of the prospectus should also contain an indication of what would constitute the remaining part of the thesis.

The oral qualifying examination is scheduled after the proposed thesis committee chair has approved the thesis prospectus and all other pre-thesis degree requirements have been satisfied. Questions will be related chiefly to the thesis, with the goal of confirming that a viable topic has been identified and that the student will be able to pursue the topic to successful completion using the proposed methodologies. The oral is a constructive exercise designed to provide guidance to the student in research, and many students choose to tape-record the proceedings for later review.

Typically, the oral exam will last between one and two hours.

The examination committee will consist of four members of the Economics Department and 1 member from outside the department. All members of the orals committee must hold PhD degrees and must be professors from a UC campus unless the Interim Adviser secures a waiver from the Dean of Graduate Studies. The same person may not serve as both the chair of the oral and the chair of the thesis committee. A student must be registered during the quarter in which the exam is taken (Spring registration includes the following summer).

Scheduling and deadlines: Orals are scheduled only after the proposed thesis committee chair has approved a final draft of the thesis prospectus (or a penultimate draft on which the student is to make specified minor changes). The Request to Schedule Oral Examination form must then be submitted to the graduate program coordinator at least one month prior to the examination date. The final prospectus must be distributed to the oral examination committee not later than two weeks before the oral. Students should consult with the graduate program coordinator for help with scheduling the exam date. The prospectus should be submitted by April 15th of the third year and the oral exam should take place by May 15th of the same year.

Advancement to candidacy: The student may file for advancement to candidacy upon completion of the oral and all other degree requirements except the thesis. An Application for Advancement to Candidacy must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies and approved by that office before advancement occurs.

International students advanced to Ph.D. candidacy before the first day of a quarter are entitled to elimination of nonresident tuition for up to three years. See below under financial aid for details.

D. The Thesis

The thesis (dissertation) is the means by which candidates demonstrate research proficiency. Upon advancement to candidacy, the student will assemble a thesis committee consisting of three faculty members, chaired by the student’s major professor, to direct the research. All three committee members must hold PhD degrees and must be professors from a UC campus unless the major professor secures a waiver from the Dean of Graduate Studies. Students should consult with the graduate program coordinator regarding thesis format and submission guidelines.

Verification of progress. By April 30th of the fourth year every student is required to give a progress seminar on his/her research. The purpose of the seminar is to show that substantial progress has been made since the PhD qualifying exam. The three members of the dissertation committee and at least one other faculty member (typically a faculty member who took part in the PhD qualifying examination) will be expected to attend the seminar. At least two weeks before the seminar the student should submit a written paper of at least 20 double-spaced pages to the members of the dissertation committee and the fourth faculty member who will attend the seminar. The paper should contain all or most of the material on which the seminar will be based.

Students admitted before Fall Quarter of 2001 are grandfathered and may follow either the new rules or the old rules. The Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee is authorized to use discretion in allowing further exceptions for such students in the interest of fairness and conformity with rights that students may have under University regulations.

Students who complete the various requirements by the specified deadlines will be deemed to be making satisfactory progress towards their degrees and will accordingly receive favorable consideration when TAships and fellowships are awarded.

E. Registration and Scholarship Requirements

Students must register for a minimum of 12 units each Quarter, including Individual Study (Economics 299) where appropriate. A minimum overall GPA of 3.25 is required for good standing in and for successful completion of the PhD program.

If the cumulative GPA falls below 3.25 for two consecutive quarters, the student may be asked to meet with the graduate program chair. After a review of the student’s complete record, the student will be given a specific number of quarters to improve the GPA. If the cumulative GPA remains below 3.25 after that time, the Graduate Studies Committee may recommend that the student be dismissed from the PhD program (with an MA degree if the corresponding requirements are met).

F. Time Limits for Completion of Degree Requirements and Readmission

(Note: these are mainly university time limits and it is hoped and expected that student progress will be substantially faster than this)

Five-Year Rule for advancement to candidacy: If a student has not advanced to candidacy by the end of the fifth year, registration will not be allowed except for the quarter in which orals are taken. (Note: As described in Section C above, the Department expects students to advance to candidacy in their third year.

Three-Year Rule for completion of the thesis: A student who is advanced to candidacy for the PhD and expects to complete the dissertation within the academic year may go on filing fee status for up to two quarters. Once the time limit (with extensions, if any) is exceeded, filing fee status will automatically lapse. Similarly, students who break registration (without going on PELP or filing fee status) lose their student status.

Readmission after an absence: A student wishing to re-enter the program after a break in registration or after a lapse in filing fee status must file an application for readmission for the following Fall, subject to normal admissions deadlines. Readmission (if granted) may be conditional on retaking the oral and/or satisfying any new course or programmatic requirements then in effect.

Interdisciplinary Programs

The department strongly promotes interdisciplinary study and research. The following interdisciplinary program is available.

Social Theory And Comparative History

Through a combination of seminars and examinations, doctoral students may pursue a Designated Emphasis in Social Theory and Comparative History. This UC Davis program offers a supplementary degree certification based on an interdisciplinary program of study. For further information:

Financial Assistance For Current Graduate Students

Information on deadlines and application requirements will be provided in January.

California residency for tuition purposes: Nonresident domestic students (US citizens and permanent residents) should take steps to be classified as California residents by the end of their first year.

Limits on appointments: Graduate students may hold academic appointments (including TA, RA, Reader, Associate-In, or Student Postgraduate Researcher) during their 13th quarter in residence (excluding summers) only if they have advanced to candidacy. Appointments for those advanced to candidacy are subject to limits of 15 quarters of service which apply separately to teaching (TA and Associate-In), research (RA and Student PGR), and reader titles. Appointment beyond the 15 quarter limit requires a letter of exception.


Continuing students (both foreign and domestic) and new domestic students may apply for fellowships, which provide a stipend and/or remission of fees.

Nonresident Tuition Fellowships and Reduced Nonresident Tuition

Continuing foreign students and entering domestic students who are not residents of California may apply for Nonresident Tuition Fellowships which provide for the full or partial remission of the nonresident tuition fee. NRTF’s are offered to continuing foreign students on the basis of scholarship and progress in the graduate program.

International students who have been formally advanced to Ph.D. candidacy before the first day of a quarter are entitled to elimination of nonresident tuition for a maximum of 3 calendar years (regardless of registered quarters including any quarters on PELP) after first being advanced to candidacy. Because of the availability of this support, NRTF awards will not be offered beyond the fall quarter of the 4th year in residence.

Teaching Assistantships

TA’s work with faculty members in Economics 1A and 1B (Principles of Economics) and in some upper division and graduate courses. They are generally assigned responsibility for two discussion sections per quarter. TA support to continuing students is offered on the basis of progress in the graduate program, scholarship, and teaching performance.

Research Assistantships and Work-Study Funding

Research assistant positions are generally offered to more advanced students. Some work-study funding may be available for domestic students.


Each October the department assists students in finding permanent employment by compiling a list of PhD students who have passed their oral qualifying exam, and by aiding students in sending individual job applications to potential employers. Students who have not passed their orals may, of course, go on the job market, but the department does not consider a student fully ready to do so until advanced to candidacy.

For a list of students who obtained their PhD between 1990 and 1999, together with information about their first job click on the following link: Placement record of PhDs 1990-1999.

For a list of students who obtained their PhD after 1999, together with information about their first job click on the following link: Placement record of PhDs from 2000.

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