Prior Candidacy Exam Procedures

Students who entered their program prior to Aug. 27, 2018 can choose to follow the old candidacy exam procedures below or the new regulations outlined here.


The candidacy exam is a Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) mandated oral examination. A student entering a doctoral program with a completed master's degree must attempt the candidacy examination no later than 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 36 months after initial registration with 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 test the depth of the candidate's knowledge in their selected area of research, with the second exam being their final thesis examination. 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.


Five weeks before your planned defence 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 defence date, your research proposal must be given to the examiners. The research proposal is typically five pages long (not including references).

When signing the notice of candidacy oral examination document, the graduate coordinator will 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.

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 normal procedure. 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, there is a short question period. Candidacy examinations generally last 90 to 120 minutes.