- Advancement Exam Deadline
- Extension to ATC Exam Deadline
- The Nature of the Exam
- The Advancement Committee
- The Role of the Wiseperson
- Setting up your Advancement Exam
- Master of Arts Degree
Physics graduate students must advance to candidacy by the end of Winter Quarter of their third year. A description of what the advancement exam entails and how to prepare for it follows. The Ph.D. program is structured such that your basic coursework will be completed in the first two years, giving you the foundation necessary to focus on directed research in your field beginning in year three. Keep in mind that the objective of the advancement exam is not a measure of your research; the purpose is to determine whether you have gained sufficient knowledge of your particular field and whether you are progressing at an appropriate rate toward completion of the Ph.D.
All students must take the exam by the end of Winter Quarter of the third year. If the exam is not passed, it must be retaken by the end of Spring 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 Spring 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.
An extension to the Winter Quarter deadline may be granted due to personal, medical or family circumstances, or to an approved research related absence that sets the student back in their academic progress. The faculty graduate advisor and the faculty research advisor must be informed of the circumstance when it arises and grant the extension in a written academic progress report outlining the extended advancement timeline.
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 (see Synopsis Form) of his/her presentation at the time the exam is scheduled. The synopsis must be approved by both the chair of the committee and the wiseperson assigned to the exam.
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 studnet is progressing at an appropriate rate toward completion of the Ph.D.
Students must do well in all areas in order to pass.
The committee should consist of at least three Physics faculty members: the research advisor who serves as committee chair, and two other faculty members. If you are a theorist, you will need two theorists and one experimentalist on your committee. If you are an experimentalist, you will need two experimentalists and one theorist. After these primary members, the student may choose to add additional members either from Physics or another department. At least 3 members must also serve on the student’s Supervising Committee.
The PhD Committee must be approved by the Graduate Dean before your advancement exam via the Form I: Committee Nomination for a Doctoral Degree. Meet with the Staff Graduate Advisor to prepare this form. Plan on submitting this form 4 to 6 weeks before your scheduled exam to provide ample time the approval. Please note that the departmental Contract to Create or Change the Supervising Committee Form differs from the Graduate Division-approved Form I. If you make changes to your Supervising Committee after your advancement exam, you must also complete the Form I-A: Changes to the Doctoral Committee and have it approved by the Graduate Division before you can defend or file your PhD. Contact the Staff Graduate Advisor to prepare this Form I-A at least 6 weeks before your defense date to ensure ample time for the Graduate Division to approve. Please meet with the Staff Graduate Advisor to set up the DocuSign forms for the Form I, Form II and/or Form I-A.
One of the members of your advancement committee will play the role of Wiseperson. This needs to be a Physics ladder faculty member, and cannot be your thesis advisor. The Wiseperson is usually the committee member outside your area of study. For example, if you are a theorist, your Wiseperson will the experimentalist on the committee.
The committee that administers the exam will (normally) be the same committee that guides the student’s research and administers the final dissertation defense. If the Graduate Division-approved committee changes after advancement, the Form I-A must be approved by the Graduate Division as described above. At the time of the advancement to candidacy exam, the committee will either approve the dissertation topic, or, if there is not enough information to do that, the committee will arrange for a future committee meeting to decide the question.
A wiseperson is present at every exam to ensure the appropriate level of difficulty. The wiseperson asks questions as any other committee member and advises the committee on how the student compares with others who have been examined. The wiseperson can require the exam to be redone if he/she feels that the exam does not conform to the guidelines given above. The wiseperson will also provide guidance on preparing for the exam, and will review a synopsis of the student’s topic of presentation during the weeks preceding the exam and offer suggestions for improvement if necessary. One of the members of your advancement committee will play the role of Wiseperson. This needs to be a Physics ladder faculty member, and cannot be your thesis advisor. The Wiseperson is usually the committee member outside your area of study. For example, if you are a theorist, your Wiseperson will the experimentalist on the committee.
The basic steps are outlined below. Click here for the ATC Checklist.
Establish Your Committee
You will need a committee of at least three ladder faculty members one of which will act as your wiseperson. Notify the Staff Graduate Advisor that you are planning to schedule your advancement to book a room and to have ready the required forms (Form I and Form II) for the exam. The required Form I: Committee Nomination of Doctoral Degree must be submitted 4 to 6 weeks before your scheduled exam. The committee must be approved by the Graduate Division before your exam. If you are a theorist, you will need two theorists and one experimentalist on your committee. If you are an experimentalist, you will need two experimentalists and one theorist. Your committee must be made up of at least three ladder (tenure track) UCSB faculty members (not lecturer, adjunct, etc). See this link for additional information on requirements of your doctoral committee. Three members of your advancement committee must serve on your supervising committee. Your committee chairperson must be a Physics faculty member, but if your primary research advisor is a faculty member from another department, they may serve on your committee as co-chair. A Physics faculty member must also serve as co-chair. For more details on Graduate Division committee requirements, visit this link. Work with the Staff Graduate Advisor to prepare the Form II: Report on Doctoral Degree Qualifying Exams. This Form II must be completed after your advancement exam to indicate whether or not you passed.
Schedule the Exam
Once your committee is established and a wiseperson assigned, you will need to schedule a date for the exam. After you have established a committee and a date, please let the Staff Graduate Advisor know the following information:
Names of committee members (confirm that the members have approved)
Waived courses (forward approvals via email)
Degree program (standard PhD or astrophysics emphasis)
Date and time of exam (schedule a two hour block of time)
Location of exam (the graduate or undergraduate advisor may schedule a room for you). Update: Starting Spring 2020 due to COVID-19, all exams are conducted virtual via Zoom or Skype.
Area of study and whether you are an experimentalist or theorist
Tentative title of dissertation
Prepare Synopsis and Meet with Your Committee Chair & Wiseperson
The wiseperson assigned to your exam is a member of our faculty. 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. (See Synopsis Form). 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.
After advancing to candidacy you are required to pay a $50 advancement to candidacy fee at the Billing/Cashier’s Office. The Billing Office will give you two copies of your receipt. Take one to Graduate Division and tell them this is your advancement to candidacy fee. Take the other receipt to the Library to get a faculty library card. Update: Spring 2020, due to the pandemic, the advancement fee has been waived. Visit this link for updated information.
If you are an international student and have advanced to candidacy, your non-resident tuition is reduced by 100% for graduate doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy. Eligibility for the reduced nonresident tuition is measured in calendar years, and begins with the first academic quarter following advancement to candidacy. Leave of absence and unregistered quarters will not extend a student's eligibility. A student who continues to be enrolled or who re-enrolls three calendar years after advancing to candidacy will be charged the full nonresident rate in effect at the time. Please see http://www.registrar.ucsb.edu/feereduction.htm for more information.
Starting Fall 2012, if you are a Graduate Student Researcher (GSR), you will receive an increase in salary to Step IX after passing the advancement to candidacy exam. Before advancement, the GSR step will be at Step VIII.
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. She will set up a DocuSign of the required petition for you. If you would like to add the MA degree you must complete the Change of Degree Status form and pay a $20 petition fee at the Billing Office. Update: Spring 2020, due to the pandemic, the petition fee has been waived. Visit this link for updated information. On the petition, check the appropriate boxes indicating, “remain in Ph.D. Physics” and “add MA Physics.” The faculty graduate advisor will sign it, write a letter in support of your Master’s, and submit both forms to the Graduate Division for processing. Your MA degree will be processed within approximately four weeks. Further information on the Master of Arts degree in Physics is available in the Graduate Student Handbook.