Skip to main content

PhD Candidacy Exam

Each student in a doctoral program is required to prepare a written research proposal and pass a candidacy exam. Full-time students are normally expected to do this within 18 months of their initial registration. The examination is to determine whether the student has the appropriate knowledge and expertise to undertake a thesis in the selected field of study.

The candidacy examination is comprised of the three components described below:

  • A written thesis proposal.
  • An oral presentation of the PhD research plan (20 to 30 minutes).
  • Open questioning of the student by the candidacy committee to ascertain the readiness of the student to carry out the proposed research. The examiners may ask questions which allow them to judge the student's mastery of relevant background knowledge for his/her thesis topic, including an appropriate breadth of knowledge in the discipline and the student's ability to undertake independent and original research.

Guidelines for the format and content of the written proposal will be provided to the student by his/her supervisory committee.

For details regarding the composition and responsibilities of the PhD candidacy committee and possible outcomes of the examination, see PhD candidacy examinations in the Graduate Academic Calendar. 

The roles and responsibilities of all parties and forms and procedures related to the examination are described in the Handbook for PhD Candidacy Exams.

Forms for faculty

Deadline and timelines

Transfer from a master's to a PhD program

Exceptional students in a master's thesis program may request to transfer from the master's to the PhD program before they have completed their master's degree. Admission to the PhD program is conditional upon satisfactory completion of the program's PhD Candidacy Exam and approval from the Dean of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 

For transfer criteria, see the transfer from a thesis-based master's to a PhD program policy in the Graduate Academic Calendar.

The procedure to be followed in this case is described in the Handbook for PhD Candidacy Exams

In addition to the three forms for faculty noted above, the student's supervisory committee must first complete the following form:

Recommendation to Transfer from Master's to PhD form