5 Expert Tips for Acing Your PhD Candidacy Exam – Preparation
May 17, 2023


As you approach your PhD candidacy exam, you may be feeling overwhelmed, uncertain, and even anxious about this next hurdle. It's the final obstacle standing between you and the research phase of your degree, and passing it is essential to move forward in your academic journey. But don't worry, you're not alone in this. With the right approach and strategies, you can ace your PhD candidacy exam with confidence.

What is the Candidacy Exam?

A PhD candidacy exam or candidacy exam is an important assessment of your knowledge and skills that takes place after you've completed your required coursework. This exam evaluates your readiness for the dissertation phase of your program and can include both written and oral components. While it can be a challenging and stressful experience, there are strategies you can use to prepare and succeed.

Keep reading for tips on acing your PhD candidacy exam.

How Do I Prepare for A PhD Candidacy?

Besides knowing the relevant literature and the content of the candidacy papers, one could also use these 5 expert tips for acing your PhD candidacy exam:

1. Acquaint Yourself with The Qualifying Exam Committee 

  • Identify the area of specialization for each member of the committee.
  • If possible, arrange a meeting with each committee member well in advance of your candidacy exam, ideally scheduling at least two meetings.
  • Make them familiarized with your research, as well as gain insight into their viewpoints and perspectives.


2. Study for the Candidacy Exam

  • Compile a list of recent academic journals, articles, books, and chapters relevant to your doctoral candidacy.
  • Rehearse different types of questions, especially timed ones, can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, as well as familiarize you with the exam environment.
  • Setting daily or weekly objectives is a good approach to maintain motivation and making sure you cover all the material.


3. Strategize a Plan

  • Create a brief 10-minute presentation to deliver at the beginning of the PhD candidacy exam.
  • Practice your presentation beforehand and make sure to stick to the allocated time without going over.
  • Before answering any question, take a brief pause to think the same before constructing your reply.
  • In case you are unable to answer the question, request the examiner to repeat the question.


4. Ask for Help When Required

  • To enhance your exam preparation, consider taking advice from other graduate students and senior peers within the PhD community regarding which areas of study to concentrate on.
  • Inquire with individuals who have previously worked with the qualifying committee members, attended their classes, or underwent their own qualifying exam.


5. Know the Challenges

  • Presenting your proposal can be overwhelming, so it's helpful to practice by doing mock presentations during lab meetings or even in front of a mirror.
  • Expect both technical and analytical questions during your PhD candidacy exam.
  • While you're not expected to be an expert in every subject, you should have the ability to describe key ideas, general concepts, and various methods.


Final Thoughts

The journey from being a PhD student to a candidate is challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable. As you prepare for the exam, remember that you are no longer just a student, but a future leader in your field. Don't forget to also prepare for the PhD interview, as it's another crucial step towards achieving your academic goals. So, keep striving for excellence, and good luck on your journey towards getting that doctorate degree!

Unlock your full potential as a doctoral student by joining EDAMBA's PhD Summer Academy. This is a fantastic opportunity to enhance your research skills, network with fellow scholars, and gain valuable insights from leading experts in your field. Don't miss out on this incredible chance to advance your academic career. Apply now.

EDAMBA aims to achieve its mission through three pillars of activity:
1. The Annual Meeting
2. The Summer Research Academy
3. The EDAMBA-EIASM Consortium of Doctoral Supervision

EDAMBA engages in global collaboration across networks
1. European Code of Practice