The final step in becoming a Ph.D. candidate is passing the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination. It is taken only after satisfying the ACM Core Course Requirement and passing the ACM Core Course Qualifying Examinations. Students must have these requirements validated by the ACM Director and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies before scheduling the Candidacy Examination. See the Department's Academic Program Specialist for details. This Candidacy Examination and the Core Course Qualifying Examinations together constitutue what is referred to by the University as the Preliminary Examination for Admission to Candidacy.
The format of the examination is determined by the student's Supervisory Committee but it is typically an oral examination. Its purpose is to determine if the student is qualified to begin research at the Ph.D. level. The material covered on the examination must be at the level of second year graduate courses or higher and have scope equivalent to a two semester-course sequence. This is usually done by covering a specific sequence, e.g., Numerical PDEs I and II, or by specifying a set of papers that serve as the starting point for a literature search and upon which an area survey talk and document would be based, or by completing and presenting a specific project conducted under the direction of the student's Advisor.
There are 3 possible results for the Candidacy Examination:
- Pass: The student becomes a candidate.
- Incomplete/Retake: The Supervisory Committee specifies conditions that must be met to its satisfaction before passing. This may entail reconvening for additional oral or written examination.
- Fail: The student does not become a candidate. Note that a student that fails may make a second attempt, typically with a different dissertation advisor and supervisory committee (see Timely Progress Information).