The Oral Candidacy Exam

Before scheduling your Oral Candidacy Exam, you should have completed:

  • Two terms of Ph242 - Physics Seminar - This should be taken during your first year of graduate study.
  • Two written candidacy exams - The written exams should be attempted by the end of first year and successfully completed by the end of second year.
  • The Advanced Requirement - These courses should be completed by the end of your second year, if possible.

The main purpose of the Oral Candidacy Exam is for a committee of faculty to determine the candidate's suitability for research in his or her chosen field, as well as to approve the thesis topic as one that can be completed in a timely fashion. It is especially important for the committee to think about possible ways a student might run into difficulty, as well as fall-back positions in that event.

Remember that your committee members will probably not know everything about your research. Plan for about a one-hour talk in which you describe what your project is about, why the work is important, what questions it may answer, etc.  Describe what work you have done on the project so far, and what you plan to do.  Finally, outline a schedule that describes the path to your thesis.

How to Schedule Your Oral Candidacy Exam

For those students who wish to schedule their oral candidacy exam, follow these steps:

  • Talk to your advisor about the exam, and about who should be on your committee.  You will need a total of four people, including your advisor.   Tradition has it that theorists should have at least one experimentalist on their committee, and experimentalists should have at least one theorist.  If you want to include people from other departments or even other universities on your committee, this is fine.  There are no rigid rules, so talk with your advisor about it.   Best to get some alternates as well.
  • Send an e-mail to Gil Refael to get departmental approval of your committee.  Unless you are proposing an odd committee, approval should not be an issue.
  • After you have your list approved, ask the people on the list if they are willing to serve on your committee.  Remember that no one is obligated to serve on your committee.  If you need to change your committee membership, send another e-mail to Gil Refael.
  • Arrange a date and time with your committee for your presentation. An easy online event scheduling tool can be found at  In addition to getting your committee to agree to a time, you also need to make sure a room is available.  You will need to contact the Physics Graduate Office via email about reserving a conference room in East Bridge; you can reserve a room elsewhere if you wish.  Getting everyone on your committee to agree on a date can be difficult if your committee members are out of town a lot, so it's best not to leave this for the last minute, especially during April and May when students are defending for commencement in June.
  • Well before your oral exam you will need to log into Regis and go to Graduate Degree Progress and follow instructions for setting up your oral candidacy exam.  You will need to list your completed course requirements on these forms, so if you have not received confirmation from Frank Porter you will need to do so before any signatures will be granted.
  • Make sure your committee members all know when and where to meet for your exam, you will need to enter the date, time and location online.  Your committee members will receive email notification that your exam is scheduled, however, you should probably remind them just prior to the exam.
  • Option Representative Frank Porter and Executive Officer Gil Refael must electronically sign where indicated.
  • Your committee members must all electronically sign where indicated.
  • After official notification from the Dean's Office that you have been admitted into PhD candidacy, you should then register for 36 unites of Ph 300 for both theoretical and experimental research during subsequent terms.