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Doctoral Candidacy Examination

TO: Doctoral Students Ready to Take the Doctoral Candidacy Examination

FROM: Scott Shannon, Dean, Instruction and Graduate Studies

SUBJECT:  Information Concerning the Doctoral Candidacy Examination

The objectives of this examination are to determine the breadth and depth of knowledge in the chosen field of study and assess the student’s understanding of the scientific process. The doctoral candidacy examination is taken when the majority of coursework is completed and no more than three years from the first date of matriculation has elapsed or the student may be dismissed from the doctoral program. This examination must be taken at least one year prior to the dissertation defense.

Upon the recommendation of the appropriate Department Chairperson, the Associate Provost for Instruction and Dean of the Graduate School appoints the doctoral candidacy examination committee consisting of the student’s major professor, the student’s steering committee and an additional faculty member from an appropriate area. Additionally, the Associate Provost for Instruction and Dean of the Graduate School appoints a committee chair who is not from the department of the student’s degree program. The examination must have both written and oral components.

The role of the examination committee chair is to manage the examination, ensure its integrity and represent the interests of the faculty and student.  Any member of the faculty may be an observer.  You may invite a silent student observer to attend the oral examination.

Written Examination: The examining committee shall convene at a planning meeting with the student. During the first part of the planning meeting, the committee determines the schedule for the process and establishes the date for the oral component. The student is then excused from the meeting and the committee develops and discusses the exam content. There are three alternative forms for the written component, as follows:

Form 1: The members of the committee submit questions or problems addressing the objectives of the exam. The questions are discussed and agreed upon at the planning meeting. The major professor administers the written examination. Usually, one-half day is allocated to questions submitted by each examiner. Upon completion by the student, the examination questions are reviewed and graded by the committee members who prepared them. The committee then reviews the entire examination.

Form 2: The student prepares a written report on a topic or problem assigned by the examining committee. The topic or problem must meet the objectives of this examination and its content cannot be directly related to the student’s thesis research. The student has approximately one month to develop a thorough understanding of the assigned topic and prepare a written report. The report is reviewed by the committee members and committee chair.

FORM 3: The student prepares and defends a written proposal of future research likely to be carried out during their Ph.D. project. This research prospectus must be presented to the examining committee two weeks prior to the candidacy exam and should include preliminary studies supporting the feasibility of the proposed research. The exam will test the candidate’s understanding of concepts directly related to his or her immediate area of research, knowledge of prior related research that has been conducted by others, their ability to design and interpret experiments in this area, and capacity to think and write independently and to present work plans orally in a clear and rational manner. The report is reviewed by the committee members and committee chair. This option is available only to doctoral students in the Department of Chemistry.

To schedule a doctoral candidacy examination, please complete the following steps:

  1. In consultation with your major professor, complete Form 6B (Word) for your Department Chairperson to review, sign, and forward to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies. Form 6B should be submitted according to the academic year deadlines for defense exams.
  2. The Associate Provost for Instruction and Dean of the Graduate School will assign a faculty member outside of your degree program to serve as chair of your examination committee.  When you receive a copy of Form 6C which officially appoints your examination committee, you must consult with all members of your committee (major professor, steering committee, additional examiner, and defense chair to arrange a mutually convenient date, time, and location for a planning meeting.
  3. You must inform the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies of the agreed upon date, time, and location for your planning meeting at least two weeks in advance of the date.  This Office will confirm in Form 6D these arrangements with all concerned individuals.
  4. At the planning meeting, your exam chair and the committee complete Form 6E, the committee chair will sign it and return it to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies, which will distribute copies to you and the committee.
  5. If you are using Form 1 of the examination, you and your major professor should arrange for a time and location to administer the questions.
  6. The last step is to meet with your committee and complete the oral examination at the designated date.  At the end of the oral examination, your committee will ask you and any observers to leave the room while it determines if you have satisfactorily completed the doctoral candidacy examination.  You will be invited back to receive the decision of the committee which will also be reported on Form 6F and returned by the exam chair to the Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies.