Advancing to Candidacy

Here are the steps to advancing to candidacy.

Nature of the Exam

Students should be able to discuss the key questions that need to be addressed in their field and propose a possible line of research. To ensure that the student and the committee agree on what constitutes an acceptably broad definition of field, the student will submit a brief synopsis via a Synopsis Form of the presentation at the time the exam is scheduled. The synopsis must be approved by both the chair of the committee and the wise person assigned to the exam. Set up a meeting with the Staff Graduate Advisor to prepare the Synopsis Form via DocuSign.

Students will be evaluated on:

  • whether the presentation addresses the underlying physics issues of the field and shows a reasonable understanding of the important problems;
  • whether the student is able to respond adequately to questions from the committee.
  • whether the student is progressing at an appropriate rate toward completion of the Ph.D. Students must do well in all areas in order to pass.

Synopsis Meeting

The wiseperson is the committee member that is outside your area of study. It is the wiseperson’s responsibility to ensure the exam is conducted in a fair manner. A synopsis of your presentation must be approved by your advisor and the wiseperson prior to your exam – please schedule a meeting for this purpose at least one week before the exam. It is your responsibility to remind your committee members and the wiseperson a day or two before your exam date. Please set up a meeting with the Staff Graduate Advisor who will set up a DocuSign form for your synopsis form.

Exam Deadline

All students must take the exam by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year. If the exam is not passed, it must be retaken by the end of Summer Quarter of the third year. Students who do not take the exam on schedule and have not received an extension are subject to withdrawal of financial support by the department, or dismissal from the program on the grounds of not making adequate progress toward the degree. Students who fail the exam for the second time will be dismissed from the program on the same grounds.

If a student fails the exam, the advancement committee must provide a written account of what they found to be lacking, along with suggestions for how to remedy the problems. The student must then retake the exam by the end of Summer Quarter of the third year. Failing the exam the first time should not be considered detrimental to the student’s career. The Department will simply require that the student retake the exam by spring and give encouragement and guidance for the second try. Advancement exams are closed exams which means that only the student, committee members and wise person can be present. The advancement exam differs from the defense which is an open exam.

Scheduling the Exam

Once your committee is established you will need to schedule a date for the exam. After you have established a committee and an exam date, set up a meeting with the Staff Graduate Advisor.

Petition to Add the Master’s Degree

After passing the advancement exam you are eligible for the Master of Arts Degree, as long as your core requirements are completed satisfactorily. Set up a meeting with the Staff Graduate Advisor to process post-advancement paperwork. The advisor will set up a DocuSign of the required petition for you.


Staff Graduate Advisor