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Ph.D. Pre-Candidacy Examinations


Ph.D. Pre-Candidacy Examinations (Updated: September 28, 2023)

Preliminary Examinations (Ph.D.)

Some doctoral programs require a preliminary examination before a student may apply to take the Qualifying Examination. This may entail the completion of a paper, a series of papers, a written examination, or some other requirement defined by the program. Currently the Mechanical Engineering (ME) and Materials and Biomaterials Science and Engineering (MBSE) programs require a preliminary examination.

Qualifying Examination (Ph.D.)

The qualifying examination, also called candidacy examination, tests primarily a student’s research proposal and research competence. A typical examination begins with an oral dissertation proposal (no longer than 1/2 hour of prepared material). This proposal will give rise to questions from the examining committee. While the examination centers around the dissertation topic, it also assesses the depth and breadth of knowledge, and aptitude in approaching and solving fundamental research problems.   Students should consult with their qualifying examination committee and their faculty advisor regarding the structure of the exam.

View presentation slides from the Ph.D. Time to Degree workshop: phd_time_to_degree_-_qe_and_atc.pdf

Application for Qualifying Examination and the Qualifying Examination Procedure

  1. Complete and submit the Application for Qualifying Examination at least ONE MONTH prior to your proposed examination date.  The form can be found at:
    1.  If you have an external member (any non-senate faculty member from the UC System included), you will need to provide the proposed member’s current CV as well as a memo from your faculty advisor/committee chair addressing the expertise from the external member.
    2. Email the documents to for further processing.
    3. Complete the SOE Examination Date webform so the SOE staff can begin preparing supporting documents for your exam.
  2. Once your form has been approved by the Graduate Dean, please schedule the room for the exam.
    1. To reserve a conference room or meeting space, please go to
    2. Click on EMS Room Reservation System Icon (conference table) on the right-hand side of the webpage to complete the room reservation process. 
    3. For a how to guide on reserving a room, see EMS Room Reservation Instructions. For additional FAQ's, vist:
  3. Examination Date
    1. At least 1 week prior to your examination, you and your committee chair will receive an email with documents required to administer the examination. These documents include your current UC Merced transcripts, preliminary examination results (if applicable), Approved Qualifying Examination Application, and the Qualifying Examination Report. The committee chair will be responsible for submitting the signed Qualifying Examination Report to the Graduate Staff in SE2 315 (or via email at within 48 hours of the completed examination.