Qualifying Exam and Advancement to Candidacy

The doctoral committee will determine the student’s qualifications for independent research by means of a qualifying examination, which will be administered no later than the end of the third year. The nature of the Qualifying Examination varies between curricular groups.

In biological oceanography, marine biology, geosciences, physical oceanography, applied ocean science, and climate sciences the student will be expected to describe his or her proposed thesis research and satisfy the committee, in an oral examination, as to the student’s mastery of this and related topics. In marine chemistry and geochemistry the student, in an oral examination, is required to present and defend a single research proposition in their specialized area. The student also is required to provide a written summary of the research proposition, with references, prior to the examination. In geophysics, the student presents an original research problem, in the form of a written proposition, to the doctoral committee. The student’s oral presentation and defense of this proposition completes the examination.

The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to examine the intellectual preparedness of the student to undertake independent and original research. The student should understand and be able to explain the broad conceptual framework within which the work is embedded, have an understanding of the intellectual and mechanical tools which will be needed, and present some assessment of feasibility. It is not the function of this examining committee to comment only on the analysis of data already taken or to guarantee the form and content of the final dissertation. It is reasonable that something proposed at the time of the Qualifying Examination will not, ultimately, be successful, and that the eventual dissertation may have changed considerably. The point is that the Doctoral Committee can and should be used in an advisory capacity after the Qualifying Examination, especially as the dissertation evolves. At the time of the examination the committee should be examining potential, not accomplished, research.

It is the student's responsibility to make arrangements for the Qualifying Examination to take place. Students are encouraged to contact all members of their committee a few months ahead of time to schedule the examination. Students must maintain a GPA equivalent to 3.0 or better with a total of no more than eight units of F and/or U grades in order to remain in good standing and to take the Qualifying Examination, and successfully advance to candidacy.

The Doctoral Committee administers the Qualifying Examination and authorizes the issuance of the Report of the Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.

If the committee does not issue a unanimous report on the examination, the Dean of Graduate Studies shall be called upon to review and present the case for resolution to the Graduate Council, which shall determine appropriate action.

Please note that three (3) quarters of academic residency should elapse between advancement to candidacy and the final defense of the Ph.D. dissertation.

Students must have the doctoral committee membership approved by the Department at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination date. The student, in consultation with the advisor and the committee, will choose a date for the examination. The entire committee must be present at the exam.

When the examination date is scheduled, the student must contact the Scripps Graduate Department at 858.534.1694 or at 858.534.3206, so that the examination is on the department calendar. The Graduate Coordinators can also assist with room and audiovisual reservations.

The week of the examination, the committee chair will be contacted by the department and requested to pick up the Report of the Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy form. The form must be signed by all committee members and returned by the committee chair to the graduate coordinator, who will obtain the department chair's signature.

When all of the signatures have been obtained, the Scripps Graduate Coordinator will contact the student to pick up the form. The student must take the form to the cashier’s office on upper campus, pay the $50 advancement to candidacy fee, and drop the form off at the Office of Graduate Studies (OGS). Following this, the student will receive a copy of the form and a letter from OGS that confirms their advancement to candidacy.