Candidacy Examination

The Candidacy Examination must be taken no later than two semesters after the completion of required coursework. Students must register for English 8996 with the Chair of the Exam Committee while preparing for the Candidacy Exam.

The Candidacy Exam consists of a take-home written portion and a two-hour oral portion. The "Notification of Doctoral Candidacy Examination" form must be filed with the Graduate School at least two weeks before the oral examination. If the Exam Committee includes a faculty member with "M" status (typically, an untenured Assistant Professor), the form requires the signature of the Director of Graduate Studies. The written portion is a three-day take-home exam, with an upper limit of no more than 5000 words total. Failure to adhere to the word limit constitutes failure of the entire Candidacy Examination. No notes of any kind are permitted (i.e., no footnotes or endnotes), but in their answers to the exam questions students should cite relevant primary and secondary works from their Reading Lists and use parenthetical citations.
The written portion of the Candidacy Exam should address two questions, one of which is dedicated to the student's Major Field and one of which is dedicated to the student's Minor Field or Fields. The questions are written by the student's Exam Chair in consultation with the other members of his or her committee. The questions are given to the student only at the time the written exam is administered. The written exam must be taken over a seventy-two hour period; it must be picked up by 4:00 p.m. on the first day and turned in to the English Graduate Office by 4:00 p.m. on the last day of that period. Students may opt to pick up the exam on a Monday, Tuesday, or Friday, so that it is due in the English Graduate Office, respectively, the following Thursday, Friday, or Monday.
The oral portion of the exam must follow no sooner than one week but within two weeks (i.e., 7-14 days) after the written portion is completed and turned in. The written exam should be regarded as the beginning of a discussion that will be continued during the oral exam. Prior to the oral, the student should meet with the Candidacy Exam Chair to clarify expectations for the oral exam. The oral exam lasts two hours, and it covers both the candidate's Major Field and Minor Field or Fields. The Chair of the committee should ensure that at least 60 minutes are devoted to the Major Field. The final 30 minutes of the exam can include a discussion of the draft Dissertation Prospectus.
The Candidacy Examination Committee consists of 4 faculty members, chaired by a member of the Graduate Faculty who holds "P" status (typically, a tenured Associate or Full Professor). The student selects the members of her or his Committee in consultation with the Chair. The Committee must include faculty representation for both the Major Field and the Minor Field or Fields. Typically, this will mean 2 faculty members representing the Major Field and 2 faculty members representating the Minor Field, or 2 faculty members representing the Major Field and 1 faculty member representing the first Minor Field and 1 faculty member representing the second Minor Field. Only in unusual circumstances should a faculty member represent both the Major and a Minor Field for the purposes of the Candidacy Exam. The Committee meets with the student prior to the exam to discuss the Reading Lists for the Major and Minor Fields.
Students are responsible for distributing the following materials to all members of the Committee at least one week before the written exam:
  • The draft Dissertation Prospectus.
Students are responsible for distributing the following materials to all members of the Committee at least one week before the oral exam:
  • The Final Program of Study
  • The written exam
  • The student's Major Field and Minor Field or Fields reading lists (if updated from the POS)
  • The official description of the Candidacy Exam, available from the English Graduate Office (optional).
Failure of the Candidacy Examination occurs if the Committee considers either of the following to be the case: A) the written and/or oral portions of the exam indicated that the candidate is not ready to proceed to a dissertation, owing to insufficient knowledge of the field; B) the candidate is insufficiently focused on a dissertation project, which makes it unlikely that he or she will be able to submit an approved prospectus within two months. In case of failure, the Committee can specify the nature of a repeat examination, but it, too, must contain a written and an oral portion. A second failure means dismissal from the Ph.D. program (see Graduate School Handbook).
A successful pass must be a unanimous decision of the Committee. The Chair of the Committee is required to submit a written report on the Candidacy Examination to the Graduate Director. Failure, in whole or in part, may occur if any one member of the Committee is not satisfied with the results. In the case of failure, each individual faculty member of the Committee may specify areas or material on which a re-examination must take place and so instruct the student. The Chair of the Committee will then submit a written account of what will be required of the student to repeat the exam. The Graduate School will assign an outside representative for all second examinations.

Time Limits for Candidacy

If a candidate fails to complete the dissertation and final oral examination within five years after the Candidacy Examination, admission to candidacy is canceled. To be readmitted to candidacy the student must take a supplemental Candidacy Examination. The examination committee is comprised of the advisor and at least three other authorized Graduate Faculty members, and the examination must include a written and an oral portion that last approximately two hours. A Graduate Faculty Representative is appointed if a prior unsatisfactory examination result is on record. All other rules pertaining to candidacy examination must be followed. 

The supplemental examination will typically be tied to the student's dissertation and may consist of the presentation and oral defense of a chapter or a substantial part of a chapter. In short, the purpose of requiring the supplemental examination is not to punish the student but to help move him or her along to completion of the Ph.D. and to ensure that he or she has kept up with the current scholarship in the field. On passing the supplemental examination, the student is readmitted to candidacy and must complete the dissertation and final oral examination within two years.