Qualifying Exam Guidelines

QUESTIONS? Contact Jeanine Sun, jesun@ucsd.edu or 858‐822‐6014.

Advancement to Candidacy Overview

We hope your research is going well and that you are excited at the prospect of presenting your preliminary findings and proposed thesis project to your Doctoral Committee to Advance to Candidacy for the Ph.D. This is the last oral exam you will take before you defend your thesis. Please let us know if you have questions about the process or procedures described below. Best of wishes for your continued success! To officially advance to candidacy, you must complete ALL of the following steps:
  1. Contact Jeanine, jesun@ucsd.edu, with your proposed Committee by end of week 6 of Spring Quarter.  The Doctoral Committee must be approved by UCSD at least two weeks prior to the Oral Qualifying Exam
  2. Pass the Oral Qualifying Exam
  3. Have the required advancement paperwork signed off by the Doctoral Committee, Department, and the Graduate Division
  4. Pay the UCSD Cashier the advancement fee ($50)
  5. Submit completed paperwork to the Graduate Division

Your records will only show you as Advanced once you are advanced for a full quarter. For example, to be considered an Advanced student in Fall, 2012, you must complete the steps above by the first day of classes of Fall, 2012. (Since there is not an official Summer quarter at UCSD, it is not possible to advance in the Summer.)

ADVANCEMENT TO CANDIDACY DEADLINE: last day of Finals Week of Spring Quarter
To remain in good academic standing in the PhD program, you must complete all of the steps listed above by the end of Spring Quarter. Extensions require prior approval by the Thesis Advisor and the Graduate Affairs Committee. Students who do not advance by deadline will have a hold placed on their fall quarter registration.

Doctoral Committee

One of the purposes of a Doctoral Committee is to provide students with mentorship and guidance beyond that provided by the Thesis Advisor. UCSD policies on who serves on the committee were developed, in part, to provide some consistency across departments. Exceptions to their policies require both the Graduate Affairs and Dean's approval. The Department policy of having Departmental Exam Committee members continue to serve on the Doctoral Committee is to provide students with Faculty who, over time, are familiar with the student, their research, and the history of the exams. If a student has found other Faculty with particular interests pertinent to the research, it is quite permissible to expand the committee to six members; it is not necessary to delete a Departmental Exam Committee member to compensate. A Doctoral Committee must be approved by the Department and the Graduate Division at least two weeks prior to the examination. To ensure that the Department meets this deadline, students should inform Jeanine Sun, Ph.D. Coordinator (jesun@ucsd.edu) of their committee a minimum of four weeks prior to the examination date.

Below are guidelines for selecting a committee; please contact Jeanine if you have questions.

  • Member 1: Doctoral Committee Chair = Your Thesis Advisor
  • Member 2: Chair of Departmental Exam Committee, Inside Research Division/Track
  • Member 3: Either: 2nd Member of Departmental Exam Committee, Inside Research Division/Track; Or Chemistry & Biochemistry Co‐Advisor, (if Thesis Advisor is an adjunct in Chemistry & Biochemistry, or is from outside the Department)
  • Member 4: 3rd Member of Departmental Exam Committee, Outside Research Division
  • Member 5: Tenured UCSD Faculty from another department (may not have joint or adjunct appointment in Chemistry and Biochemistry)

Other members are optional, and there are no constraints. The Doctoral Committee must be approved by the Graduate Division two weeks prior to the Qualifying Exam. A minimum five‐faculty committee is required. Other members may be appointed at the student's discretion. Of the five‐member committee:

  • All members must have UC appointments.
  • There must be at least one associate or full professor from the Department.
  • There must be at least one tenured (e.g., associate or full professor) faculty from outside the department.
  • A committee chair from outside the Department does NOT fulfill this requirement.
  • All three members of the Departmental Exam Committee continue to serve on the Doctoral Committee.
  • The student and Advisor choose the remaining member(s).
  • There may not be more than one adjunct professor.
  • If the research Advisor is adjunct, a ladder‐rank faculty member must act as Co‐chair.

Subsequent changes to a committee require both Departmental and Graduate Division approval. Please contact Jeanine for information.

Oral Qualifying Exam

The University requires a Qualifying Examination for Advancement to Candidacy for the PhD. The purpose of the examination is for students to gain approval of their proposed thesis research project from their Doctoral Committee. The exam must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. Students should confirm the date and time of the examination with ALL of their committee members, and then contact Jeanine Sun, Ph.D. Coordinator. Jeanine ensures that the necessary paperwork is filed, the room is scheduled, and notices are sent. Students submit a summary to their Doctoral Committee and to Jeanine Sun (jesun@ucsd.edu) at least two weeks before the Qualifying Examination. The summary should include a comprehensive description of the proposed thesis research (including key references), its significance, and the progress that has already been made.
The day of the examination, Ph.D. Coordinator ensures the needed forms are in the file. The Thesis Advisor will pick up the file and take it to the exam; the Advisor is in charge of returning the file, also. At the examination, students first give a 30‐minute presentation. The presentation is followed by a question‐answer period when the committee examines students for indications of the knowledge, insight, motivation, and demonstrated productivity required to produce an acceptable thesis in the normal time. The student may or may not be asked to leave the room for a time prior to hearing the committee's evaluation. Students may Pass, Provisionally Pass, or Fail the exam. The committee will inform the student of the results, and will explain any recommendations or requirements. These will be written on the internal form referenced above. The original stays in the student file, and students receive a copy at a later date.

Finishing up paperwork and Fee payment

Once a student has fully passed the Oral Qualifying Examination, the committee will sign the “Report of Qualifying Examination” form. It then needs to be signed by the department (typically Vice Chair for Graduate Education). Our office will coordinate securing the required departmental signatures after the file is returned by the thesis Advisor. Student Affairs strives to notify students quickly when forms are ready for pickup; students should follow up with Ph.D. Coordinator on readiness of forms for required filing with Cashier/Graduate Division. Next, the student pays the $50 Advancement to Candidacy fee to the UCSD Cashier. From there, the student turns in the form to the Graduate Division.