Ph.D. Candidacy Exam Policy

At what point during the degree program should the student take the Candidacy Exam and when should it be scheduled?

  • The Candidacy Examination is the first step in determining whether the student has the basic capacity for pursuing the Doctoral Program in Nutrition. The Candidacy Exam must be taken before earning 24 graduate credits or before completing three semesters of the GPN, whichever comes first, for students with a M.S. degree. For the student who is directly admitted into the Ph.D. program, without the M.S. degree, the Candidacy Exam may be taken after 18 graduate credits beyond the baccalaureate are earned, but must be taken before completing three semesters or before having earned 24 graduate credits.
  • The student must be registered as a full-time or part-time degree student for the semester in which the Candidacy Exam is taken.
  • Students may complete the Candidacy Exam in the Summer session, only if they have been enrolled as full-time students in the previous Spring semester. (Summer sessions do not count toward the semesters of enrollment in relation to the completion of the Candidacy Exam.)
  • The Candidacy Exam may be scheduled at the convenience of the student, his/her advisor/research mentor and other committee members anytime during the first three semesters.

Who gives the Candidacy Exam?

  • The Candidacy Exam will be administered by a Candidacy Committee consisting of the student's advisor/research mentor and at least two additional faculty members. This committee is expected to have membership across the broad spectrum of the field of nutrition.
  • At least two of the three committee members must be faculty in the GPN and preferably within the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
  • The student must submit names of prospective members of the committee in writing for approval by the Professor-in-Charge of the GPN in at least two weeks prior to the examination.
  • Students are encouraged to visit committee members prior to their examinations for directions.

What is the nature of the Candidacy Exam?

The Candidacy Exam will consist of a written component, followed by an oral component. The duration and scope of the written and oral components will be determined by the committee in the subject areas identified below. The examination should be consistent for all students, but need not be identical for all students

  • The written exam should last no more than six hours. Students are required to answer a number of questions posed by the Candidacy Exam Committee.
  • The GPN faculty will be requested to submit questions to a pool each semester. These will be reviewed by the Executive Committee to assure consistency in level of knowledge and difficulty. The questions will be assigned to the Applied/Public Health or Basics Nutrition Science categories.
  • The Chair of the Candidacy Exam Committee may also contribute several questions to be assigned to the mentor’s category that may reflect a more specific focus in the intended research area of the candidate. The Candidacy Exam Committee will then select two to three questions from each of the three categories (Applied/Public Health and Basic Nutrition Science and Mentor Specific) and the student will then be able to select a total of four written questions.
  • The advisor/research mentor must submit the Candidacy Exam to the Professor-in-Charge of the GPN at least one week before the student’s written exam. A student may choose to not answer a question in a particular category, but that does not mean that the category will not be addressed in the oral component of the exam. Those students specifically wishing to demonstrate that they do not have a deficiency would be well served to pick a question in each category.
  • The determination of Pass or Fail or re-retake exam will be made by the committee. A decision will be made on a simple majority vote. All students will be notified in writing of the outcome of their performance on the oral and written components of the Candidacy Exam. The memo will outline the strengths and weaknesses of their performance. This memo will be co-signed by the Candidacy Exam Committee and the Professor-in-Charge of the GPN.

What happens after the Candidacy Exam?

After the Comprehensive Examination, doctoral students enroll in NUTR 601 or 611 which is considered to be a full-time student.