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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 of at least five (5) members will be appointed in consultation with the departmental Graduate Committee, to include at least three (3) ECE faculty members (one of whom is outside the principal technical area of the candidate), and one (1) member who is not member of the ECE faculty. The student’s advisor can be a member of the committee but not the Chair.

Unless otherwise approved by the chair of the Graduate Committee, one of the members of the candidacy exam committee will also be a member of the Graduate Committee – in order to ensure consistency and provide feedback to the Graduate Committee on the way the candidacy exams are administered.

The student, in consultation with his/her advisor, will declare a principal technical area. The student will propose to the committee (a) four (4) to six (6) papers from the archival literature in the student’s technical area for self study; and (b) the 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).
  4. These policies will be effective starting Fall 2002.