Doctoral Candidacy Examination

The doctoral candidacy exam is intended to provide faculty with information on a student’s general knowledge of biology and entomology, communication skills and ability to analyze and solve problems.

Intent and Purpose

These attributes are considered essential for a student pursuing a doctoral degree in entomology. The exam is also intended to evaluate the student’s potential to succeed in a doctoral program and provide the student’s graduate committee and academic adviser with baseline information to develop a strong graduate program. The Candidacy Examination Committee (CEC) is responsible for administering the exam and providing the student’s graduate committee with their assessment of the student’s performance and areas where the student needs to improve his/her skills. Although the exam can be used to identify students who do not have the general knowledge and communication skills necessary to succeed in a doctoral program, it is hoped that the exam will be primarily used as a diagnostic tool and that the admissions process will serve as the primary means of identifying major deficiencies in a student’s knowledge and communication skills. Students are expected to take the exam within three semesters (not including summer semester) of entering the doctoral program and will have taken, after three semesters, the core courses or their equivalent.

BE PREPARED: Each student should be fully prepared for the Candidacy Exam before first taking the exam.   It is in the best interest of both the faculty and students that each student be encouraged and aided to achieve a basic level of both knowledge and communication skills at this point in his/her education. This exam does not mark the end of learning and achieving in either area; it is assumed that the students will continue to strengthen and increase their knowledge and communication skills through their entire career.

ENGLISH PROFICIENCY: The Graduate School requires that a student demonstrate a high level of English proficiency before taking the comprehensive exam. English proficiency is defined as reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The candidacy exam will serve to evaluate the student’s reading and writing communication skills. This is consistent with the Entomology department’s Ph.D. English Competency Implementation Plan required by the Graduate School.

Expectations for Faculty: In order for the examination to accomplish its intended goal of testing a student’s critical thinking, general background in biology and entomology, and communication skills, all faculty are expected to participate in the examination process by providing journal articles for the exam and serving on a student’s exam if there is a deficiency of specific expertise area on the committee to adequately assess the student’s knowledge.  The semester that a student is taking the candidacy exam, his/her academic advisor will provide three journal articles in his/her area of expertise from which CEC may select. The student’s academic advisor and the CEC will grade the written and oral journal article critique. It is also expected that a student’s academic advisor and graduate committee will provide guidance on how to prepare for the exam; they and the student both have responsibility to ensure that the student is prepared for the exam. Faculty members who are not on a student’s committee should provide reading material and/or advice to students who request assistance.

The graduate committee and academic adviser will need to provide supporting documentation to the CEC on a student’s academic and research performance for students who performed below acceptable levels. In cases where a student’s graduate status is in danger, the student’s committee and academic adviser will need to provide their judgment of the student’s chances of success and any extenuating circumstances that may have led to a poor performance by the student. The CEC’s role is to administer the exam, provide a written summary of the student’s performance to the academic adviser, graduate committee, and Department Head, and document any deficiencies in communication skills that should be met before the comprehensive exam is administered. Identified deficiencies must be satisfactorily addressed by the student before taking the comprehensive exam.

Expectations for Students : It is the responsibility of each student to prepare for the exam. Students should know approximately when they are required to take the exam. Students should review their notes from the core courses, basic biology, evolution, and ecology courses and read additional information in the subject area of the paper critique.   If your critical analysis or writing skills are weak, ask for writing assignments from your adviser or willing faculty and have them rigorously assess and edit your answers and discuss the weaknesses in your analysis and writing. Free tutoring in helping you find and analyze your writing problems also can be obtained from The Graduate Writing Center . In addition, talk to faculty members about specific knowledge that they feel is important. A properly prepared student will be more relaxed in the exam and perform better.  Do not take the exam lightly. Failure of the exam in either the critique or communication-skills portion can lead to dismissal from a doctoral program. However, it is not the goal of the department to fail students but to make sure that students have the knowledge and skills necessary to complete successfully a Ph.D. program. Although failing the candidacy exam may seem like the end of the world, it is a desirable alternative to the stress that can occur when a student is unprepared for the demands of a doctoral program and the competition of acquiring employment after graduate school.