The journey to your exam and ultimately graduation will differ from your peers—even those who are in the same program as you. Requirements for each degree differs but will lead to the same outcome—receiving your doctorate. The office of student services is here to provide guidance and support throughout the process. Please review the video and information below and remember to reach out to us with any questions or concerns about the process.


Exam Prep Checklist

  • Have you met with your faculty advisor to review all degree requirements (e.g. GPA, credit hours, core courses, research methodology and/or research apprenticeship or professional internship course requirements?)
  • Have you submitted your Ph.D. Degree Plan and Annual Review (or Transition Plan and Annual Review) to the Office of Student Services?
    • Please check your Advising Report for a complete list of your classes.
  • Have you submitted your EdD Degree Plan and Annual Review (or Transition Plan and Annual Review) to the Office of Student Services?
    • Please check your Advising Report for a complete list of your classes.
  • Are you registered for a minimum of three graduate credit hours during the semester(s) when you will be taking your candidacy/professional exam?
    • You may need to register for more hours if you are a Graduate Associate or using student loans.
  • Have you paid your fees?
  • Is your GPA at least a 3.00?
  • Have you gone online to GRADFORMS to submit your Application for Candidacy (PhD) or Application for Professional Exam (EdD) form to the Graduate School?
    • *Approval by your advisor and Graduate Studies Committee chair must be completed no later than 2 weeks prior to your oral exam
  • Has your advisor approved your Application for Candidacy/Application for Professional Exam?
  • Have you satisfactorily completed the Candidacy/Professional Exam and has your committee electronically submitted the results of your exam to the Graduate School via GRADFORMS?
    • *Students have the ability to log into GRADFORMS to check their status.

Exams Timeline

  • Student must be in good academic standing and registered for at least 3 credit hours each semester in which any part of the candidacy/professional exam is taken.
  • Students have 30 days after the date of their written exam to complete their oral exam.
  • Must have Application for Candidacy/Application for Professional Exam in GRADFORMS at least 2 weeks before their oral exam date.


  • Advisors
    • Must be a Category P faculty member for PhD students.
      • holds a tenure-track or research faculty appointment.
      • holds an earned PhD or DMA.
      • is engaged and primarily directs an active program of research, scholarship, or creative activity, or demonstrates significant promise of establishing such a program.
      • has engaged and demonstrated experience in mentoring graduate students.
    • Must be a Category M or P faculty member for EdD students.
      • Holds a clinical-track faculty appointment.
    • Must be a faculty member in the home department (via Grad School)
      • Ed Studies requires your advisor to be from your program
  • Committee Members
    • PhD students must have 4 members of your committee (including your advisor)
      • Can have more if you choose
    • EdD students must have 3 members of your committee (including your advisor)
      • Committee members might be assigned or students may have the ability to choose
    • Committee members must have more than 50% teaching faculty load in their contract
      • Members can have M or P status.
    • External members can be in addition to the 4 members of your committee
    • PhD students can ask for a Graduate Faculty Representative (GFR) for their exams.
      • GFR are assigned to the final dissertation defense and if a student fails their 1st attempt at candidacy.
  • Graduate Faculty Representatives
    • Participate fully in the exam (including reading the candidate’s dissertation before the exam), to make an independent assessment of the candidate’s competence, and to vote for the student to pass or fail
    • Ensure that the conduct of the exam conforms to Graduate School rules and to ensure that the level of the exam is appropriate for a doctoral degree
    • Halt the exam if a concern arises that cannot be resolved in the exam setting


  • Preparing for Oral Exam
    • Connect with your advisor about what is needed
      • No exam is the same—even in the same program
      • As long as the student can produce a rigorous academic by-product that’s most important
      • Set of journal articles, portfolio, first 3 chapters of dissertation, answering questions from committee members, etc.
      • When your written portion should begin and timeline
    • Decide if your exam will be in person or online
      • No longer need to petition to be online post-COVID
    • If in person, must reserve a room
    • Identify who your full committee will be
      • Your committee can look different from candidacy/professional exam to final defense.
  • Exam Results
    • Committee must unanimously approve a student’s successful exam completion
    • Report from the Graduate School is generated the day of oral exam
      • Report is released to the committee closer to the actual exam time
    • Committee has typically 48 hours to give their decision
    • PhD students becomes a candidate the following term after oral exam is passed
      • There is no formal term or status for EdD students once they pass their professional exam.
  • What if a student doesn’t pass their exam?
    • If a student fails the written portion of their exam, they can waive the oral portion. Make sure to inform the Graduate School of the decision to waive the oral portion.
    • Be in communication with the advisor if a second attempt at the exam is allowed.
    • Make a reasonable timeframe of when the second exam is be held. (e.g. later in the semester, the following semester, etc.)
    • If a student fails their second attempt at the candidacy exam, they are no longer eligible to continue in the doctoral program.

Candidacy/Post-Professional Exam

Candidacy/Post-professional exam status should be reached after doctoral students have taken enough course work to become proficient in the field of study, which is generally two to three years after starting the doctoral program or one year after qualifying or preliminary exams.

Doctoral students who have achieved candidacy status are deemed to have:

  1. acquired the necessary advanced knowledge of the subject (normally by meeting all of the course requirements for the particular PhD/EdD program)
  2. developed the needed technical skills (e.g., language, laboratory, computational, etc.) for work in the subject
  3. demonstrated the ability to do the research or scholarship necessary to begin work on a dissertation/dissertation in practice


  • Continuous Enrollment
    • Must be enrolled in every AU and SP term of their candidacy
      • Only applies to students who are pursuing a PhD
    • Do NOT have to be enrolled for SU
    • SU enrollment is only required if you have intentions on graduating during that term.
      • 3 credits for full time status
    • Only applies to students who are pursuing a PhD
      • EdD students who pass their professional exam still adhere to registration policies for graduate students
    • Expected to enroll primarily in 8999 or in program-approved courses after satisfactorily completing the candidacy examination
    • Must stay in good academic standing (3.0 GPA and maintain reasonable progress toward degree)
    • Have 5 years to complete your dissertation or candidacy will expire
      • If candidacy expires, students would be subject to taking the supplemental candidacy exam
      • Students will only have up to 2 years to complete their dissertation
      • Dissertation is not complete within the agreed upon timeframe, students are ineligible to continue in the doctoral program
  • Funding Opportunities
    • Presidential Fellowships
      • Financial support for three consecutive semesters
      • Competition held in the autumn annually
      • Must be PhD student with a 3.5 GPA and passed candidacy exam by Grad School deadline (October 18 for 2023 competition)
      • Nomination packets for 2023 due to by October 4 for consideration
    • EHE Dissertation Fellowships
      • The College of Education and Human Ecology, in partnership with the Graduate Studies Committee in each department, awards graduate dissertation research fellowships each academic year, based on availability of funds.
      • Competition held in the winter/early spring annually
      • Must be doctoral student in candidacy by summer term
      • Nomination packets information will be sent in the Ed Studies student newsletter in late autumn semester