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Rothney Astrophysical Observatory

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Department of Physics and Astronomy

Science B 605
University of Calgary
2500 University Dr NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4 Canada
Tel: (403) 220-5385

Gerri Evans

Graduate Application Enquiries
Tel: (403) 220-3618

Tracy Korsgaard

Graduate Program Coordinator
Tel: (403) 220-3617

PhD Candidacy Examination

The Candidacy Exam is a Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) mandated oral examination whose general structure is also determined by FGS. A student entering a doctoral program with a completed master's degree must attempt the candidacy examination no later than twenty-eight (28) months after initial registration in the doctoral program. A student entering a doctoral program with a bachelor's degree, or transferring into a doctoral program from a master's program before the master's program is completed, must attempt the candidacy examination no later than thirty-six (36) months after initial registration in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In addition to your supervisory committee, the Candidacy Examination requires two additional examiners.  Both members can be internal to the department. 

This exam is the first of two oral exams designed to probe the depth of the candidate's knowledge in their selected area of research, with the second such exam being the final thesis defense. The examining committee will be looking for the student to demonstrate a depth of knowledge of their research field, with respect to both the literature of the field and the fundamental physical principles that form the basis of the field. In addition, they will also be evaluating the proposed research thesis, determining whether or not the student understands the proposal, has a clear idea of what is required to complete the proposal, and whether or not it seems reasonable that it can be completed within the expected time frame. The Candidacy Examination can be viewed as an expanded and formalized committee meeting.

What the department needs from you in order to process your Notice of Candidacy Examination:

FIVE weeks before your planned defense date, please provide the department with the following:
  • date of oral examination
  • time of oral examination
  • room number
  • name of the two additional examining committee members
  • name of Neutral Chair (the department will find this person)

TWO weeks before your planned defense date, your research proposal must be given to the examiners. The research proposal is typically 5 pages plus references.

When signing the Notice of Candidacy Oral Examination, the Graduate Coordinator shall ensure that no conflict of interest exists between the student or the supervisor and the additional members of the examination committee.  Additional faculty members may also be appointed to the committee, but this is the minimum size.

The Candidacy Exam is an open examination. At the appointed time, the exam will commence with the candidate being asked to leave the room. This is not a reason for concern, but normal procedure. The committee is simply reviewing the candidate's file and discussing administrative matters. The candidate is then invited back into the room and asked to give a 15 to 20 minute presentation on their research progress and proposed thesis. Following the presentation, the committee asks questions of the candidate. These questions will be focussed on the research project, although they will also deal with the physics underlying the research. Once all committee members have completed their questions the candidate is again asked to leave the room, while the committee determines the result of the exam, which is announced to the candidate, marking the conclusion of the examination. Candidacy Examinations generally last 90 to 120 minutes.