Advancement to Candidacy and the Comprehensive Exam

Advancing to Candidacy

Under UBC’s rules and regulations all PhD students must advance to candidacy within 36 months of starting the doctoral program. Advancing to candidacy simply means you have been judged to be making satisfactory progress in the doctoral program. It will also mean your research proposal has been approved by your supervisory committee. In order to be admitted to candidacy students with a previous masters degree must:

  • Sit and pass the comprehensive examination within 24 months of starting the PhD program
  • Gain their supervisory committee’s approval for their thesis proposal.

If began the PhD program with only an undergraduate degree you must:

  • Complete 12 credit courses with an overall first class average
  • A minimum of nine credits must be at the 500 level or above and at least nine credits must be at 80% or above
  • Sit and pass the comprehensive examination within 24 months of starting the PhD program
  • Gain your supervisory committee’s approval for your thesis proposal.

In the Biochemistry department advancing to candidacy and passing the comprehensive exam occurs at the same time. So students are normally advanced to candidacy in March and April of their second year, after they have passed the comprehensive exam.

PhD Comprehensive Examination

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines 2019-2020 (pdf 255 KB)

Comprehensive Exam Forms 2019W (doc 76 KB)
Comprehensive Exam Forms 2019W (pdf 240 KB)

Comprehensive Exam Checklist for Students 2019 (doc 41 KB)

The comprehensive exam is designed to test your knowledge and understanding of standard concepts in Biochemistry. You also need to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of your chosen research topic. All doctoral students and MSc students who want to transfer to the PhD program must sit the exam. In both cases exams are normally held in March and April during your second year. The basic process is as follows:

  • To initiate the exam process, before Dec 15 obtain your Supervisory Committee’s approval to sit the exam
  • Obtain your exam topics from committee
  • Potential external examiners will be recommended by your supervisory committee
  • Submit your research proposal to committee members
  • Obtain approval for your research proposal
  • Obtain topics from your external examiner
  • Sit the exam
  • If you pass, Advancement to Candidacy will be noted on official transcripts
  • MSc grads will transferred to the PhD, effective May 1