This information applies to students entering the program during and after Fall 2009. If you entered the program between Fall 2005 and Fall 2009, download the old protocol.


The purpose of the candidacy examination is to evaluate the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge and synthesis of principles of philosophy of science, theory, research methods and statistics in a focused content area. The examination provides the basis for evaluation of the student’s readiness for completing the next phase of doctoral studies, the dissertation. 

Preparation for Examination

Students are eligible to take the candidacy examination when they have completed all required course work. The last cognate may be concurrent with the examination. The candidacy examination is to be completed within one calendar year following completion of coursework. 

Students are assigned a faculty member from the College of Nursing at the University of Record to be their academic advisor upon admission to the Ph.D. program. The student’s advisor serves as a member of the candidacy committee. The remaining two members, one from the student’s University and one from the partner University, are appointed by the Ph.D. Program Director in consultation with the student and advisor. Consideration for appointment is based on members’ knowledge about coursework content areas and the student's research content areas. 

The student should consult with the advisor during the last semester of their coursework about planning the date for the examination. The advisor then notifies the Ph.D. Director, who confirms the student’s completion of necessary coursework and appoints the remaining two committee members no later than two weeks after the beginning of the semester in which the examination will be taken. The student, advisor, and Ph.D. Director complete the “Application for Scheduling of the Candidacy Exam” form. 

The candidacy chair develops examination questions in consultation with the other committee members. The chair is also responsible for supervising the scheduling and process of the examination with the student and Ph.D. secretary, and coordinating the review and grading of the examination.

The Examination

The candidacy examination is a two-part process involving both written and oral portions. 

The Written Examination: The first part of the examination is a written examination given at a location designated by the Ph.D. Director within the student’s University. Up to eight hours will be provided for completion of the exam. The number of examination questions and choice of examination content are determined by the candidacy committee chair in consultation with the members of the candidacy committee. The examination consists of questions requiring application of principles of philosophy of science, theory, research methods, and statistics, within a substantive area of inquiry in nursing. Students may not bring written resources and/or electronic storage devices (e.g., computer disks or portable memory drives) into the examination room. The examination is written on a computer that is provided to the student. Upon completion of the examination, the student notifies the Ph.D. secretary, who saves the file to a disk and prints out a copy for the student to proofread. The student may make editorial and formatting corrections to the file upon reviewing the proof copy. A final copy is printed out for distribution to the committee; the student does not receive a copy of the printout. 

At the completion of the written examination, the Ph.D. secretary distributes hard copies of the student’s responses to the members of the candidacy committee. The chair arranges mechanisms for committee review and discussion of the student’s responses and prepares a summary of the committee’s evaluation of the student’s performance on the examination. The committee members achieve consensus on the summary, which is then shared in writing with the student no later than two weeks following completion of the written examination. 

Oral Examination: The second part of the examination is a two-hour, closed session, presided over by the chair, in which the candidacy committee conducts an oral examination of the student based on the responses to the written examination. The oral examination is scheduled at least two weeks, but no more than four weeks, following the student’s receipt of feedback on the written examination. The student, but not the committee, may elect to schedule the oral examination for a shorter interval than two weeks following the student’s receipt of feedback. The purpose of the oral examination is to give the student the opportunity to respond to the committee’s feedback regarding areas of strength and areas of concern in the students’ responses to questions in the written examination. 

Examination Outcomes

At the completion of the oral examination, the committee dismisses the student to evaluate the student’s demonstration of breadth and depth of knowledge and ability to respond to questions, both orally and in writing. Following discussion, each member casts a vote of “pass” or “fail.” The majority vote is recorded on the “Report of Doctoral Candidacy Examination: Written and Oral.” 

Pass: The student becomes a candidate upon successful completion of the written and oral examinations as judged by a majority of candidacy committee members. 

Failure: If a student is judged by a majority of the committee to have not demonstrated sufficient breadth, depth, and synthesis of philosophy of science, theory, research methods, and statistics in a substantive area of inquiry, the student fails the examination. 

In the event of candidacy examination failure, the chair and committee, in consultation with the Ph.D. Program Director and student, develop a written plan of action for the student to address 3 deficiencies. The plan, which must be submitted to the student no later than two weeks following the examination, will include specific actions, time frames, and outcomes for remedial work (e.g., additional course work or repeat of specified courses). 

This written plan is placed in the student's academic file. The chair reviews the written plan with the student and a repeat examination, which will follow the guidelines described above, is scheduled. Failure of the second candidacy examination will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. program.