Candidacy Exam

The Examiners

Three examiners will assess the student: the student's research supervisor, and at least two more people from the student's supervisory committee. The examination will be chaired by a UBC faculty member from outside the student's supervisory committee, chosen collaboratively by the gac, the student, and the student's supervisor. The examiners and the exam chair must be identified at least three weeks prior to the examination.

The Format

The examination is a closed event, involving only the student, the examiners, and the exam chair. Its structure reflects the objectives stated above.

  • Writing: The student will prepare a substantial report (typically 15 pages or more) on an advanced topic in his/her research area, and distribute it to the examiners and the exam chair at least two full weeks prior to the examination. A successful report will convince the examiners that the student has laid out or embarked on a path that leads to a solid dissertation. This may be achieved by carefully describing an open problem, the history of known efforts to solve it, and some techniques from which new insights could be derived. Or, the student could present the results of his/her own research so far and outline possible extensions and related topics for further investigation.
  • Presentation: The student will present the highlights of the written report in a 20 - 30 minute lecture.
  • Discussion: The student will answer questions from the examiners. There will be two types of questions.
    • Questions about the report and related topics. These should allow the Committee to assess the candidate's readiness to carry out research in the chosen specialty.
    • General questions on the field of study and broader mathematical topics. These should allow the examiners to assess the candidate's breadth and general qualification to carry a doctorate in mathematics. It is the candidate's responsibility to contact the examiners well before the event to ascertain the breadth of material to be examined (e.g., defined by textbooks or a reading list or coursework).

The Outcome

Four results are possible:

  • a clear pass,
  • a pass with conditions,
  • failure, with the option to retake the examination once more, within 6 months, or
  • failure and dismissal.

The exam chair will submit a brief written report on the examination to the Graduate Advisor, with copies to the student and the examiners.

Faculty Requirements

UBC's Faculty of Graduate Studies sets three basic requirements for advancement to candidacy:

  • all required coursework has been successfully completed;
  • the candidacy examination has been passed; and
  • the supervisory committee has certified that the thesis proposal has been approved.

Students are required to complete their Candidacy Examination in the first 25.5 months of their PhD program. Any requests for extensions must be submitted in writing to the Graduate Chair [gradchair(at)] prior to this deadline using this extension request form. Extensions are contingent upon an acceptable reason for delay. By FoGS rule, students who do not advance to Candidacy within 36 months will be required to withdraw from the program. For further information on Candidacy, please refer to the FoGS Advancement to Candidacy page.

For mathematics students in a program sponsored by the Institute of Applied Mathematics (IAM) , the IAM's Thesis Proposal Examination replaces this requirement.