Candidacy Examination Guidelines

Regulations - FGSR

Each department offering a doctoral degree is responsible for establishing detailed examination procedures for the candidacy. These procedures should be made available to faculty members and students in the department and to the Dean, FGSR. (FGSR Council, 1985/03/15)

Regulations - Department of Medicine

The candidacy examination is an oral examination that is meant to determine whether the student is adequately prepared to continue as a doctoral student. It must be passed within three years of entering the PhD program and no less than six months prior to taking the final oral examination. The candidacy examination is normally held within 18 months of the commencement of the program at a time when all the course work is completed and the thesis work has started or is well defined.

Students must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining committee that they possess:

  • An adequate knowledge of the discipline and of the subject matter relevant to the thesis; and
  • The ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level.

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy exam will assess the student's knowledge of their discipline and their ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level. The exam will consist of two parts: 1) a written grant proposal; and 2) an oral defense of the proposal

The research proposal should be written on a topic that is in the student's area of research. The topic for the proposal should be selected by the student and must be approved by the members of the supervisory committee prior to scheduling of the exam. A one-page outline of the proposed topic with a hypothesis and general aims with background information should be submitted to all members of the supervisory committee for approval. The topic and research approach may be discussed during the final supervisory meeting before the candidacy exam.

Once a topic has been selected and approved, the student should be given 4 weeks to complete the writing of the grant proposal. The grant proposal must consist of a summary and a detailed research plan in a CIHR operating grant format using a maximum of 10 pages. To adhere to CIHR formatting guidelines the proposal will use a font size of 12 point, black type, maximum of six lines per inch, no condensed/narrow fonts, type, or spacing. A margin of 2 cm (3/4 inch) minimum around the page is required. Indicate your name and the project title at the top of each page and ensure you indicate the page number clearly at the bottom of each page. The proposal will include a literature survey, hypothesis, rationale, and research design and significance. A short section on future directions should also be included. A maximum of 5 pages containing figures or tables may be appended. A budget is not required. The role of research personnel and trainees should be clearly stated. The proposal must be submitted to members of the examining committee at least 2 weeks before the exam.

The supervisor may provide general help with grant writing skills and strategies. Students are encouraged to discuss their proposal with other committee members, experts in the area, or other students.

The questioning during the oral exam will generally be related to the proposal. However, examiners may also ask questions that are more comprehensive in nature and that they feel should be in the student's knowledge base. Students will not be given specific subject areas to study but are expected to be able to answer more general questions in their research area.

Expectations of the Student for the Candidacy Exam

  1. The student should possess a broad grasp of existing knowledge central to the discipline within which their research is focused.
  2. The student should have an awareness and appreciation of the significance of new discoveries in their area of research.
  3. The student should be able to identify an important question in their area of research and formulate a testable hypothesis.
  4. The student should demonstrate research design capability. The majority of the research that the student proposes should be feasible and lead to interpretable results.
  5. The student should be aware of the technical requirements, and strengths and weaknesses of methods they propose to use. Furthermore, the student must be able to defend the selection of method(s) in comparison to alternatives.
  6. The student should be able to assess published data. They should also be able to predict possible outcomes of the research and identify possible interpretations of the research.
  7. The student should have an ability to think creatively and critically about questions related to their area of research