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Graduate Program

PhD Candidacy Exam

The candidacy exam should be taken around the end of your third year in the program. Additional information about the candidacy exam can be found in the PhD Requirements.

The candidacy exam is an oral exam. Your Ph.D. committee members serve as the examiners, so you need to have your committee formed before the exam. If you change your committee membership sometime between the candidacy and the defense, you need to get the new committee approved by the Graduate School, but your candidacy with the old committee will still be valid.

Prior to taking the exam, you should have fulfilled the following requirements:

  • Plan of Study approved by the Graduate School
  • GPA of at least 3.0
  • Doctoral Committee approved by the Graduate School

Before your candidacy exam, prepare a Record of Candidacy Examination form. After your candidacy exam, be sure that your advisor checks "Passed" or "Failed" and that all members of your committee sign the form. If you'd like, you can give the form to Terry Hayden after that, and she will get the Graduate Program Director signature and send the form on to the Graduate School.

If you have passed your candidacy exam and met the requirements listed above, the Graduate School will issue you a Candidacy Certificate. If you have not met all the requirements, the Graduate School will send you a letter indicating what you need to do.

If you would like to hold your exam in one of the department's conference rooms, you can ask Chris Coonrad or Shannon Carrothers to reserve it. If you would like a room in the CII or JEC, you can call x2350 or go to http://www.rpi.edu/dept/eng/live/conferencerms/.

You should prepare a talk which will last 30-45 minutes without questions. The committee members may ask questions throughout the exam, so the exam may last two hours.

In addition to the oral exam, you need to prepare a written candidacy proposal. Your candidacy proposal should include the following topics:

  • Your proposed research area (what work has been done, what challenges exist, what your contribution will be)
  • What you have already done. This may require several chapters.
  • What you will do before graduation.

Some tips for preparing the proposal:

  • Although there are no requirements for the format of the candidacy proposal, there are requirements for the final thesis, and you may want to use those guidelines. That way you can use material in your candidacy proposal in your thesis without having to re-format it. The thesis guidelines are published in the Rensselaer Writing Manual for Dissertations and Theses. The document Preparing a Thesis with LaTex may also be helpful.
  • Be sure to check with your advisor and other committee members from the start and along the way to see what they want from you.
  • You can ask your committee members to loan you copies of good candidacy proposals which have been submitted to them in the past.
  • You may find it helpful to write notes about papers as you read them. Record the bibliographic details as well as notes about the content. That way, when you prepare to write your literature review, the relevant information will already be collected.

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