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Qualifying Examination

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 PhD. 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 these steps:

  • Have a Doctoral Committee approved by SDSU and UCSD at least two weeks prior to the Oral Qualifying Exam.
  • Pass the Oral Qualifying Exam. Have the required advancement paperwork signed off by the Doctoral Committee, chemistry departments of both campuses and Graduate Division Dean’s Offices of both campuses.
  • Pay the UCSD Cashier the advancement fee.

Your records will only show you as Advanced once you are advanced for a full quarter.

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, SDSU, and UCSD Graduate Affairs Committee. Students who do not advance by deadline will have a hold placed on their Fall quarter registration.

Doctoral Committee

To meet University requirements for naming a doctoral committee, students must submit a doctoral committee constitution request to The Ph.D. Coordinator will review and submit the final request to the Graduate Division. Students should email the Ph.D. Coordinator their proposed committee members' names a minimum of four weeks prior to the examination date.

Note: It can take several weeks for the doctoral committee constitutionr request to be approved by the Graduate Division, allow for this in scheduling your exam.

One of the purposes of a doctoral committee is to provide students with mentorship and guidance beyond that provided by the Thesis Advisor. Requirements on who serves on the committee were developed, in part, to provide some consistency across departments. Exceptions to these policies require both the Graduate Affairs Committee and Graduate Division'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 additional members; it is not necessary to remove a Departmental Exam Committee member to compensate. Students should inform the Ph.D. Coordinator of their committee a minimum of four weeks prior to the examination date. Below are guidelines for selecting a committee.

  • Member 1 SDSU Thesis Advisor as Chair
  • Member 2 SDSU Chemistry, from the Departmental Exam Committee
  • Member 3 UCSD C&B, from Departmental Exam Committee
  • Member 4 UCSD C&B, from Departmental Exam Committee
  • Member 5 UCSD, non-C&B tenured faculty (SDSU -or- UCSD, outside the department)
  • Others: More members are optional, and there are no constraints.

A minimum committee of five faculty members is required. Other members may be appointed at the student's discretion. Of the five-member committee:

  • A mimimum of two members must be from SDSU and a minimum of two members from UCSD. The 5th member may be from either SDSU or UCSD.
  • 1 member must be tenured from outside the Chemistry department.
  • Members of the Departmental Exam Committee should continue to serve on the Doctoral Committee
  • There may not be more than one affiliate or adjunct professor.
  • If the Thesis Adviser is an affiliate or adjunct, a ladder-rank faculty must be appointed as Co-Chair.
  • Subsequent changes to a committee require both SDSU and UCSD approval.

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.

Scheduling the examination. The exam must be scheduled at least two weeks in advance. Students first confirm with ALL of their committee members the date and time of the examination, and then contact the Ph.D. Coordinator ( 

Students submit a summary to their doctoral committee and to the Ph.D. Coordinator 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 e-file. The SDSU JDP Advisor will route the Adobe Sign “Report of Qualifying Examination” form to the student and all committee members.

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 students of the results, and will explain any recommendations or requirements. These will be written on the internal “Comments” form; original stays in the student e-file, and students receive a copy via email.

Finishing Up: Paperwork and Fee Payment

As a student in the Joint Doctoral Program, signatures are required from both campuses. Once a student has fully passed the Oral Qualifying Examination, the committee will sign the Adobe Sign “Report of Qualifying Examination” form. The SDSU JDP Advisor ensures that required Departmental review/signatures (by the Vice Chair for Graduate Education) are requested for Adobe Sign “Report of Qualifying Examination” form.  Students are responsible for checking their Tritonlink account and paying the filing fee as soon as it is posted. 

After the student and all commiittee members sign the Adobe Sign form, the e-form will be routed to Pat Walls at SDSU for the required signature from the Graduate Division and Research Dean at SDSU. From there, the forms are routed to the Graduate Division at UCSD and the process is complete.

Congratulations, you are now Advanced to Candidacy for the Ph.D.!