Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination explores the depth of understanding of the student in his/her specialty area. The student is expected to be familiar with, and be able to use, the contemporary tools and techniques of the field and to demonstrate familiarity with the principle results and key findings.

Requests to take the exam will be submitted to the ECE Assistant Department Head for Graduate Studies. Students who have earned the equivalent of 30 quarterly credits of graduate work (at Drexel University or elsewhere) with a GPA of 3.4 or better, will be deemed to have satisfactory background and be approved. A student whose request to take the exam was not approved by the ECE Assistant Department Head, may appeal to the Graduate Committee.

A Candidacy Exam Committee must consist of at least five members for a PhD student, at least three of whom must be currently tenured or tenure track Drexel faculty members. At least two of the committee members must be from outside your primary specialization area. At least one of the committee members must be from outside the student’s department, preferably from outside the university. Members from outside the university must be approved by the Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Studies. The student's advisor can be a member of the committee but not the Chair.

The student, in consultation with his/her advisor, will declare a principal technical area. The student will propose to the committee:

  1. Four (4) to six (6) papers from the archival literature in the student’s technical area for self study
  2. Student's preference as to which three of these four to six papers will be used for the self study

Papers authored by the student while studying at Drexel University may be included. The committee will select three (3) of the submitted papers for the student's self study, or request additional paper suggestions based on its review of the student-proposed papers and the declared principal technical area.

In most cases, the self study will be a principal reference for the student's PhD dissertation; however, this is not a requirement.

Within 60 days of the selection of the self-study papers (90 days for part-time students with advisor approval), the student will submit to the committee a written report (15 pages or less) on the papers, describing their objectives, key questions and hypotheses, methodology, main results and conclusions. It is expected that the student's report will integrate the ideas of the three papers and not be a mere catalog of content. Moreover, the student must show in an appendix independent work s/he has done on at least one of the papers – such as providing a full derivation of a result, or showing meaningful examples, simulations or applications. There are no length limitations on the appendix.

The student must attest that s/he has worked on this report and the appendix individually with no material assistance from other individuals.

No later than three weeks after submitting the report, the candidate will meet with the committee for the oral Candidacy Exam which takes the following format:

  • A short description of the student’s principal area of interest (5 minutes, by student).
  • A review of the self-study papers and report appendix (25-30 minutes, by students).
  • Questions and answers on the report, the appendix and directly-related background (40-100 minutes, student and committee).

The committee will prepare a report (using Drexel University forms D4 and form D4a). The Graduate Committee will receive an electronic copy of the reports and have 24 hours to make comments or request clarifications. The Chair of the committee will respond to Graduate Committee queries and submit the forms to the Office of Graduate Studies via the Graduate Program Coordinator by the deadline (48 hours after the exam).

Timeline for Candidacy Examination

  1. If the students are supported by the department, their TA support will be discontinued after two years if they have not taken the candidacy examination. Support will be reinstated upon passing the candidacy examination.
  2. If the student has not taken the candidacy examination within the first three year period, the student will be asked to withdraw from the doctoral program, regardless of whether the student receives support or not.
  3. Students will be allowed to petition the graduate committee regarding item (2).